Panama Canal FAQ2019-09-30T09:12:11+00:00

Panama Canal FAQ

Q. What happens if the PCSOPEP for my vessel is not submitted on time?2020-04-28T18:37:37+00:00

A. Vessels failing to submit a compliant PCSOPEP at least 96 hours prior to arrival at Canal waters will be charged with the highest fee; in addition, the vessel is only programmed for transit after the shipping agent has paid or provided satisfactory guarantees for the payment of the applicable sanction, which will be set at a minimum of US$2,500. Subsequent arrivals to Panama Canal waters under similar non-compliance conditions generate increased sanctions that may result in denial of transit.

Q. How do I calculate to what Tier in the PCSOPEP categories does my vessel belong?2020-04-28T18:38:33+00:00

A. The PCSOPEP tier classification must follow one of the following categories:

Tier S for vessels with an oil carrying capacity of 400 MT up to 1,000 MT.
 Tier 1 for vessels with an oil carrying capacity of more than 1,000 MT up to 7,000 MT
 Tier 1 and Tier 2 for vessels with an oil carrying capacity of more than 7,000 MT up to 15,000 MT.
 Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 for vessels with an oil carrying capacity of more than 15,000 MT.

The oil carrying capacity of a vessel is equal to the sum of the maximum capacities of fuel system tanks, oil cargo tanks, lube oil tanks, slop tanks, and any other tanks or compartments used to transport MARPOL 73/78 Annex I products. The total oil carrying capacity must be reported in metric tons. For the purpose of converting volume in cubic meters (m3) to metric tons, the following formula applies:

Metric Ton= 0.9442 x m3

Q. How do I submit a PCSOPEP for my vessel?2020-04-28T18:40:08+00:00

A. An “Authorized Person” must be appointed by the Ship Owner or Ship Operator of the vessel and be approved in advance by the ACP. This authorized person acts as a liaison between the vessel and the ACP to obtain and consign, on behalf of the vessel, acceptable guarantees to the satisfaction of the ACP, to cover the costs of the response and cleanup of oil spills in Canal waters. This Authorized Person shall reside in the Republic of Panama.

Adimar Shipping offers you the service as Authorized Person of the Panama Canal Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan (PCSOPEP). This is a program that seeks to implement emergency preparedness strategies for Panama Canal waters. The PCSOPEP aids the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) in minimizing consequences of spills and emergencies by safeguarding life, reducing the impact on the environment, and ensuring the continuous operation of the Canal.

The provisions of the PCSOPEP apply to commercial vessels that transit the Panama Canal with a 400 Metric Ton (MT) or more carrying capacity of oil as cargo and/or fuel.

Q. Is it a requirement to submit a Panama Canal SOPEP (PCSOPEP)?2020-04-28T18:40:56+00:00

A. All vessels approaching Canal waters for transit must submit a Panama Canal Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan (PCSOPEP) at least 96 hours prior to its arrival. This requirement is applicable to vessels with fuel and/or oil cargo-carrying capacity of 400 MT or more.

Q. What Boarding facilities should the vessel have?2020-04-28T18:42:35+00:00

A. Boarding facilities of vessels arriving the Canal shall comply with the ACP requirements which conform with Regulation 17, Chapter V, International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), including all current amendments, annexes and resolutions.

Q. What are the requirements for the vessel’s arrival after I have booked the transit?2020-04-28T18:45:30+00:00


  • Regulars Vessels: 

Are required to arrive to Panama Canal waters by 14:00 hrs of the booked date

  • Supers Vessels:

Are required to arrive to Panama Canal waters by 02:00 hrs of the booked date. It is not possible to change a booked date. If the vessel will not arrive to make the required arrival time, a cancellation of the reserved slot needs to be made. The ACP will charge a cancellation fee.

Q. How can I book a transit slot for my vessel?2020-04-28T18:48:23+00:00

A.  It may only be requested by vessels’ agents during the following periods prior to the requested transit date:

  • First Period: 365 to 22 days. (For commercial passenger vessels: up to 547 days).
  • Second Period: 21 to 4 days prior to the requested transit date.
  • Third Period: 3 to 2 days.
  • Auction Period: 2 days (at 14:00 hrs) to 1 day (at 13:00 hrs).

A total of 26 reserved transit slots will be made available throughout the four booking periods. From time to time, the ACP may adjust the total number of available reserved transit slots to allow congestion of vessels waiting to transit to be reduced.

Q. What information am I required to send if it is my vessel’s first transit through the Panama Canal?2020-04-28T18:51:22+00:00

A. Prior to each vessel’s initial transit, one electronic copy (via WORD, EXCEL, PDF, TIFF, JPEG or similar format) of the following drawings/documents are to be submitted to the Admeasurements Unit care of this Agency at least 96 hours prior to arrival at Panama Canal waters.

  • International Tonnage Certificate (ITC 69)
  • PC/UMS Documentation of Total Volume, Suitable Substitute
  • Volume calculations (if available)
  • Suez Canal Certificate (if available)
  • Load Line Certificate (if multiple Load Lines exist, provide the one with least freeboard)
  • Pilot Card (Vessels speed and general information)
  • Ship Particulars
  • Certificate of Registry
  • Ship Clasification Certificate
  • Minimum Crew Safe Manning Certificate
  • International Sewage Pollution Prevention Certificate
  • Passenger Ship Safety Certificate – Form P (for passenger vessels)
  • International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate
  • Certificate of Fitness (for tanker vessels)

In addition, the following drawings (plans) shall be provided in PDF or AUTOCAD format “only”, in one plan (not sections), in order to allow for precise calculations:

  • General Arrangement Plan
  • Capacity Plan with deadweight scale
  • Midship Section Plan
  • Lines Plan
  • Shell Expansion Plan
  • Docking Plan
  • Trim and stability booklet or hydrostatic information (summer loaded figures at zero trim for extreme draft, displacement, deadweight and ton of immersion)
  • Container Loading or Stowage Plan when fully loaded (full container vessels only)
  • Cargo Securing Manual (full container vessels only – All pages regarding container information above and below deck and all combinations possible)
Q. With how much anticipation should I send the details of my vessel’s transit?2020-04-28T18:52:32+00:00

A.  It is recommended for vessels appointing or nominating ADIMAR SHIPPING, INC.  as their agent, to submit the ETA and the pre-arrival information not less than 144 hours in advance in order to comply with the 96-hour pre-arrival notification. As soon as we are contacted, we will provide assistance to the Master for presenting all the relevant information to the Canal Authority

Q. What type of information needs to be send prior to vessel’s transit?2020-04-28T18:56:36+00:00


a)    ETA (to be provided as soon as available – this will create the visit of the vessel to the Panama Canal and allow customers to coordinate transit reservations)

b)    Ship Due (contains information about draft, quarantine information, last port of call, security, etc)

c)    Ship Due for Small Crafts (applies to small crafts and requires less information that the complete ship due declaration)

d)    Cargo Declaration (contains information about all cargo carried, being containerized or not, including harmonized codes, IMDG (UN) codes for DG cargo, UN Port codes for origin and destination)

e)    Crew Information (name, passport number, nationality, date of birth of each crew on board)

f)     Passenger Information (name, passport number, nationality, date of birth of each passenger on board)

g)    Preliminary Admeasurement Data Sheet (For first time transits only and contains vessel’s plans and certificates)

Q. How do I pay the Panama Canal for my vessel’s transit?2020-04-28T18:58:41+00:00

A. The payment should be done through a full service agency such as ADIMAR. The agency will send you the estimated charges and you will need to make an advance payment for this.

The advance funds must include not only the Canal transit and related charges, as well as berthing fees, etc., but also include sufficient funds to cover agency fees and charges, cash advances to Masters when required, stores, anticipated repairs etc.

Q. What are the measurements of the new locks?2020-04-28T18:59:17+00:00

A. –

  • 427 Mtr/1400 Ft (long)
  • 55 Mtrs/180 Ft (wide)
  • 18.3 Mtrs/60 Ft (deep)
Q. What will be the difference from the vessels currently transiting through the canal and the vessels that will be transiting after the expansion?2020-04-28T18:59:48+00:00

A.  Currently the maximum dimensions of ships that can transit the Canal are: 32.3 meters in beam; draft -their depth reach- 12 meters in Tropical Fresh Water; and 294.1 meters long (depending on the type of ship).

After the expansion of the locks the vessels that will be able to transit will have the following maximum dimensions: 49 meters in beam; draft -their depth reach- 15 meters in Tropical Fresh Water; and 366 meters long (depending on the type of ship).

Q. When are the new locks at the Panama Canal expected to be completed?2020-04-28T19:00:31+00:00

A. The estimated completion time for the expansion is at the end of 2014. You may find more information about locks news in our website

Q. Where can you make a ship repair in Canal Waters?2020-04-28T19:10:31+00:00

A. Ship repairs are available at both sides of the Panama Canal. A Dry Dock is available at Balboa. For more information, please contact us:

Q. What does the Panama Canal authorities consider as a Proper Display of the Panamanian Flag?2020-04-28T19:11:29+00:00

A.  All vessels shall display the Panamanian flag from dawn to 1800 hours while they are in Panama Canal waters, and may also display their national and house flags.

Q. Where is it necessary to get a Port Pilotage?2020-04-28T19:13:41+00:00

A. Pilotage at Balboa and Cristobal terminals is mandatory and provided by the ACP.

Q. What is the Panama Canal minimum Visibility Required?2020-04-28T19:14:33+00:00

A.  All vessels transiting the Panama Canal must comply with the following navigation bridge minimum visibility requirements:

•If the vessel is laden, the view of the water surface from any conning position in the navigation bridge shall not be obscured by more than one (1) ship length forward of the bow, under all conditions of draft and trim. Note: Vessels billed at the laden rate are considered laden for the purposes of this requirement.

•If the vessel is in ballast (not laden), the view of the water surface from any conning position in the navigation bridge shall not be obscured by more than one and one half (1.5) ship lengths forward of the bow, under all conditions of draft and trim.

•If the visibility from normal conning positions is obscured by cargo gear or other permanent obstructions forward of the beam, the total arc of obstructed visibility from Conning Position 1 shall not exceed 15 degrees.

•The side hull plating at the vessel’s waterline, fore and aft, shall be visible from bridge wing conning positions.

•Vessels shall be required to execute an Undertaking and Release if visibility from the bridge is considered by the Canal Authority to present a hazard.

Container vessels may be allowed to transit while not in compliance with the visibility requirements provided they comply with all of the following requirements and conditions:

1. Must be 700 feet (213.36m) or more in length.

2. Must have clear visibility forward; therefore, should not be equipped with centerline cranes or cargo gear, which in any way obstruct forward visibility.

3.The view of the water surface from conning position No.1 shall not be obscured by more than two (2) ship lengths, or 500 meters, whichever is less, forward of the bow to 10° on either side, under all conditions of draft, trim and deck cargo.

4. Must have installed, prior to transit, the pilot shelter platforms as required by the ACP.

5. Must be equipped with an operational bow thruster, otherwise it may, at pilot request, be assigned and charged for an additional tug through the Culebra Cut.

6. Must notify the ACP of their voluntary request to “Exceed ACP Visibility.” This notification, which may be included in the remarks section of the ETA message, must be received at least 48 hours prior to arrival.

7. Incur a service charge to cover the costs resulting from the assignment of additional resources provided adequate notification has taken place.

8. Vessels failing to meet ACP visibility requirements that, nonetheless qualify for this test, but for which notification was not received as required, may be subject to delays and additional charges as well as the service charge.

9. Requests to modify previous ETA messages, which would change the “Exceed ACP Visibility” status of the vessel, will only be allowed, with no service charge assessed, if notification is received 48 hours prior to arrival.

Q. Which vessels can be denied for transit and when?2020-04-28T19:16:23+00:00

A.  Any vessel may be denied passage through the Canal if/when:

•The character or condition of the cargo, hull or machinery is such as to endanger Canal structures, or which might render the vessel liable to obstruct the waterway, or whose draft at any part of the vessel exceeds the maximum allowable draft as designated from time to time by the Canal Authority.

•When the vessel’s maximum point of immersion exceeds its maximum authorized draft as determined by its bilge keel radius.

•When the vessel’s maximum point of immersion exceeds the published TFW maximum draft then in effect.

•When the vessel’s mean draft exceeds the maximum allowable mean draft as provided by the most current Load Line Certificate.

•When the length overall, including bulbous bow, exceeds the length allowed as per ACP regulations;

•When the maximum width or extreme beam exceeds the width allowed as per ACP regulations; unless the vessel was approved for regular transit prior to March 10, 1981.

•When a vessel has protrusions, which will interfere with the safe transit of the vessel or present a hazard to Canal structures as determined by the Transit Operations Division executive manager.

•When the vessel has a list of ten degrees or more.

•When visibility from the navigation bridge of a vessel does not meet ACP’s minimum requirements and/or when in the judgment of the Transit Operations Division executive manager transit would present an extreme hazard.

•Vessels whose list, trim or handling characteristics are such as to endanger themselves, ACP appurtenances and/or a third party, may have such further limitations placed on them as the Canal Authority deems necessary to insure reasonable safety.

Q. What is the Customer Code?2020-04-28T19:17:12+00:00

A. Owners, operators or charterers of a vessel that transits the Panama Canal are assigned a Customer Code. The ACP utilizes this code to weigh number of transits and amount of tolls paid within 12 months to determine each customer’s ranking which is defined every 30 days. This customer code ranking is crucial for assignments of reservations slots when competition is faced between 2 or more vessels.

Providing false, incorrect, or deficient information on these codes constitutes a violation of the Maritime Regulations for the Operation of the Panama Canal and may result in fines that may range from US$ 100 to US$ 1,000,000.

Q. How do you calculate the Tolls?2020-04-28T19:31:23+00:00

A. Most tolls are paid according to vessels’ PC/UMS tonnage which is calculated by the ACP. Vessels carrying containers pay tolls according their container carrying capacity/actual loaded containers and passenger vessels may pay its tolls based on a per berth basis calculation. For more information please click here. (insert link to website with price list)

Q. Which vessels need the ACP Maritime Regulations Book?2020-04-28T19:32:04+00:00

A.  An updated copy of the Maritime Regulations for the Operation of the Panama Canal must be maintained on board all transiting vessels. Each transiting vessel is entitled to a complimentary copy of said regulations. Additional copies for the same vessel are available at a cost.

Q.What are Protrusions?2020-04-28T19:34:57+00:00

A. Anything which extends beyond a vessel’s hull, except for the main anchors, shall be considered a protrusion and subject to all applicable laws and limitations.

The Authority is not responsible for damages to protrusions whether permanent or temporary.

Vessels with protrusions may be permitted to transit provided that such protrusions will not interfere with the safe transit of the vessel or present a hazard to Canal structures. In either case, before transit is permitted, masters of vessels will be required to execute a form undertaking to release the Authority from liability in case of accident and to indemnify the Authority for damages sustained to or as a result of protrusions.

Vessels with permanent protrusions must, prior to proceeding to the Canal, furnish detailed information about the protrusion(s), including plans and request authorization for transit. Advance information will minimize the possibility that transit may be delayed or denied.

Vessels with protrusions extending beyond the maximum length and beam limitations may, on a case-by-case basis, be permitted to transit, provided that approval is obtained in advance and that protrusions do not present a hazard or interfere with lock structures, equipment and/or operation, and the master executes a form releasing the Authority from liability.

Q. What is the Maximum permissible Draft?2020-04-28T19:47:50+00:00

A. The maximum permissible draft for Canal transits has been set at 39 feet 6 inches (12.04 m) Tropical Fresh Water (TFW) at a Gatun Lake level of 81 feet 6 inches (24.84 m) or higher.

Gatun Lake density is 0.9954 gms/cc at 85oF (29.4oC).

This provides a safe navigational margin of at least 5 feet (1.52 m) over critical elevations in the Canal proper, and a clearance over the south sill of Pedro Miguel Locks of 1 foot 8 inches (0.50 m) at a Miraflores Lake Level of 54 feet 6 inches (16.61 m).

Prior to the initial transit of a vessel whose transit draft will exceed 35 feet 6 inches (10.82 m), owners, operators or agents must supply in full the information required in the Regulation on Navigation in Panama Canal Waters (ACP Navigation Regulations, article 52), and request the maximum authorized transit draft for the vessel (deepest point of immersion TFW) from the Transit Operations Division executive manager, not later than two weeks prior to the loading of the vessel. This request will be returned with the approved maximum authorized transit draft stamped thereon.

The initial transit is permitted at or under the approved maximum authorized transit draft. After the initial transit, unless the vessel’s agent or owner is notified of any restrictions imposed by the Canal Authority, this maximum authorized transit draft will remain in effect.

All vessels transiting the Canal should have sufficient ballast to permit safe handling during transit.

A vessel whose ballast draft does not meet the minimum draft requirements may be accepted for transit on a regular basis, provided the vessel operator is granted permission by the Transit Operations Division executive manager.

Minimum Drafts Required (Length):

•Up to 425′ (129.54 m) Trimmed so pilot can see the ranges over the forecastle from center of navigation bridge

•Over 425′ (129.54 m): 8′ (2.44 m) forward, 14′ (4.3 m) aft, TSW

•Over 475′ (144.8 m): 18′ (5.5 m) forward, 20′ (6.1 m) aft, TSW

•Over 525′ (160.02 m): 20′ (6.1 m) forward, 22′ (6.71 m) aft, TSW

•Over 580′ (176.8 m): 22′ (6.71 m) forward, 24′ (7.32 m) aft, TSW

•Over 625′ (190.5 m): 24′ (7.32 m) forward, 26′ (7.93 m) aft, TSW

Vessels are expected to arrive at the Canal properly trimmed and with a draft which, when in fresh water, its deepest point of immersion will not exceed either the Published TFW Draft, the Maximum Authorized Transit Draft established by the Canal for that particular vessel, or the maximum allowable draft as a mean established by the classification society, whichever is less.

Q. What is the maximum height allowed for transit?2020-04-28T19:48:59+00:00

A. The allowable height for any vessel transiting the Canal or entering the Port of Balboa at any state of the tide is 190 feet (57.91 m) measured from the waterline to its highest point. With prior permission from the Transit Operations Division executive manager, height may be permitted to 205 feet (62.5 m) on a case-by-case basis with passage at low water (MLWS) at Balboa.

Q. What is the maximum Width depending on the type of vessel?2020-04-28T19:51:42+00:00

A. No vessel with a maximum width exceeding its maximum beam may transit the Canal without prior review and approval of vessel plans.

Vessels that carry cargo within 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) or less of the extreme beam must have approved provisions, such as rubbing bands, to protect the cargo should the vessel rest alongside the wall while in the chamber. The maximum beam of 106 feet (32.31 m) should not be exceeded by the cargo protection method.

Q. What is the maximum Beam depending on the type of vessel?2020-04-28T19:53:36+00:00

A. For Commercial or non-commercial vessels and the integrated tug-barge the acceptable combination acceptable for regular transit measured at the outer surface of the shell plate is 106 feet (32.31 m).

For Wider commercial vessels including integrated tug-barge combination up to a beam of 107 feet (32.61 m) may be permitted, with prior approval of the Transit Operations Division executive manager, to transit on a one-time delivery basis only if the deepest point of immersion does not exceed 37 feet (11.3 m), TFW.

For non-self-propelled vessels (other than integrated tug-barge combinations) acceptable for transit is 100 feet (30.5 m). One-time transit of wider vessels may be permitted with prior approval of the Transit Operations Division executive manager.

Q. What is the maximum Length depending on the type of vessel?2020-04-28T19:54:59+00:00

A.    The maximum length overall including bulbous bow for commercial or non-commercial vessels acceptable for regular transit is 950 feet (289.6 m), except passenger and container ships which may be 965 feet (294.13 m) in overall length.

The maximum length for integrated tug-barge combination acceptable for regular transit is 900 feet (274.32 m) overall including the tug. A tug-barge combination must transit together as one unit with the tug supplying the propelling power.

The maximum aggregate overall length for non-self-propelled vessels acceptable for transit is 850 feet (259.1 m), including accompanying tugs. Accompanying tugs must lock through with the non-self-propelled vessel. One-time only transits that exceed these limitations may be permitted on a case-by-case basis with prior approval of the Transit Operations Division executive manager.

Q. What are the dimensions allowed for transit?2020-04-28T19:57:00+00:00

A.  The maximum dimensions of ships that can transit the Canal are: 32.3 meters in beam; draft -their depth reach- 12 meters in Tropical Fresh Water; and 294.1 meters long (depending on the type of ship).

Q. What are the dimensions of the lock chambers?2020-04-28T19:59:01+00:00

A. The lock chambers -steps– are 33.53 meters wide by 304.8 meters long.

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