Panama Canal Transit Info


  • Northbound (NB) – (Pacific Side)
  • Southbound (SB) – (Atlantic Side)


  • Communications:

Vessels approaching the Atlantic entrance shall maintain a continuous watch on Channel 12 VHF until an Authority pilot assumes control of the vessel’s navigation, and shall communicate with the Cristobal signal station at least six miles before entering the breakwater. hannel 12 will be used to notify vessels of their transit time and for harbor traffic coordination within Limon Bay. Channel 13 will be used when vessels are under way in Canal waters, exclusively for bridge-to-bridge communication.

  • Pilotage:

Pilotage is required for vessels departing Anchorage Area C (south of Buoy No. 2) until the

vessel is safely in the channel, and clear of oncoming traffic.

Vessels may only enter, depart, or move within Limon Bay with proper authorization from the

signal station.

  • Anchorage:

Priority for use of inner anchorages shall be granted in the following order:

a. Vessels requiring stores, crew change, bunkering, etc.

b. Transiting vessels, in order of scheduled transit.

c. Other vessels.

  • Communications:

All vessels must contact the Flamenco Communication Station using channel 12 VHF, when approaching the Canal Pacific entrance, and must maintain watch over this radio channel.

Channel 12 shall be used to notify vessels of their transit and pilot time. Channel 13 will be used when vessels are under way in Canal waters, exclusively for bridge-to-bridge communication.

  • Anchorage

Vessels shall anchor in the appropriate anchorage areas, and shall not enter the channel or pass Buoys 1 and 2 without a pilot aboard, unless authorized by the Authority. Vessels may not enter, depart or move in the Pacific anchorages, especially across the channel area between the Sea Buoy and Channel entrance Buoys No. 1 and 2, unless they have first contacted the Flamenco Signal station and obtained approval. Such authorization is valid for a specific time; if the vessel does not proceed, it must obtain a new authorization.


  • All services, including the transiting of vessels are performed by the Panama Canal Authority and Port Operators, strictly on a “CASH IN ADVANCE” basis. For this reason, sufficient funds must be received by the agencies representing owners and/or operators, prior to the arrival of the vessel at either Canal Terminal, whether the vessel is of transit of the Panama Canal or Local call at any of the local ports, or both.

    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.

    A detailed canal transit Proforma for a vessel will gladly be provided upon request. (Contact Us).

    Upon Agency nomination, pre-planification will be given to owners/operators and to the master of vessel.

  • 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

    Provides for the electronic reception of all preliminary information required for security and operational purposes. After being verified by ACP personnel through an interface, this information is incorporated into the production database of the Electronic Data Collection System (EDCS), which is the current operational application used by the ACP.

    All the information contained in the forms listed below needs to be provided no less than 96 hours prior to arrival to Panama Canal waters:

    • 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)
    • Ship Due (contains information about draft, quarantine information, last port of call, security, etc)
    • Ship Due for Small Crafts (applies to small crafts and requires less information that the complete ship due declaration)
    • 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 desitnation)
    • Crew Information (name, passport number, nationality, date of birth of each crew on board)
    • Passenger Information (name, passport number, nationality, date of birth of each passenger on board)
    • Preliminary Admeasurement Data Sheet (For first time transits only and contains vessel’s plans and certificates)

    Vessels must provide ACP Boarding Officers with a hard copy of the Ship’s Information and Quarantine Declaration – SIQD (Form 4398) completed, with the exception of the information on dangerous cargo. In addition, vessels carrying containers must provide hard copies of container summary (Form 4510). The SIQD and Container Summary forms are available at:

    Failure to provide the required information in a timely manner may result in delays in transit times.

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)

By recognizing that the Panama Canal represents a very important expense on most trade routes, our team concentrates efforts in providing the appropriate advice to our principals by professionally explaining the possible scenarios in terms of expected delays and costs when their vessels arrive to the Panama Canal for transit. This information certainly assists in minimizing costs when using the waterway and maintaining schedule integrity.

The ACP schedules transits of vessels on a first-come/first-served basis. There are a number of vessel characteristics and restrictions that would classify the vessels as “Regulars (beam less than 91 feet)” or “Supers (beam 91 feet and over)”. Vessels classified as “Regulars” will be accommodated for transit during the afternoon/night hours and vessels classified as “Supers” will only transit during daylight hours.

The average number of transits that may be handled at a normal day is about 43 (total for both directions). However, by paying a ”premium” fee, there are a limited number of transits that may be reserved following certain guidelines and limitations. We refer to vessels with a transit reservation confirmed as “Booked” vessels and the space available for a booking is called a “Slot”. Anytime there is maintenance at the locks (about 3-5 times a year) or high number of arrivals, vessels will queue at both sides of the Panama Canal delaying non-booked vessels and reducing the number of Slots that will be available for bookings. These queues may go over 100 vessels meaning that vessels without a booked transit may have to wait 4 days or more for a non-booked transit.

The Panama Canal Transit Reservation System allows vessels to reserve transit slots in advance of arrival to Canal waters and vessels that are not booked for transit will be scheduled to transit on the date and in the order determined by the ACP.

For the rules and provisions concerning the Panama Canal Transit Reservation System, vessels are classified as supers when they are 91 feet (27.74 meters) in beam or over, and regulars when they are under 91 feet (27.74 meters) in beam.

A vessel booked for transit will be deemed to have arrived at a Canal terminal when ACP signal station establishes radio contact with the vessel and: the vessel is visually sighted by the signal station or the vessel is identified on ACP radar by location, speed and course at a distance of not more than 8 nautical miles.

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.

Under normal circumstances, the 25 authorized reserved transit slots available per day will be allocated among booking periods and size of vessels as set forth in the following table:


Supers (b)

Regulars (c)

First Period (a)



Second Period



Third Period



Passenger Vessels



Auction Period (d)

(1 slot total for both types of vessel)

(a) Includes the slots for commercial vessels which, if not used during the extended first period, may be used by any other vessel.

(b) During normal conditions, no more than nine supers may be booked for transit in the southbound direction and, of these, no more than seven with “full daylight-hour” restrictions. Similarly, no more than eight supers may be booked for transit in the northbound direction and, of these, no more than six with “full daylight-hour” restrictions. The combined number of “full daylight-hour” restricted vessels shall not exceed ten vessels.

(c) During normal conditions, no more than five regular vessels may be booked for transit in the same direction. Of the total number of slots available, no more than two shall be allocated to regular vessels transiting under restrictions, i.e., clear-Cut, daylight hours, or daylight hours in the Cut.

(d) The ACP makes available one slot for an auction process that begins at 14:00 hrs three days before the intended transit, and ends at 13:30 hrs two day before the intended transit. For any questions on how to apply, please contact the agency.

Note: During periods of reduced capacity (or congestion) the limits of slots provided by direction or restriction are also reduced.

Processing of booking requests usually begin at 09:00hrs of the first day of each period. If there are more requests than available slots for any given period, available slots to competing vessels will be assigned firstly to customers with the highest ranking of Panama Canal business. This ranking will be determined as a result of the weighted average of the ranking of total transits (40%) and the ranking of tolls paid (60%) during the preceding 12-month period.

  • 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 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.

A. Over 365 days 10% of booking fee or $500
B. 365 to over 180 days 20% of booking fee or $600
C. 180 to over 90 days 40% of booking fee or $900
D. 90 to over 30 days 50% of booking fee or $1,100
E. 30 to over 3 days 60% of booking fee or $1,300
F. 72 hours to 36 hours 80% of booking fee or $1,600
G. Less than 36 hours 100% of booking fee
  • Panama Canal Authority (ACP)

Government entity that regulates and controls all aspects of vessels while transiting the Panama Canal and its operational waters. An authorized boarding officer from the ACP will board the vessel upon arrival who, besides checking that all ACP regulations are being complied to, acts as a Quarantine inspector for clearing purposes.

  • Panama Maritime Authority (AMP)

Regulates and controls all aspects of vessels while outside Panama Canal operational waters.

  • Health Ministry

Sanitary Inspectors will board the vessel as soon as vessel is cleared by the ACP.

A deck and superstructure fumigation is required by local regulations. This will be performed on arrival by local authorized companies.

The Panama Canal is approximately 80 kilometers long between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and uses a system of locks – compartments with entrance and exit gates.

The locks function as water lifts: they raise ships from sea level (the Pacific or the Atlantic) to the level of Gatun Lake (26 meters above sea level); ships then sail the channel through the Continental Divide.

Each set of locks bears the name of the townsite where it was built: Gatun (on the Atlantic side), and Pedro Miguel and Miraflores (on the Pacific side). The water used to raise and lower vessels in each set of locks comes from Gatun Lake by gravity; it comes into the locks through a system of main culverts that extend under the lock chambers from the sidewalls and the center wall.

  • Maximum Length
    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.
  • Maximum Beam
    The maximum beam for commercial or non-commercial vessels and the integrated tug-barge combination acceptable for regular transit measured at the outer surface of the shell plate is 106 feet (32.31 m).
  • Maximum Height
    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.
  • Draft
    (1) 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 85º F (29.4º C).] 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).

One new lane with new and separate locks on each side of the Canal (Atlantic and Pacific) connecting to Gatun Lake.

  • The future locks on the Atlantic and Pacific entrances will measure:
  • And the maximum size vessels that will be able to transit will measure:
  • 427 Mtr/1400 Ft (long)
  • 55 Mtrs/180 Ft (wide)
  • 18.3 Mtrs/60 Ft (deep)
  • 366 Mtrs/1200 Ft (long)
  • 49 Mtrs/160 Ft (wide)
  • 15.2 Mtrs/50 Ft (deep)

These locks will allow for Post Panama Container Vessels, Passenger Vessels, Suezmax Liquid – Bulk Tankers, Capesize Dry-bulk Carriers, Large Liquefied Natural Gas-Carriers, and other vessels falling within the established dimensions.

The expanded canal will keep its present sets of locks unchanged. In addition, a new set is being built for vessels as large as 366 meters in length, 49 meters in beam and 15.2 meters in draft at tropical freshwater (TFW). These dimensions most probably will define a New-Panamax type vessel. A conceptual unauthorized video of the new locks may be seen in “youtube” at:

Therefore, when transiting through the Panama Canal vessels have the primary responsibility of implementing the PCSOPEP and participating in the response.

In our continuous efforts to be of service, we, as your trusted experts in Panama offer you the services of arranging all the documentation for you to obtain the PCSOPEP, and in addition to this, we will represent your good vessel in all the related matters, in case of an emergency as the authorized persons.

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.

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.

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

The plans must be submitted at least 96 hours prior to the vessel´s arrival at Panama Canal waters.

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.

The ACP voluntarily adopted the security requirements established by the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) even though the definition of a Port Facility contained in the ISPS Code does not include canals and locks. Vessels flying the flag of a non-Contracting Government to the SOLAS Convention, vessels less than 500 gross registered tons, and vessels belonging to and operated by a Contracting Government to the above-mentioned Convention, and that are used solely for noncommercial government service, shall provide proof that they have implemented security measures onboard equivalent to those required by the ISPS Code.

Vessels not in compliance with the security requirements mentioned above shall be subject to the control and compliance measures established by the ACP. Among the measures that may be applied shall be the assignment of additional resources at the vessel’s expense, and a more detailed inspection, which may result in the delay or denial of the vessel’s transit.

Any vessel on an international voyage and underway to the Canal shall notify the Authority at least ninety-six (96) hours prior to its arrival, of the following:

  • Its intention of proceeding to the anchorage, transiting, or proceeding to port;
  • The security level at which the vessel is currently operating, according to the ISPS Code;
  • Confirmation that the vessel possesses a valid International Ship Security Certificate (ISSC);
  • The security level at which the vessel operated in the previous ten calls at port facilities;
  • Any special security measures implemented during said calls;
  • A confirmation that the appropriate security measures were maintained during ship-to-ship activity during the period covered by its previous ten calls at port facilities.

UPDATED: (Jan/1/2011): The Panama Canal Security Officer (PCSO) is Mr. Manuel E. Benitez, Executive Vice-President of Operations. Additional questions or concerns may be addressed to the following points of contact, available on a 24-hour basis:

Protection and Emergency Response Division:

  • Mr. Antonio Michel, Executive Manager
  • Mr. Ricardo Flores, Supervisor
  • Telephone: +507 276-4646 – +507 276-1052 – +507 276-3669 (24 hours)
  • Facsimile: +507 276-4777
  • E-mail:
  • E-mail:

Vessels arriving at Panama Canal waters must declare all cargo carried on board at least 96 hours prior to their arrival. Vessels that arrive from ports that are less than 96 hours away are required to submit revisions to their original cargo declarations as may be necessary in order to provide updated cargo information.

ACP boarding officers will verify cargo information submitted in the pre-arrival notification and discrepancies with the cargo manifest presented by the master will be reported to the ACP Canal Protection Division. These discrepancies will be evaluated and may lead to the application of security control measures as deemed necessary by the ACP. These control measures may include, but not be limited to one or more of the following:

  • Direct communication with the vessel’s master to clarify any discrepancies or any other security related issues,
  • Delay of transit,
  • The assignment of additional resources,
  • The escorting of the vessel,
  • Fines

All additional resources provided by the Canal on account of discrepancies identified during the verification of the cargo declaration will be charged to the vessel.

Vessels that fail to provide their pre-arrival notification 96 hours prior to arriving at Canal waters, will not be scheduled for transit ahead of vessels that have complied with this requirement or that have already been assigned pilots for transit.

NEW FOR CONTAINER VESSELS (Jan/1/2011): All full container vessels arriving for transit at the Panama Canal must submit their updated “baplie” file “prior” to arrival at Panama Canal waters. This information will be used to calculate tolls based on actual loadings of the vessels. If the baplie files is not received on time, tolls will be calculated based on maximum capacity loaded.

For those vessels docking at a terminal in Panama before transiting the Panama Canal, the authority will allow submission prior to entering the last set of locks. Baplie files need to be uploaded via web into the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) system.

Masters of vessels will, prior to transit, 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 in the following instances:

  • When a vessel transits at less than the minimum drafts, has a list in excess of three degrees, or is so loaded or trimmed that maneuverability is adversely affected.
  • When a vessel has protrusions.
  • When visibility from the vessel’s navigation bridge presents a hazard, as determined by the Transit Operations Division executive manager.
  • When the vessel’s chocks, bitts or other equipment does not meet Canal requirements as determined by the Transit Operations Division executive manager.
  • When a vessel transits on a one-time delivery basis with extreme beam exceeding 106 feet (32.31 m).

Pilots or boarding officers are requested to have the master of the vessel sign Form 4323, “Undertaking to Release and Indemnify”, prior to docking vessels in Balboa, Cristobal and Rodman/PIMSA piers when such vessels are exceeding the allowable drafts or when a vessel is to be berthed on a pier that has inadequate or absent fendering and/or lighting.

A refusal to sign such release may result in a delay of transit.

Based on this necessity Adimar Shipping Agency offers the service of delivering spare parts directly to your ship. From wherever you need to send the spare, we receive it and do all the necessary arrangements with custom clearance at a very low cost, guaranteeing that your spare will be delivered in the hands of your vessel’s master at the right time.

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.

Vessels with unsafe or inadequate boarding facilities will be required to correct such deficiencies before transiting and lengthy delays may result.

Safe boarding facilities should be available through the entire transit for ACP personnel or others. ACP may require use of a tug to hold the vessel dead in the water during boarding or disembarking operations. This is considered a vessel deficiency, therefore the tug will be charged to the vessel.

When it is intended to embark and disembark ACP personnel or others by means of the accommodation ladder, or by means of mechanical pilot hoists or other equally safe and convenient means in conjunction with a pilot ladder, the ship shall carry such equipment on each side, unless the equipment is capable of being transferred for use on either side.

The following vessels shall comply with the radio equipment requirements of this section:

  • Power-driven vessels of 300 gross tons or over.
    Power-driven vessels of 100 gross tons or over, carrying one or more passengers for hire.
    Power-driven vessels of 100 gross tons or over, carrying dangerous cargo.
    Commercial towing vessels of 8 meters (26 feet) in length or over.

A vessel of any of the types described above shall be equipped with a radio system which can be operated from the navigation bridge, and which can be used to communicate on the following channels in the 156-162 MHz frequency band:

  • Channel 12, 156.600 MHz
    Channel 13, 156.650 MHz
    Channel 16, 156.800 MHz

Further, vessels which have notified the Authority that they are ready to transit or otherwise navigate in Canal waters and require a Canal pilot, shall, until a pilot boards the vessel, maintain a continuous watch on Channel 12, and await instructions. Channel 12 shall be used for notification to vessels of their transit time, and for advisory harbor control communication in Limon Bay and Flamenco Island.

While in Canal waters, such vessels shall use Channel 13 for bridge-to-bridge navigational communications only. Channel 13 shall use a one watt maximum power, except that in emergencies more power may be used. When such vessels have a Canal pilot aboard, Channel 13 may be used only by the pilot or at his direction, for navigational communications. The signal stations on Flamenco Island and in Cristobal may be called on Channel 12 or 16. Channel 16, however, is reserved for cases of distress, urgency, safety, and calling only. Once radio contact is established on Channel 16, another channel shall be selected for routine communications.