Pay the Fees
The costs (all US$) to transit the Panama Canal in a yacht less than 65 feet will typically be:
- $1760 as of Jan 1, 2023 (Refer below)
- $54 TVI (Transit Vessel Inspection)
- $130 Security Charge
- $891 Buffer (if no agent – returned when all goes well)
- Around $100 for Lines and Fenders
- Around $40 transport costs for volunteer linehandlers
- Whatever your food and drink costs for the group
If you choose to use an agent:
- $400-$500 for an agent
- $100 each for “professional” linehandlers
- No buffer fee required
No small vessel will be accepted for a Panama Canal transit before inspection and payment of transit fees and charges. From the ACP form 4352 the charges in 2022 are:
2022 ACP Information Regarding Yacht Tolls
The ACP posted this document in 2022 regarding adjustments to all Canal tolls:
L. Adjustments to small vessels tolls:
The modifications to small vessel tolls involve adjustments to the maximum limits of displacement tonnage established by tolls based on length overall as follow:
a. These tolls apply to all small vessels (length overall up to 125 feet).
b. Vessels of length overall greater than 125 feet, of any market segment, with PC/UMS tonnage up to 999 as the maximum limit, will be applied the small vessels tolls in the length overall range greater than 100 feet, in addition to all related charges for other maritime services.
c. The proposed modifications to small vessel tolls involve adjustments to the maximum limits of displacement tonnage established by tolls based on length overall (1,000 displacement tons). Vessels with a displacement tonnage greater than 1,000 will be assessed tolls based on the proposed displacement tolls.
Paying the Tolls
As soon as possible after the Admeasurer inspection, arrange payment to Citibank.
- You must have paid the fees before you can ask for a transit!
- Tolls payment can be arranged through a local bonded agent or paid in cash directly at Citibank
- Payments are usually made in cash (US dollars only)
- An agent might allow you to pay by credit card
- You must present the proper Admeasurement Clearance and Handline Inspection form
- Citibank in Colon is close to the commercial port, and on the Pacific side is in Niko’s Plaza in Balboa
- Panama banks are open weekdays from 08:30-15:30
- You are supposed to be able to arrange a bank wire transfer to Citibank to avoid walking around Colon with that much money in your pocket, but some have been told this isn’t possible
- Make sure you reference your SIN and the name of your yacht.
- After making the payment, check that they have faxed the information to the Canal authorities
Cash in Colon
You may have heard, and will soon see, that Colon is not the nicest place to be walking around with lots of cash.
Weirdly, there is no ATM at the Citibank in Colon, but there are at Cuatro Altos shopping centre, Millennium Plaza and Colon 2000. Many ATMs limit you to $500 so you might need to get to a few different banks.
Take the usual precautions when moving around with pockets full of cash. Get a taxi to take you straight to the appropriate bank.
The Buffer Fee
The buffer covers any additional charges incurred during transit and will be refunded when all goes well (It is not paid if you use an agent).
There are numerous opportunities to incur extra charges or fines during a transit. Some examples are:
- US$440 Delay of Transit for not maintaining your nominated boat speed, such as during a breakdown, or for requesting a stop-over in the lake
- Admeasurer making the inspection outside of 07:00 and 14:00 (US$75 per hour with a two-hour minimum)
- Advisor’s meal including delivery by launch – this can be US$10 for the meal and US$350 for delivery!
- A launch to bring out a late linehandler was once charged at US$364
- You can pay US$2800 to request a next-day transit
Assuming all goes well with your transit, the ACP will return your buffer into the bank account you detailed for them in Attachment to 4614. This can happen in a week but might take longer.
If Transit Fees and the Buffer are paid via the agent and not directly, it should be made clear beforehand how and when the Buffer is refunded or accounted for.
If you do have to spend the night in the lake through no fault of your own, get your Advisor to state so in writing and confirm that no transit delay charge or related charges will apply.