Pay the Fees
All the charges, payment methods and bank details are provided in the ACP form 4352 – Procedures for Securing a Handline Transit of the Panama Canal.
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)
- $75 TVI (Transit Vessel Inspection)
- $165 Security Charge
- $1060 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 2023 are:
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$471 Delay of Transit for not maintaining your nominated boat speed, such as during a breakdown, or for requesting a stop-over in the lake
- 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
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 expect up to around 60 days.
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.