I’ve taken 2 boats through the Panama canal now. The 1st time we did all of the paperwork ourselves and ran around from office to office taking care of everything. That was obviously a huge hassle.
I took another boat through the canal this week and we used an agent. All I can say is it was money very well spent. The additional cost is negligible and the service was great. I will say that you should exercise some caution as the price to retain an agent to handle your transit can vary quite a bit.
We just transited doing a delivery to Tahiti and the owner had initially lined up an agent who’s fees seemed high to me and he included several fees I’d never heard of. A little research upon arrival in Panama and I realized he was trying to take the owner for a ride by charging nearly triple what other agents were charging.
I did some more research and talked to other yachties and found that most of them were using Erick Galvez of Centenario Consultant Agency. I initially met Erick when he stopped by our boat while he was in the marina handling business on a couple of other sailboats scheduled to transit that day.
Eric was very straight forward, honest and helpful. He truly went out of his way to educate us and give us the information we needed even though we had no intention of employing him at that time. I’d been through the canal before, so I knew a bit about it, but Eric taught me a lot and ultimately saved us (well, not us but the owner of the boat we were delivering) about $2,000.
If you’re planning to transit the Panama canal get a hold of Erick, he always answers his phone, speaks perfect english, and uses skype, which makes it really easy and in my experience as well as that of everyone I met in Panama this spring, Erick always delivers.
In addition to saving us money he managed to get our transit date moved up and when we needed parts shipped in he went out of his way to pick them up in Colon for us and deliver them to us personally in Panama City at no charge.
I’m usually pretty stingy with my personal recommendations but if you plan to transit the Panama Canal I highly recommend you contact Erick.