Panama Canal authorities close down historic yacht club
By IBI Magazine
The historic Panama Canal Yacht Club in Colon, Panama, was recently razed by authorities who arrived in the middle of the night and carried out demolition over a holiday weekend. The midnight massacre, while unexpected, was justified as part of a long-term expansion plan by the Panama Ports Company.
But, according to local yachting writers, the plan only called for the demolition of two docks in the yacht club, rather than the entire facility.
The club, which opened with the Panama Canal in the early 1900s, had apparently fallen on hard times, with lax security and a multitude of drug dealers. The Yachting Examiner reports that cruisers visiting the marina were routinely offered cocaine and prostitutes along with other more routine provisions.
According to the Caribbean Compass, the closure might be part of a larger plan to make visiting yachtsmen unwelcome. "The new policy in Panama Canal waters is apparently to run visiting yachts out, discourage them from lingering and fine them if they do," wrote David Wilson last September. "As of this writing, the Maritime Authority of Panama (AMP) has sent launches into the free anchorage area and threatened the yachts there with eviction and fines."
Wilson said that there are virtually no slip spaces for visiting yachts. "Add to that the fact that the AMP is not allowing yachts to anchor anywhere in Panama Bay, and you have a situation that makes it difficult, if not virtually impossible, for yachts heading to the Caribbean from the Pacific to stop even to make arrangements to transit the Canal, let alone reprovision, tour Panama or handle emergencies," he wrote.
Yachts berthed at the Panama Canal Yacht Club will be required to move by April 1st.
(6 March 2009) International Boat Industry News