Passage Planning Guide: Panama Canal and Approaches - (PPG - Panama, 2020 Edition)

Number of Pages:
Book Height:
600 mm
Book Width:
420 mm
1.4 kg
Published Date:
May 2020
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This brand new passage planning guide is an expert resource for navigating the Panama Canal. Written in consultation with the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), it includes A2-sized chartlets of the entire canal and essential information on every aspect of using both the Panamax and the Neopanamax locks.

Passage Planning Guide: Panama Canal and Approaches (2020 Edition) is the most comprehensive navigational guide to the Panama Canal to date. It builds on the research and experience gained since the 2014 'Guidance for LNG Carriers Transiting the Panama Canal' by SIGTTO. The large format chartlets and supplementary navigational and procedural data in this new guide support Masters and officers in maintaining the highest safety standards in these constrained waters.

The user friendly format of this publication will also help to ensure a successful transit for the increasing numbers of Neopanamax ship Masters, who may be completely unfamiliar with the canal, due to changing patterns of global trade and the 2016 expansion of the locks.

This title supersedes 'Guidance for LNG Carriers Transiting the Panama Canal' by SIGTTO.

The Panama Canal is a controlled and managed waterway that connects the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans, at the Isthmus of Panama. While the Canal is strictly governed, and pilotage is compulsory, it is also extremely busy and requires that ships’ officers are fully familiar with what is required from the ship in order to ensure a safe and timely transit of the Canal. The Canal is regulated and managed by the Autoridad del Canal de Panamá (ACP) (the Panama Canal Authority).

The Canal is open for commercial operations 24 hours per day and all communications are conducted in the English language, both on the bridge and between ships. Although the Atlantic Ocean is geographically to the North and East of the Canal and the Pacific Ocean is to the South and West of the Canal, due to its winding shape the terms ‘Northbound’ and ‘Southbound’ are used for simplicity of communications, eg ‘Southbound’ refers to a passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

This Guide provides details on the safety requirements and procedures for ships transiting the Canal, and should be read in conjunction with the Panama Canal Regulations, which are updated annually and are made available online at The ACP website contains Notices to Shipping and Advisories to Shipping. Advisories contain the latest information for ships, such as draught restrictions and lane outages, and are updated frequently.

The Canal is 43 NM in length, with two possible routes:

  • The Panamax route passes through Gatún Locks at the Atlantic side and then through Pedro Miguel and Miraflores Locks at the Pacific side. The Panamax route has two lanes at each set of locks. Transit time for the Panamax route (excluding delays) averages 9 hours
  • the Neopanamax route opened in 2016, passing through Agua Clara Locks on the Atlantic side, and Cocoli Locks on the Pacific side. The Neopanamax Locks consist of only a single lane and are sometimes referred to as ‘the third lane’. Transit time for the Neopanamax route (excluding delays) averages 11 hours.

The Panama Canal is located at the narrowest point of Central America and provides an efficient route for ships passing between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Since first opening on 15th August 1914, the Panama Canal has served more than 815,000 ships, with an average transit time of between 8–10 hours and a maximum time of 24 ½ hours, including waiting.

In 2019 the ACP reported that 13,785 ships transited the Canal, with 10,931 (79%) using the Panamax Locks and 2,854 (21%) using the Neopanamax Locks. Despite this very high level of traffic, a safety analysis of the Panama Canal conducted by Allianz in 2016 reported that, with over 100 years of experience in managing shipping, the Panama Canal is, in statistical terms, currently the safest canal used by large merchant ships.

1.1 Introduction

1.2 The Panama Canal Authority (ACP)

1.3 Ship Dimension Limits in the Panama Canal

1.4 Navigation in the Panama Canal

1.5 Passage Planning

1.6 Tidal Information

1.7 Climate and Meteorology

1.8 Fuel and MARPOL Requirements

1.9 Special Precautions for Tankers

1.10 ISPS Code Requirements

1.11 Emergencies

Passage Plans




Annex 1 Pre-Entry Bridge Team Meeting

Annex 2 Documentation Prior to 1st Transit

Annex 3 Visibility Requirement for the Panama Canal
Annex 4 Flag Signals in the Panama Canal

Annex 5 Bitts, Chocks, PPUs and Pilot Shelters for Ships Transiting the Panama Canal

Annex 6 Pre-Arrival Checklist for Ships’ Equipment

Annex 7 Considerations for LNG Carriers Transiting the Panama Canal

Part A – LNG General Information and Safety

Part B – LNG Cargo Carriage

Part C – LNG Cargo Tank Vapour Management

Part D – LNG Propulsion Overview

Part E – Bridge Visibility for LNG Carriers

Annex 8 Mooring in the Neopanamax Locks

Annex 9 Mooring in the Panamax Locks


Witherbys titles are developed using scripts developed by technical experts that are peer reviewed within work groups. Typically, they seek to improve understanding of the regulations, recommendations and guidelines issued by Industry.

Witherbys staff have significant expertise in the fields of navigation and hazardous cargoes as well as in the presentation of complex subjects in a graphic and easy to understand manner.

Number of Pages:
Binding Format:
Book Height:
600 mm
Book Width:
420 mm
1.4 kg


Published Date:
May 2020
Publication Date:
May 2020