Panama: #2 Mail Drop in the Carib
14 April 2008 | Colon
Hideko and I visited the "Free Zone" in Colon just to see what it was all about. What a place. It is a massive industrial warehouse facility directly connected to the port. Everything inside is tax free if you are in transit. You need a passport to get in and the Panama citizens are not typically allowed to shop there. The prices are ok but I think you get the same things for about the same price in a much more pleasant setting in Panama City.
With all of the shipping and receiving that goes on around the canal the country does seem to have the whole yacht in transit bit worked out. We had four boxes sent out from our mail forwarder, Saint Brendan's Isle, with spares and lots of other odds and ends. Most places in the Carib, even the supposed free ports, give you quite a hassle when you try to receive this sort of shipment. SBI puts all of the small things you get in the mail in a larger box, breaking things down and tossing junk mail to save space. The manifest is an SBI one because they can't pull the invoices for each individual item (they may not even have access to them). This non-original manifest gives the Grenada customs folks a serious conniption. Curacao had a big problem with DVDs. They charge different rates for Games, Movies and computer software.
In Panama the package comes right to the boat and they charge you $15, even for four boxes. This makes Panama the #2 spot we've found in the Caribbean to get mail. The number one spot was the BVI. The same as Panama but no $15 fee, which allowed them to leave things at the marina office when you aren't at the boat.
We just got moved up again by the ACP so we are now going through the canal this Sunday! Apparently they are getting too many yachts stacked up on the north side. They are sending three rafts of three through with us (9 yachts total). Most of the yacht transits we have seen lately have been a single raft of three behind a cargo ship on the Gatun side and the you go down on the Pacific side with the tour boats. It will be nice to go through with all yachts because it will avoid any problems you might have with prop wash from the big boats.