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Panama: Transportation and Communications
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Services > Transportation and Communications


Transportation was the single most important contributor to Panama's service-oriented economy. The Panama Canal has given great impetus to other transportation services, and many of those, such as the oil pipeline and the CFZ, have achieved a dynamism of their own. In the area of communications, Panama was served by 213,400 telephones in 1984, in addition to 142 radio stations, 6 television channels, and 6 daily newspapers.

The transportation sector has been further broadened by a network of roads, ocean ports, and airports, and located near Panama City, served international airlines.

Panama had fourteen ports, the most important of which were Balboa on the Pacific side and Cristóbal on the Atlantic, located at the entrances to the canal. Together, the two ports served 70 percent of the international ships arriving in Panama in 1983. The two ports, however, have declined in regional importance since the 1970s, in part because of technological change and competition. In their prime, Balboa and Cristóbal were transshipment centers of break-bulk traffic. In the 1970s, containerization became widespread; large ships could break the bulk cargo into containers at any port offering container facilities, at which point the cargo could be stored or transshipped through the canal on a smaller vessel. Miami and Kingston developed sophisticated container facilities and contributed to the precipitous decline (from 145,000 tons in 1969 to 38,707 tons in 1980) in transshipment traffic through Balboa and Cristóbal. In order to compete more effectively, US$18 million was spent on Cristóbal in the early 1980s, making it the first container port in Panama. Later plans call for upgrading eight other ports as well.

Data as of December 1987

Last Updated: December 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Panama was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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