Since 1819, Panama was an integral part of Columbia. However, when Columbia rejected plans forwarded by the US to build a canal across the Isthmus of Panama, it was separated from Columbia through a revolution supported by the US. The new Panama government was able to persuade France to enter a treaty with the US to allow everlasting control of a zone that was five miles wide on either side of the canal. This Panama Canal Zone was a 553 square mile located within the Republic of Panama that was also unorganized US territory. It extends up to 5 miles on either side of the canal?s center line.
Except during political crisis, Panamians could freely enter the Panama canal zone. From 1903 to 1979, the complete area was controlled by the US which had actually built and financed the construction of the canal. This was not possible from 1979 to 1999 when the Panama Canal Zone was jointly controlled by the US and Panama. The Canal Zone was divided into two main sections ? the Atlantic Side and the Pacific Side. Gatun Lake separates the two. The canal cuts short the route enormously that ships took around the tip of South America, which was the normal route before 1914. The traffic on the canal is increasing tremendously but many military battleships, oil tankers and aircraft carriers are unable to pass through due to their size. In fact, there is a class of ships known as `Panamax? which are built to the maximum capacity that the Panama Canal and its locks can hold. It takes about fifteen hours for a ship to make a trip over the Panama canal zone from the east to the west coast of America. There are three sets of locks that empty and fill for ships to be buoyant and pass onto the next lock. It was earlier used mainly for military purposes for free movement of ships from one side to the other.
The Colon Free Trade Zone Panama is located at the Caribbean portion of the Panama Canal. It is the second largest free trade zone in the world with access to three Atlantic ports. It was created in 1948 and on an average receives more than 250,000 visitors from all over the world especially from Jamaica, Venezuela, Columbia, US, Ecuador, Haiti etc. This Free trade zone Panama generates revenue of more than US$ 6.5 billion in 2005 due to exportation and re-exportation of products. These products include electric appliances, clothing, perfumes, cosmetics, textiles, liquors, cigarettes, and watches. This free movement of goods with total exemption of tax on imports and exports will make businesses use this to the maximum. This success of revenue generation is due to a combination of its geography since the Panama Canal Zone is located at the crossroads of the world?s busiest shipping routes.
If you want to visit the beaches near Panama. The Playa Blanca area is one of the favorites in the country. One of the most recommended hotels is the Sheraton Bijao Resort – an all inclusive property.