Puerto Armuelles, Coco Solo, transit zone, Bocas, maritime services
Panama has a reasonably good transportation system, especially in the transit zone. Some 11,400 km (7,084 mi) of roads exist, including the Pan-American and Transistmica highways. Paved roads account for 35 percent of the total; the remainder are finished in gravel and graded earth. Shallow-draft vessels can navigate 800 km (500 mi) of inland rivers, not counting the 82 km (50 mi) of the Panama Canal.
The Panama Railroad, whose route parallels the canal, was run by the government from 1979 to 1996, but it lost money, and the government curtailed service. In 1996 it was leased to a private company, which planned to restore freight and passenger operations. Two longer narrow-gauge lines in the western provinces of Chiriqui and Bocas del Toro mostly serve the banana industry.
Three of Panama’s busiest ports are located in Colon to serve the free zone: Cristobal, Manzanillo, and Coco Solo. Balboa is the port at the Pacific end of the canal. Puerto Armuelles and Almirante handle banana exports.
Tocumen, near Panama City, serves as Panama’s international airport for passengers and air freight. Many smaller airstrips exist, most built by the U.S. military for defense purposes. The largest national airline, COPA, provides international flights.
Panama has the largest merchant marine registry in the world, with 6,245 ships with a capacity of 122 million gross registered tons. Shipping firms from other countries prefer to register as Panamanian because Panama charges low fees, has lax regulation, and offers access to maritime services.
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