Historic Milestones of the Transition Period


September 7, 1977 - Signing of the Panama Canal Treaty (Torrijos-Carter Treaty) between the Republic of Panama and the United States of America. The Organization of American States was the site of the signing of the Treaties, attended by 28 governments and 19 heads of state as witnesses to the signing of the historic agreements guaranteeing the Canal would be transferred to the Republic of Panama, which will assume full responsibility for its administration, operation and maintenance. The parties also agreed on the Treaty Concerning the Permanent Neutrality and Operation of the Panama Canal. This agreement establishes a regime of neutrality that guarantees that the Canal shall remain open, safe, neutral and accessible to vessels of all nations.

September 30, 1979 - Final day of operation of the Panama Canal Company and Canal Zone Government, in accordance with the Panama Canal Treaty signed on September 7, 1977.

October 1, 1979 - Entry into force of the Panama Canal Treaty. Panama gains jurisdiction over the former Canal Zone. First day of operations of the Panama Canal Commission, the new agency of the U.S. Government responsible for managing, operating, maintaining and improving the Canal through December 31, 1999. Dennis P. McAuliffe, U.S. Southern Commander-in-Chief from 1975 to 1979, assumes the position of Canal Commission administrator for a 10-year period. Fernando Manfredo, Jr. is sworn in as deputy administrator for a similar term.


May 28, 1980 - The Joint Committee on the Environment, established under the treaty, holds its first bi-national meeting in Panama.

June 11, 1980 - The Coordinating Committee, established under the treaty, holds its first bi-national meeting in Panama City. This bi-national committee was established to channel communication between the Canal Commission and the Panamanian Government.

June 24, 1980 - The bi-national Panama Canal Commission's Board of Directors holds its first meeting at the Administration Building, in Balboa Heights, with Michael Blumenfeld as Chairman.

January 2, 1981 - Pilot contract becomes effective. This was the first-ever collective bargaining agreement between the Canal agency and a labor union.

April 29, 1981 - United States President Ronald Reagan approves the new Panama Canal Commission official seal by Executive Order.

January 10, 1982 - A new wage system replaces the Panama Area Wage Base, reducing the differences between post and pre-treaty wage rates and improving the competitive position to recruit skilled, technical and professional occupations.

March 31, 1982 - End of the 30-month transition period. The Panama Canal Commission's transitional police force and magistrate's courts, as well as the U.S. District Court are disestablished. Also, the Panama Canal Employment System replaces the Canal Zone Merit System and this is the last day that non-U.S. citizen employees of the Commission are eligible to use U.S. military health facilities for non-job related medical treatment.

February 7, 1983 - A new marketing unit is established within the Office of Executive Planning to handle the Commission's marketing functions.

July 11, 1983 - The Pilot Understudy Program, designed to provide Panamanians an additional means of entry into the pilot force, accepts its first class of nine trainees.

January 18, 1984 - The new labor-management Safety and Health Committee is inaugurated.

April 4, 1984 - A transit reservation system is implemented on a permanent basis for Canal customers desiring a guaranteed transit date.

October 1, 1984 - U.S. Armed Forces mail and commissary privileges are eliminated for Commission employees who had had prior access to them.

March 15, 1985 - The first class of nine Panamanians in the Pilot Understudy Program is promoted to the Pilot-in-Training Program.

May 5, 1985 - The first phase of a new automated traffic management system at the Maritime Traffic Control Center is implemented.

September 26, 1985 - An agreement is signed at the United Nations by the United States, Panama, and Japan to form a tripartite commission to study alternatives and/or modifications to the Panama Canal.

December 23, 1985 - The President of the United States signs into law the Panama Canal Amendment Act, Public Law 99-209, amending the provisions governing vessel accidents.

June 6, 1986 - The Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS) replaces the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) for U.S. citizen employees hired since 1983.

January 1, 1988 - The Commission is converted from an appropriated fund to a revolving fund agency with the passage of the Panama Canal Revolving Fund Act. The agency also begins standardizing towboat charges for routine transit service.

April 16, 1989 - The Office of Inspector General (formerly the Office of General Auditor) is established as required by U.S. law.


January 1, 1990 - Fernando Manfredo, Canal Deputy Administrator since October 1, 1979, through December 31, 1989, serves as the first Panamanian acting administrator from January 1, 1990 through September 1990.

September 20, 1990 - Gilberto Guardia F. is sworn in as Panama Canal Commission Administrator, becoming the first Panamanian to occupy the Canal's highest office.

May 1, 1991 - Panama President Guillermo Endara Galimany establishes a presidential committee responsible for preparing various documents related with the transition process.

February 12, 1992 - The Gaillard Cut Widening Program begins.

February 25, 1993 - The Interoceanic Region Authority is created to develop the Canal area.

October 1, 1994 - Implementation of the Panama Canal Universal Measurement System (PC/UMS).

January 25, 1995 - Panama President Ernesto Pérez Balladares creates the Transition Committee for the Canal transfer.

May 26, 1995 - Panama's Legislative Assembly gives second and final legislature approval to the Constitutional Amendment on the Panama Canal.

February 10, 1996 - The Panama Canal Commission becomes a government corporation with the signing of Public Law 104-106 by U.S. President Bill Clinton.

June 19, 1996 - The transit of the vessel Maersk Stafford marks the Canal's 800,000th transit.

August 18, 1996 - Alberto Alemán Zubieta is sworn in as the second Panamanian administrator of the Panama Canal Commission.

May 14, 1997 - Approval of the Panama Canal Authority Organic Law.

June 11, 1997 - Panama President Ernesto Pérez Balladares signs the Canal Authority Organic Law.

July 1, 1997 - Changes in ship measurement regulations enter into force.

July 7, 1997 - Jorge E. Ritter is appointed as the first Minister for Canal Affairs.

September 7-10, 1997 - The Panama Canal Universal Congress takes place in Panama City.

September 9, 1997 - The Panama Canal Interoceanic Museum is inaugurated.

November 18, 1997 - U.S. President Bill Clinton signs the Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal Year 1998.

December 27, 1997 - The Panama Canal Authority is created.

February 12, 1998 - First meeting of the board of directors of the Panama Canal Authority.

July 17, 1998 - First joint meeting of the boards of directors of the Panama Canal Authority and Panama Canal Commission.

July 31, 1998 - A group of 12 Panamanians complete training as mediators for labor-management disputes, to serve after the Canal transfer.

September 3, 1998 - Alberto Alemán Zubieta is sworn in as the first Administrator of the Panama Canal Authority. In addition, the Canal Authority board of directors approves the regulations on procedures to revise Panama Canal toll rates and admeasurement regulations.

March 24, 1999 - Panama's Cabinet Council approves the toll rates that will become effective on December 31 and retain the pre-transfer toll structure.

April 12, 1999 - According to the Canal's corporate objectives, the agency's purchasing authority is decentralized for better control over purchasing and acquisition processes.

May 27, 1999 - Ricaurte Vásquez, the Canal Commission's Financial Officer, is appointed Panama Canal Authority Deputy Administrator to begin serving on January 1, 2000.

June 3, 1999 - The Panama Legislative Assembly approves the Panama Canal Authority's budget for Fiscal Year 2000.

June 28, 1999 - The Panama Canal Authority distributes job offer letters to Canal employees.

July 1, 1999 - The Panama Canal Authority approves the post-2000 Labor Regulations.

August 18, 1999 - The Panama Legislative Assembly approves the law establishing the new boundaries of the Panama Canal Watershed, based on the provisions of the Panama Canal Constitutional Amendment.

September 2, 1999 - Ricardo A. Martinelli takes office as chairman of the board of the Panama Canal Authority and Minister for Canal Affairs.

October 4, 1999 - The Panama Canal Authority's Contracting Regulations are approved, marking the 21st and last agency regulation to be approved.

December 31, 1999 - Canal transfer to the Republic of Panama.