Commercial hub of the continent
Location is one of the main keys to the enormous success of the Colon Free Zone, making it an ideal hub in this age of globalization of the world's economy. The Colon Free Zone is the main commercial distribution center for the hemisphere. To this end the Zone is constantly reconstructing and modernizing warehouse, shipping and transit systems for all types of merchandise, keeping one step ahead of modern technology and always ready to offer the best multimodal services.
Global logistics center
Nearly all world routes pass the Colon Free Zone located as it is at the Atlantic gateway to the Panama Canal with access to both the Atlantic and the Pacific.
Wholesalers and retailers travel to this Free Zone because here they are able to buy all consumer products either by the container load or in smaller quantities, because Free Zone importers specialize in bringing in container loads of goods, and breaking them down for resale.
Historically the Zone has staked its ground on importing goods duty-free from around the world and selling them to tariff-bound Latin America. With that business basis no longer relevant as Latin tariff barriers have fallen, the Zone has had to reshape and expand its business according to the ground rules now prevalent worldwide: globalization of trade, speed and efficiency of transit, and competitive prices.
The Colon Free Zone has a number of elements which support commercial activity on such differing levels as transport and financial operations. Panama's main cargo airport is Tocumen International and there are five major seaports with every modern cargo handling facility.
Freight moves by air, land, rail and sea. Every year, over 12,900 cargo vessels cross the Canal under the flags of over 100 nations. Panama has the world's largest merchant fleet, with a registry of more than 8,000 ships. Many of them stop for cargo and buy their supplies from chandlers operating from The Colon Free Zone.
More than 58 international passenger and cargo airlines use the Tocumen International Airport. The majority share in the cargo generated through The Colon Free Zone and a number of cargo airlines use the airport for special flights.
Finally, Panama's International Banking Center with over 90 banks from around the world, with deposits totaling U.S.$33 billion is a great advantage. More than 15 banks have branches within the Free Zone itself.
All of these advantages, together with the national currency, the Balboa which is permanently at par with the American dollar, which is legal tender in the country and for which there are no exchange restrictions, make an ideal climate for international commerce.
A modern communications system and an efficient tourism service add to the facilities enjoyed by the Colon Free Zone users.
Facts about the Colon Free Zone
The Colon Free Zone, with over 2,500 companies operating within its 450 hectares, is not only the world's biggest free zone after Hong Kong, but the best geographically located, and therefore the one with the best, most efficient and fastest distribution facilities. It is served by five major ports – all within a few kilometers.
The path of commerce is also smoothed by the fact that the US dollar is legal tender.
The Free Zone handles more than US$16 billion in imports and reexports each year.
It employs more than 28,000 people with the best-trained bilingual work force in Central America.
The Zone hosts 250,000 buyers, business people and tourists each year.
Major imports are from Asia, Europe and North America.
Major markets include South America, Central America and North America.
Deposits made in the Banking Center of Panama from the Colon Free Zone last year were US$578 million.
Credit from the Banking Center represented approximately US$1,024 million.
Strict measures to thwart money laundering and brand name piracy are in place. A special copyright office was created in August 1997.