The Port of Balboa is the terminal port for the Pacific Ocean end of the Panama Canal. The Port of Balboa is just ten kilometers southwest and a district of Panama City, Panama’s capital, and five kilometers west-southwest of the Port of Panama. The Port of Balboa was named for Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the first European known to have seen the Pacific Ocean from the Americas. In 2000, about 2300 people lived in the Port of Balboa.
The town was founded by the United States while they built the Panama Canal. Before being drained and filled, the area was occupied by marshlands and a few small ranches. Today, it contains vast harbor installations, warehouses, dry docks, marine and rail repair shops, and a coaling plant. Its sister port, the Port of Cristobal, lies on the eastern end of the Canal.
Balboa was formerly located at La Boca French Port on Panama’s Pacific coast. The United States refurbished the port when they started building the Panama Canal, naming it Ancon.
Since the Port of Balboa was inaugurated in 1909, it has served a vital role in worldwide maritime trade, as it was the only port between Santa Cruz, Mexico, and El Callao, Peru, that could handle the era’s biggest vessels of three thousand tons.
From the early 20th Century until 1979 and the abolishing of the United States’ “Canal Zone,” the Port of Balboa was the zone’s administrative center and a territory of the United States. Today, the Canal’s former administrative building houses the Panama Canal Administration. In 1915, a US Navy VLF-transmission station sent orders to US submarines from the Port of Balboa.
As a US territory, the Port of Balboa contained American schools, post office, a commissary, a cafeteria, a service center, fire and police stations, and a yacht club and other recreational facilities run by the US government.
Since it became part of the Republic of Panama, the Port of Balboa has been redeveloped, and its port has been enhanced. The houses and commercial areas are now privately-owned. Most of the former public institutions, like the schools, have been closed. The Port of Balboa is now part of Panama City’s suburb of Ancon and what Panamanians call the “areas revertidas.”
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