Trans-Panama Pipeline, Panama


The Trans-Panama pipeline, in use since 1982, is now owned and operated by Petroterminal de Panama S.A. Its original purpose was to transport the exceeding oil drilled in Alaska. The pipeline destroyed the economy of coastal communities, who traditionally lived off fishing, and whose very existence was threatened by this enormous structure. Running from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific coast, the Trans-panama pipeline caused many large-scale disasters, particularly the oil spill on February 4th, 2007, that contaminated animal and plant life over a vast marine area. The most affected communities were those from Bahía Ballena, Cayo de Agua, Chiriquí Grande, Isla Tigre, Piña, and Punta Laurel. Oilwatch Mesoamerica blamed outdated infrastructure and un-trained workers. After the incident, 54 coastal communities came together to form the Committee of Chiriqui Grande Communities Damaged by Oil, in order to ask Petroterminal, through protest rallies, meetings and legal action, for compensation for the damage caused.

See more...
Basic Data
NameTrans-Panama Pipeline, Panama
SiteChiriqi Grande Port (Caribbean) to Charco Azul (Pacific)
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Specific CommoditiesCrude oil

Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsHarold and Raymond Bernstein, owners of Petroterminal de Panama S.A. (PTP), came up with the idea of the Trans-Panama: a huge pipeline that would carry oil from Puerto Armuellas, on the Pacific coast, to Bocas del Toro, on the Caribbean coast. From there, the oil would be distributed to the entire U.S. east coast. After convincing the dictator Torrijos of the project benefits, the Bernsteins completed the pipeline in 1982. From then until now, apart from when the pipeline valves were closed during 1996 to 2003, the Trans-Panama has transported millions of gallons of crude oil.

Since 2003, the pipeline primarily carried oil from Ecuador. Since then, 42 percent of PTP shares are held by the Government of Panama, while the remaining 58 percent are held by several U.S. companies. Oil companies are planning a further expansion of the pipeline.

The pipeline is 130-kilometre (81 mi) long and it has a capacity of 860 thousand barrels per day.
Project Area (in hectares)length: 81 miles
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date1982
Company Names or State EnterprisesPetroterminal de Panama S.A. - a joint venture of the Government of Panama and the NIC Holding Corporation (USA)
NIC Holding Corporation
Relevant government actorsGovernment of Panama
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersThe Committee of Chiriqui Grande Communities Damaged by Oil, Ngobe indigenous communities, Oilwatch Mesoamerica
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)UNKNOWN
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Official complaint letters and petitions
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
March 30, 2007: The Committee of Chiriqu Grande Communities Damaged by Oil releases a statement denouncing the damage caused by the incident, and demanding compensation from the company.
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
OtherFebruary 4, 2007: A huge oil spill occurs during the transportation of oil from a ship to the pipeline, contaminating around 7,400 km2 of sea, and causing social, economic and environmental damages to local communities.
Health ImpactsVisible: Other environmental related diseases
OtherCommunities reported health problems caused by the consumption of contaminated fish, including diarrhoea, vomiting, asthma, skin infections and stomach aches.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.---
Sources and Materials

Posicion de la Coordinadora de Comunidades Afectadas por el Derrame Petrolero de Chiriqui Grande:
[click to view]

'Geopolitica de los recursos naturales y acuerdos comerciales en sudamerica', Fobomade, 2005.

'Actividades hidrocarburiferas en areas protegidas', Oilwatch, 2003.

'The oil flows the earth bleeds', Oilwatch, 1999.

'El alto costo del petroleo barato', World Rainforest Movement, 2000.

'Guerra y petroleo: artifices de la historia del siglo XX', Oilwatch, 2002.

V.A., 'Lectura critica del plan puebla panama', Libros en red, 2002.

Fabrice F., 'Justice, nature et liberte. Resource Management in Times of Scarcity From system to service in rural areas', Paragon, 2007.

Panama governmental institution Report on the impacts of the oil spill from February 2007.
[click to view]


Petroterminal S.A. website
[click to view]

Presidency of Panama webstie
[click to view]

Centro de Incidencia Ambiental de Panamá (CIAM)
[click to view]

Oilwatch Statement on the oil spilling occuring on February, 4th 2007 (in Spanish)
[click to view]

Derrame brutal, apocalipsis en Chiriquí Grande, Panama America, Guerra Morales, S., 29/03/2007
[click to view]

PTP cuadruplica trasiego de crudo por el oleoducto, Panama America, Diaz, D., 24/06/2013
[click to view]

Buscan desarrollar nuevo polo económico en Chiriquí, La Estrella de Panama, Loo Pinzon, K., 08/02/2015
[click to view]

Oleoducto Trans-Panamá ya transporta petróleo, 07/02/2012
[click to view]

Other Documents

Pipeline's infrastructures at Puerto de Charco Azul
[click to view]

Puerto de Charco Azul Port where starts the Trans-Panana pipeline,
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorLucie Greyl
Last update29/10/2015