The Panama Canal 50th Anniversary 1914 - 1964

Organization of the Panama Canal Zone

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Organization Flow Chart

Many people and a wide variety of skills are needed to keep the Panama Canal operating smoothly.

Among nearly 15,000 people working in the organization are members of practically every trade and professional group—from doctors to diemakers, from bakers to boatbuilders.

The complex organization required to operate the Canal and govern the Canal Zone, a community composed of U.S. and Panamanian personnel, is comparable to a medium-sized city.   In addition to serving world shipping, it must provide all the services of a municipal government.

Activities directly concerned with maritime traffic are handled principally by the Marine Bureau.  It supervises operation of the locks, handles navigation control, provides the pilots who guide the ships safely through the Canal, and operates an industrial division for marine repairs and manufacturing of parts.

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Except for landscaping and the vintage vehicles, the Administration Building has changed little since 1915.  But refinements, such as air conditioning, have been added.
Docks and piers on the Pacific and Atlantic are operated by the Transportation and Terminals Bureau, which also has charge of the railroad, ship operations between the Canal Zone and New Orleans, and motor transportation within the Zone.

Maintenance and improvement of the Canal and its supporting installations and designing and building new facilities are continuing operations.  All are supervised by the Engineering and Construction Bureau, whose personnel includes every specialty in construction and maintenance, from architects to ditchdiggers.

Budgeting, accounting, and auditing for the organization are directed by the comptroller, whose office works in close collaboration with all other Company units on matters of finance.

The Personnel Bureau, which includes an operations section and a central employment office, ministers to the varied manpower needs of the Panama Canal.   Expert interviewers and placement specialists see that skills are matched to job requirements for top efficiency.

Perhaps the most varied occupations and skills are found in the organizations which provide the many services required by the community such as the Civil Affairs Bureau, charged with the responsibility of operating the school system for employees' children; the police and fire departments; customs; postal services; civil defense; libraries, and other facilities.

Medical services are provided for employees, their families, and even their pets through the Health Bureau.  It supervises four hospitals in the Canal Zone and includes special divisions for preventive medicine and quarantine, veterinary medicine and sanitation.

Housing, feeding, clothing, and providing entertainment for employees falls within the province of the Supply and Community Service Bureau, which serves as landlord, grocer, haberdasher, and supplier of household goods.  In addition to commissaries and drygoods stores, this bureau operates movie theaters, service center cafeterias, swimming pools, bakery shops, and sundry stores.

Administration of the entire Canal Zone operation, both the activities of the Company and the Government, rests with the Governor and his staff, which includes legal, public information, security, safety, and protocol officials.

Justice in the Canal is administered through two Magistrates Courts, at Balboa and Cristobal, where cases are heard on any offenses committed within this jurisdiction.

[Editor's Note:  This was the organization of the Panama Canal Company/Canal Zone Government in 1964.  This basically is the same organizational flow that was formed during the construction of the Panama Canal and continued in the Canal Zone from construction days to the implementation of the Carter-Torrijos' Treaty of 1977.   At that time most of the Canal Zone Government's operations and some of the Panama Canal's operations (the ports, some of the supply operations, and a few other functions) were given over to the Government of the Republic of Panama or ceased operation.  The Schools Division under the Civil Affairs Bureau was turned over to the Department of Defense (Dependents Schools) and stayed that way until the last graduation at Balboa High School in 1999.]

Related Article:  The Canal Zone Government

April 3, 2001