The Zona Libre de Colón or Colon Free Zone (CFZ) is a modern free zone near the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal dedicated to the redistribution of products to Latin America and the Caribbean. The CFZ receives duty-free merchandise in bulk, which is repacked, labeled, assembled, and reshipped in smaller quantities to global customers. Every year, the CFZ generates USD$14 billion in imports and re-exports.
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Located in Panama, the CFZ is the second largest free zone in the world and the largest in the Americas. It is the main distribution center in the western hemisphere, serving the Central American, South American and Caribbean markets. The free zone is home to modern warehouses and port and traffic systems for all types goods.
The CFZ is strategically located and connected to major suppliers in North America, South America, Asia and Europe, as well as several lanes for all modes of transport. Commercial activities in the CFZ are supported by logistics and transport companies, service providers, banks, two airports, four ocean ports with advanced cargo handling facilities, container terminals, railways, highways (including the Pan-American highway originating in Alaska), and the Panama Canal, which has an annual traffic of 12,000 merchant vessels from 75 countries.
Companies in the CFZ are mainly engaged in the wholesale purchase and sale of international merchandise which includes anything from food and beverages, to textiles, home goods and machinery.
Other companies in the CFZ, including banks, logistics providers and IT service providers, support these activities. Trade participants, investors and tourists can easily access the following services in the free port: customs brokerage, freight forwarding, consolidation, logistics, multimodal transportation, air cargo storage, aviation repair and maintenance, banking, and government services, including customs clearance and trade processing.
The Colon Free Trade zone presents many opportunities for Latin American and international retail companies. For example, a Latin American exporter can sell products to one merchant in the CFZ free of duty, and the products will be distributed throughout Central America, the Caribbean, and the Andean region of South America. The ideal company to benefit from CFZ trade is one that has strong domestic sales of retail items to big local chains. Retail companies utilizing the CFZ model can save time by going to a single location (Panama) instead of multiple countries.
In late 2017, the Colon Free Zone management announced plans to modernize infrastructure to attract investments and trade opportunities from markets like Brazil, Bolivia, the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, China, Singapore, Italy and Turkey. Infrastructure improvements include Wi-Fi installation, placement of additional surveillance cameras, and rebuilding the administration building.
In addition, the CFZ Administration is promoting the Declaración Electrónica de Movimiento Comercial (DMCE) system to entrepreneurs so they can trade more efficiently. The DMCE is a system that allows secure and reliable electronic information exchange among the CFZ administration, Panama Customs, ministry agencies, free zone companies, commercial banks, and customs brokers.
Before the DMCE system, the filing of import and export information was largely a manual, time consuming process. Processing took up to 4 hours for each of the 3,000 daily transactions handled by, CFZ administration. As a result, employees dealt with backlogs that reached as far back as 6-12 months and long queues at service counters. To resolve these issues and support expanding operations, CFZ needed a modern solution that was quick to launch.
CFZ Administration deployed the DMCE system to boost growth and competitiveness and take the Colon Free Zone to the next level. An electronic system will not only improve services and increase productivity, it will also enable more efficient processing and approval of customs documents. In 2007, CFZ worked with CrimsonLogic to develop the DMCE in order to improve its trade facilitation and distribution services.
CrimsonLogic’s DMCE system is a custom electronic documentation platform that supports efficient document filing and faster turn-around across the entire CFZ ecosystem. Importers, exporters, brokers, freight forwarders and other trade participants can file all documentation to the CFZ and Panama Customs electronically 24/7, instead of being restricted to business hours.
The DMCE system also allows users to connect with stakeholders like banks and the Chamber of Commerce for information sharing and document approval. Data generated from CFZ is now accessible in real time, allowing for better analysis and decision making at the CFZ administration and national level. By adopting the DMCE system, the CFZ has posted 12.7 percent business growth annually since 2007.
Global eTrade Services (GeTS) is a leading provider of advanced trade facilitation solutions, including the Electronic Commercial Movement Declaration System (DMCE). GeTS H2H Service for CFZ DMCE is a paperless, 24/7 web-based application that allows CFZ companies to prepare and file electronic documentation to CFZ Administration and the Panama Customs Authority.
Trade participants, including importers/exporters, freight forwarders, brokers, warehouses and consolidators, are required to submit Commercial Movement Declaration Forms (DMC) electronically to the CFZ Administration before cargo can arrive or leave CFZ gates. CFZ administration needs shipment data for risk analysis and inventory purposes.
GeTS H2H eDeclaration Service features:
- Filing and submission of electronic declarations to the CFZ Administration
- Filing of entries, transfers and exits
- Integration and submission of DMC forms from In-House or Third Party software into the CFZ DMCE system
- 24/7 connectivity
- Data storage and security
- Multiple pricing plans
- Spanish language support
GeTS H2H eDeclaration Service benefits:
- Improved operational efficiency through the elimination of redundant and duplicate entries
- Improved employee productivity through automation and reduction of processing time
- Improved data accuracy and quality through regular system back-ups and maintenance
- Faster and more accurate filing with automated workflows and streamlined processing
- Enhanced visibility with a 360-degree view of the movement of goods within the free zone
- Anytime, anywhere filing
- Easy access to accurate, real-time information
- Flexible system that can be integrated with existing In-House systems
GeTS H2H eDeclaration Service is ideal for all individuals and businesses engaged in CFZ trade. Electronic processing can be completed within minutes, and CFZ messages (including shipment status notifications) can be accessed in real-time.
Visit our H2H eDeclaration page to learn more about eDeclaration filing and sign up for a 30-day free trial today.