Panama is a country located in the Central America region of North America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica. Panama is located on the narrow and low Isthmus of Panama. This S-shaped isthmus is situated between 7° and 10° north latitude and 77° and 83° west longitude. Panama encompasses approximately 77,082 square kilometers, is 772 kilometers in length, and is between 60 and 177 kilometers in width.
The country is divided into 9 provinces, plus several indigenous comarcas. The provincial borders have not changed since they were determined at independence in 1903. The provinces are divided into districts, which in turn are subdivided into sections called corregimientos. Configurations of the corregimientos are changed periodically to accommodate population changes as revealed in the census reports.
The country's two international boundaries, with Colombia and Costa Rica, have been clearly demarcated, and in the late 1980s there were no outstanding disputes. The country claims the seabed of the continental shelf, which has been defined by Panama to extend to the 500-meter submarine contour. In addition, a 1958 law asserts jurisdiction over 12 nmi (22.2 km; 13.8 mi) from the coastlines, and in 1968 the government announced a claim to a 200-nautical-mile (370.4 km; 230.2 mi) Exclusive Economic Zone.
The Caribbean coastline is marked by several good natural harbors. However, Cristóbal, at the Caribbean terminus of the canal, had the only important port facilities in the late 1980s. The numerous islands of the Archipiélago de Bocas del Toro, near the Beaches of Costa Rica , provide an extensive natural roadstead and shield the banana port of Almirante. The over 350 San Blas Islands, near Colombia, are strung out for more than 160 kilometers along the sheltered Caribbean coastline.
The major port on the Pacific coastline is Balboa. The principal islands are those of the Archipiélago de las Perlas in the middle of the Gulf of Panama, the penal colony on the Isla de Coiba in the Golfo de Chiriquí, and the decorative island of Taboga, a tourist attraction that can be seen from Panama City. In all, there are some 1,000 islands off the Pacific coast.
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