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Ship & Vessel Register

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Ship Registry in Panama

Many ships, boats, and vessels are registered under the Panama flag. Over 8,100 vessels are registered as Panamanian vessels, fishing boats, yachts, cargo ships, and tankers.

Panama also has the most tonnage of registered vessels in the world with the Panama fleet containing 81 million tons making up nearly 22% of the world's total tonnage.

Panama has been registering all types of ships, boats and vessels since Law 63 was enacted in 1917.

Advantages offered by the PANAMANIAN REGISTRY:

  • Ownership: Any person or company, regardless of nationality and place of corporation is eligible to register ships under the Panamanian flag. Furthermore, there is no income or withholding taxes payable when the income is a result of the operation of a vessel engaged in international trade.

  • Minimum Requirements: There is no minimum tonnage requirement. However, vessels over 20 years old will have to pass a special inspection by an authorized Panamanian inspector, in order to obtain the Permanent Navigation Patent.

  • Technical Certificates: Ship owners who wish to transfer their ships to the Panamanian flag will not be required to have them re-surveyed if the ships possess valid safety and tonnage certificates at the moment of registration. This eliminates the necessity to have the ship dry docked prior to registration and consequently saves the ship owner considerable expenses. However, upon the registration, a recognized entity (national or international) should issue a new set of certificates on behalf of the Panama Administration.

Annual Safety Inspection Program (ASI)

All Panamanian ships engaged in international trade are subject to an Annual Safety Inspection (ASI) which aims to determine whether or not they comply with safety or life at sea and marine pollution prevention requirements as prescribed by international and national laws and regulations.

The surveys and the issuances of certificates on behalf of the Panamanian Administration, in accordance with the relevant and applicable Conventions, have been authorized by the leading classification societies and several national recognized organizations.

The annual safety inspection (ASI) also verifies the existing living hygienic and working conditions of the crew in accordance with the International Labor Organization's Conventions ratified by Panama. In addition, the Certificates of Minimum Safe Manning and Certificates of Competency complying with the STCW Convention are issued.

Panama Maritime Laws Modified in 2008

The Panama Maritime Authority or Autoridad Maritima de Panama (AMP, for its italics in Spanish) presented several proposed changes to the Maritime laws which were passed by the National Assembly and became laws in 2008.

The new Panama Merchant Shipping Law (Law 57 of 6 August 2008) eased administrative and legal procedures, created incentives for building new vessels, and created loyalty to the Panama Flag. The new legislation also grants incentives to individuals that register fleets, depending on gross tonnage, and vessel type.

Fleets composed of 5 to 15 ships are entitled to a 20% discount on registration fees; 16 to 50 vessels obtain a 35% discount, whereas 51 vessels up embrace a 60% discount.

Among reforms to the Merchant Marine Law passed at the end of June 2008, are new laws where Panama-hoisted cruise ships can officiate marriages onboard.

The legal marriage and paper signing is to be recorded by the Master of the vessel within the Marriage Record Book, where the marriage certificate is then authenticated by a Consul of Panama, and further submitted to the Directorate of Merchant Marine for its due entry before Panama's Civil Registry. The modification was undertaken before the petition made by the cruise industry, which has an extensive number of passenger cruise-liners registered with the Panama Flag.

The implementation of the new General Law of Ports (Law 57 of August 6, 2008) particularly happens to be an important legal instrument to advance Panama as the maritime centre of the Americas. Until the approval of Law 57, port regulation was ruled through administrative concession laws. The new law establishes a clear and efficient procedure to obtain the necessary concession or contract-law enable to operate ports in Panama, modernize the regulatory framework, as well as supervision by the respective public authorities that have competence on port activities. Additionally, the law is to rule over rights and obligations on all future port concessions handled overseas. Another characteristic of the aforementioned law is that it establishes principles on public policy, pertinent to port administration, with the primary task of promoting private investment over port development activities, and the practice of free and fair competition within port operators and service providers.

Noteworthy to mention is the new law will not affect port concessions granted already through contract laws, nor amendments in terms of rates, exemptions and other conditions that have previously been ratified between the Panamanian government and port operators.

FASTER SHIP REGISTRY was made possible in 2008 when AMP implemented an online fast vessel registration process. A new electronic Ship Register eases vessel registry procedures, as well as, issuance of a new digital seafarer identity document emitted by the Directorate of Seafarers. Ever since July 7, 2008, the aforementioned Directorate has been implementing Merchant Marine's Circular 163 addressed to ship owners and operators of Panama-flagged vessels, ROs, Masters, Surveyors and Port State Control authorities. The new system will save 80% of AMP clients' time by accessing AMP's data center, to be interconnected worldwide via Internet. Users and clients of the Registry are immediately able to see the statistics of each procedure achieved by the AMP. The new automation process and electronic Ship Register shall provide clients of Panama Ship Register, the best service ever.


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