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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.