OFFICIAL GUIDE TO SHIP & YACHT REGISTRIES

Panama

Shipowner Eligibility 

Any person or company, irrespective of nationality and place of incorporation, may register a ship in Panama.

About the Flag

Panama is a constitutional republic bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the Northern Pacific Ocean between Colombia and Costa Rica. It is a member of the OAS, the UN, and the IMO. The President is the Chief of State and Head of Government, and there is a unicameral Legislative Assembly. The legal system is based on civil law. Spanish is the official language but many Panamanians also speak English. The capital is Panama City.

Panama’s economy is service based with emphasis on banking, commerce, and tourism. Trade and financial ties with the United States are close. Bananas, shrimp, clothing, and sugar are major exports, and principal trading partners are the United States and the EU. The monetary unit is the balboa. The Panama Canal was opened in 1914, and jurisdiction was transferred to Panama from the United States in 1979. However, the United States turned over control of canal operations on December 31, 1999.

The General Directorate of Merchant Marine of the Panama Maritime Authority is in charge of all administrative proceedings related to the registration of ships. The New York Representative Office, sometimes referred to as Segumar, directs all casualty investigations, provides technical certificates and ensures compliance with legal navigation, safety, sanitary and marine environment pollution prevention requirements on the part of Panamanian vessels. Annual Safety Inspections are no longer handled through New York, but by the Directorate General of Merchant Marine, in Panama.

Law No. 8 of January 12th, 1925 establishes the procedure for the nationalization and admeasurement of vessels and is the cornerstone of Panama’s maritime legislation. The Panama Register is the world’s largest shipping registry.

Company Formation

Two or more people of any nationality may create an offshore corporation in Panama by simply filing at the Public Registry Office a Public Deed containing the Articles of Incorporation of the company which must contain the name of the company (company names must contain any of "S.A.", "Inc.", "Corp.", "Sociedad Anonima", "Incorporated", or "Corporation"); the general objectives; the capital of the company (there is no minimum capital requirement and it may be expressed in any currency); the duration of the company; and the names and addresses of the officers and directors (the company must have at least three directors of any nationality and at least a President, Secretary, and Treasurer, one person can be appointed to hold more than one office if provided for in the Articles of Incorporation).

The capital of a company may be composed of shares with nominal and/or no par value and/or shares without a nominal and/or par value. Also shares may be issued in nominative and/or bearer form. Panamanian companies do not have to file any annual return, and there is no requirement to file any accounts before any government authority. Each company must have a minute book and a stock register book and both can be held and maintained in any part of the world.

Shareholders can be represented by proxy and meetings can be held anywhere in the world if provided in the Articles. Panamanian offshore companies do not need to have a registered office. The resident agent may be a Panamanian attorney or law firm. The laws governing companies are Law 32 of 26 February 1927 adopted from the State of Delaware, USA and Law 24 of 1 February 1996.

Taxation

The fiscal legislation in Panama only taxes persons and companies whose sources of income arise or derive from activities within the territory of Panama, and, therefore, there are no income or withholding taxes payable by nonresident shipping companies.

Registration and Documentation

There are three stages of registration in Panama: the initial enrollment of the vessel otherwise known as provisional registration; the registration of the title of ownership in the Public Registry; and the permanent registration of the vessel.

The provisional registration applications and supporting documents must be presented by the shipowner or his representative to the Shipping Department or a special Panamanian Consulate who is authorized to receive vessel registration applications and issue provisional documents upon confirmation from the Shipping Department. To provisionally register a vessel in Panama, the following original documentation is required:

• Application form including the ship’s current and former name; complete address of the shipowner/agent; vessel’s legal representative in Panama; the name of the shipbuilder, date and place of construction; and other vessel details
• Power of Attorney appointing legal representatives, notarized and either legalized or apostilled
• Two counterparts of the Bill of Sale or Builder’s Certificate transferring title notarized and either legalized or apostilled
• Acceptance of Sale, notarized and either legalized or apostilled
• International Tonnage Certificate or Admeasurement Certificate, certified by the surveying company or Panamanian Consul
• Deletion Certificate if previously registered elsewhere, notarized and either legalized or apostilled

Photocopies and faxed documents are not permitted. All documents may be in a language other than Spanish for provisional registration.
Upon receipt of the abovementioned documentation and payment of the registration fees and first year’s annual charges, a Provisional Patente and Provisional Radio License will be issued usually within 24 hours. Provisional Patentes are valid for six months while Provisional Radio Licenses are valid for three months. Upon receipt of the completed application for a Permanent Radio License within the three month period, the Shipping Department will issue a Permanent Radio License valid for four years.

Next, the evidence of title must be filed with the Public Registry Office of Panama. In the case of a new ship, the Builder’s Certificate or Master Carpenter’s Certificate, signed by the legal representative of the builder, notarized and legalized or apostilled must be submitted. In the case of a vessel that has been registered in a registry other than Panama and has changed owners concurrently with its deletion from the former registry, ownership is evidenced by a Bill of Sale and Acceptance of Sale, notarized and legalized.

Finally, in cases where a vessel is transferred from the registry of another country to the registry of Panama without a sale, it is necessary to file as evidence of ownership the Deletion or Cancellation Certificate from the former flag showing the name of the owner registered under said flag and showing that the vessel was deleted free of mortgages and encumbrances. The Certificate must be notarized and legalized. In all cases the documents are translated into Spanish by an authorized Panamanian Public Translator and then protocolled by a notary public into a notarial document which is filed at the Public Registry. This procedure takes about ten to twenty days.

The Bill of Sale or other title of ownership may be registered in preliminary form through one of the Special authorized Consuls. In this procedure, the Consul shall retain one counterpart of the Bill of Sale and Acceptance of Sale and deliver the other to the interested party certifying that it is a true copy of the document which served as the basis for the preliminary registration of title in order that this authenticated copy be filed at the Public Registry in Panama within six months per the procedure previously outlined. When the final registration is accomplished, the effects are retroactive to the date and hour of notation in the Register of the preliminary application. This procedure is useful because in order for a vessel to be mortgaged, the title of ownership must have been registered.

After the title of ownership is recorded at the Public Registry, the shipowner or his legal representative must apply to the Shipping Department for the permanent registration of the ship. The application to the Shipping Department must be accompanied by a copy of the notarial document evidencing registration of the title in the Public Registry. Approximately 10 days after the Shipping Department has received the application for permanent registration and all supporting documents and if the vessel is up to date in payment of all fees, the Shipping Department will issue a Permanent Patente for the vessel which is valid for two years for a pleasure yacht and four years for other vessels. It is important to note that while all proceedings of an administrative nature are effected at the Shipping Department, the registration of vessels’ ownership and mortgages is done at the Public Registry, which is a separate and independent office. Shipping Department files are protected by a large degree of confidentiality, but those of the Public Registry, as the name implies, are open to the public. The Public Registry is an agency of the Ministry of Government and Justice. Registration may be canceled upon submission of an application to delete only through the legal representative of the vessel in Panama. Said application must state the purpose or reason for the deletion (e.g., the sale of the vessel) and must be accompanied by a certificate issued by the Public Registry Office showing that the vessel is free of mortgages or encumbrances. The Shipping Department will not authorize the deletion of the vessel unless the vessel is up to date in the payment of all fees and taxes.

Bareboat Charter Registration

Bareboat charter registration into the Panamanian flag is permitted. A foreign vessel bareboat chartered to a Panamanian company may be dual registered in a special register book for a period of two years in Panama provided the foreign registry consents. Vessels entering this special registry should present to the Shipping Department in Panama or through a local lawyer in Panama or through a Consulate of Panama abroad, the following original, notarized, and legalized documents:
• Charterparty
• Consent of the Owner
• Certificate or transcript of registry from the underlying foreign register indicating the name of the owner and any registered mortgages or encumbrances
• Certificate of the foreign register
• Power of Attorney issued by the charterer appointing a legal representative of the vessel in Panama

The vessel is then issued with a Special Certificate of Navigation which is valid for two years with renewals allowed. The vessel is subject to the same fiscal obligations ordinarily imposed on vessels flying the Panamanian flag.

Panamanian vessels may also be bareboat charter registered out of the flag for a period of two years which may be extended provided that the government of the foreign registry has a similar procedure pursuant to which a vessel registered in that country’s registry may be reciprocally authorized to bareboat charter register into the Panamanian Registry. The consent of the Shipping Department is necessary for vessels to bareboat charter out of the Panamanian flag. Vessels which are bareboat charter registered out of the flag remain subject to all fiscal obligations of Panama. Owners may not record their title of ownership nor any mortgages in any registry other than Panama.

Vessel and Yacht Eligibility & Survey Requirements

Ships that may be registered in Panama include almost every category from passenger ships to dredges and floating docks. There is no age limitation, but vessels over 20 years are subject to satisfying a special inspection.

Every Panamanian flag vessel in foreign service shall be subject to an annual inspection. It is used to ensure that each vessel has on board all required certificates with valid dates, that it is properly manned and equipped for its intended trade, and that it complies with minimum international standards and all IMO conventions to which Panama is a party. Panamanian flag vessels must be surveyed by representatives of the following recognized surveyors or classification societies:
• American Bureau of Shipping
• Bureau Veritas
• China Classification Society
• China Corporation Register of Shipping
• Det Norske Veritas
• Germanischer Lloyd
• Hellenic Register of Shipping
• Horizon International of Naval Surveying and Inspection Bureau
• Isthmus Bureau of Shipping
• Korean Register of Shipping
• Lloyd's Register of Shipping
• National Shipping Adjusters
• Nippon Kaiji Kyokai
• Panama Bureau of Shipping
• Panama Marine Survey & Certification Services
• Panama Maritime Documentation Services Inc.
• Panama Maritime Survey Bureau
• Panama Register Corporation
• Panama Shipping Registrar Inc.
• Polski Rejestr Statkow
• Registro Internacional Naval
• Registro Italiano Navale
• Russian Maritime Register of Shipping

Depending on the vessel, technical certificates include:
• Passenger Ship Safety Certificate
• Cargo Ship Safety Construction Certificate
• Cargo Ship Safety Equipment Certificate
• Cargo Ship Safety Radiotelegraphy Certificate
• Cargo Ship Safety Radiotelephony Certificate
• Exemption Certificate
• International Load Line Certificate
• Grain Loading Certificate (must be endorsed annually)

In addition to annual inspections, all vessels built over twenty years ago, newly registered under the Panamanian flag must be inspected during the six month validity period of their Provisional Patente before the Permanent Patente will be issued.

All inspections to which Panamanian vessels are subjected are monitored by the office of the Director General of the Department of Consular and Maritime Affairs in Panama (Annual Safety Inspection Unit).

Crewing

Following the prescriptions of Chapter V, Regulation 13 of SOLAS 74, the Republic of Panama has established minimum safe manning requirements for vessels of the merchant marine.

All cargo and passenger vessels of 200 GRT and above are required to obtain and carry on board a Minimum Safe Manning Certificate. Applications are to be submitted directly to Segumar. Officers and crew members can be of any nationality. Seamen's documents and other certificates of competency may be obtained in Panama or at authorized Panamanian consulates abroad. Every Panamanian flag vessel engaged in the foreign transportation of cargo or passengers, tankers, or those engaged in profitable activities in different ports shall be subject to an additional annual inspection for the purpose of determining if the officers on board hold the Certificate of Competency issued by the Panamanian authorities for such purpose.

Mortgages

In order to register a mortgage against a Panamanian vessel, the title of ownership of the vessel must have been previously or simultaneously recorded. The mortgage registration process can be initiated in Panama or through authorized Special Panamanian Consuls. The mortgage may be preliminarily registered for six months during which time the document is translated into Spanish by an authorized Panamanian Public Translator and then protocolled by a notary public into a notarial document which is filed at the Public Registry. If upon the expiration of the six month period, the document has not been filed for final registration, the entry shall elapse as a matter of law and the Public Registry shall proceed on its own to make the corresponding entries. However, upon entry of the final document within the six month period, the registration shall be effective retroactively as of the date and time of the entry of the preliminary application. Panamanian ship mortgages are bilateral contracts which must be executed by the mortgagor and the mortgagee. The signatures of the parties must be notarized and legalized. Whether the mortgage is preliminarily registered or not, it must be translated into Spanish, protocolled, and filed in the Public Registry in order for it to be effective against third parties. The mortgage document must contain the following information:
In order to register a mortgage against a Panamanian vessel, the title of ownership of the vessel must have been previously or simultaneously recorded. The mortgage registration process can be initiated in Panama or through authorized Special Panamanian Consuls. The mortgage may be preliminarily registered for six months during which time the document is translated into Spanish by an authorized Panamanian Public Translator and then protocolled by a notary public into a notarial document which is filed at the Public Registry. If upon the expiration of the six month period, the document has not been filed for final registration, the entry shall elapse as a matter of law and the Public Registry shall proceed on its own to make the corresponding entries. However, upon entry of the final document within the six month period, the registration shall be effective retroactively as of the date and time of the entry of the preliminary application. Panamanian ship mortgages are bilateral contracts which must be executed by the mortgagor and the mortgagee. The signatures of the parties must be notarized and legalized. Whether the mortgage is preliminarily registered or not, it must be translated into Spanish, protocolled, and filed in the Public Registry in order for it to be effective against third parties. The mortgage document must contain the following information:
• The name and domicile of the mortgagor and mortgagee;
• The fixed or maximum amount of capital secured thereby;
• The dates for the payment of the capital and interest or the method to determine such dates;
• The interest rate agreed upon if any or the manner in which it may be determined; and the name, patent number, radio call sign, tonnage, and measurements of the vessel.

Fees

Initial Registration (Minimum $500 - Maximum $6,500)
Up to 2,000 GRT $500
2,000 to 5,000 GRT $2,000
5,001 to 15,000 GRT $3,000
15,000 GRT and up $3,000.00 + $0.10 per each GRT over 15,000
Fleet discounts are available for registration fee and tonnage tax.
Yachts pay a single fee of $1,500 for 2 years ($1,000 if owned by a Panamanian corporation).
Complete Set of Books and Crewlist $260
Changes
Change of Ownership $1,000
Change of tonnage due to modification in the structure of the vessel or for compliance with the rules of the Tonnage Convention 1969 $1,000
Change of the name of the vessel or name of the owner $1,000
Change of the radio accounting authority $500
Title and Mortgage Registration
Preliminary Registration of Title of Ownership $770
Preliminary Registration of Mortgage:
Consular Fee $750
For the first two million dollars of amount secured $450 (minimum)
For each additional million, or fraction: 150.00 (up to maximum $150 (up to maximum of $1200)
Net Tonnage Fee: $0.12 per net registered tonnage. If tonnage exceeds 5,000, then total amount is $600
Qualification Fee $50
Legalizations Fee: 30.00 per document to be legalized $30 per document to be legalized (i.e. Mortgage document, Bill of Sale, Power of Attorney)
Bareboat Charter Registration (Dual Registry Vessels) $0.20 per NRT or fraction + $150.00 fee.
Provisional Registration (3 month validity, for special purposes) $0.40/NRT (minimum $300.00)
Annual Payments
Annual Tonnage Tax $0.10 per NRT
Fleet discount available (up to 50%) for a total registered tonnage of 100,000 GRT.

Annual Fee
Cargo Ships, Passenger Ships, fishing, transshipment, drilling vessels, dredges and tugs
Up to 1,000 GRT $1,200
1,001 to 3,000 GRT $1,800
3,001 to 5,000 GRT $2,000
5,001 to 15,000 GRT $2,700
15,001 GRT and up $3,000
Non self-propelled crafts, vessels engaged in scientific research or non-profit activities, submarines, crew boats, floating dry docks, exploration and supply ships. Vessels engaged in non-lucrative activities.
Up to 500 GRT $850
501 to 1,000 GRT $1,400
1,001 GRT and up $1,800

Annual Inspection Fee (does not include surveyor costs)
Passenger Ships
Up to 1,600 GRT $900
Over 1,600 GRT $1,800
Tankers and cargo vessels
Up to 500 GRT $500
501 to 1,600.00 GRT $750
1,601 to 5,000 GRT $850
5,001 to 15,000 GRT $1,000
15,001 GRT and up $1,200
Drilling Units $1,300
Sports crafts, non-profit $400
All other vessels:
Up to 500 GRT $500
501 to 5,000 GRT $800
5,001 GRT and up $1,000

Annual Fee for Casualty Investigation and International Treaties Participation $0.03 per NRT or fraction, and additionally:
Passenger Ships, Oil, Gas & Chemical Tankers, Drilling Units $850
All other vessels
Up to 500 GRT $300
501 to 5,000 GRT $400
5,001 GRT and up $500

Contact

Panama Maritime Authority
PO Box 0843-00533,
Balboa, Ancon.
Diablo Heights

General Director of Public Registry of Property of Ships
Lic. Volney Guinard
Email: vguinard@amp.gob.pa

General Director of Merchant Marine
ING. RAFAEL CIGARRUISTA
Email: rcigarruista@amp.gob.pa

Stockholm Agreement 96
IMO Convention 48
* IMO amendments 91 
* IMO amendments 93
SOLAS Convention 74
SOLAS Protocol 78
SOLAS Protocol 88
LOAD LINES Convention 66
LOAD LINES Protocol 88
TONNAGE Convention 69
COLREG  Convention 72
CSC Convention 72
CSC amendments 93
SFV Protocol 93
STCW  Convention 78
STCW-F Convention 95
SAR  Convention 79
STP Agreement 71
STP Protocol 73
IMSO Convention 76
INMARSAT OA 76
INMARSAT amendments 94
INMARSAT amendments 98
IMSO amendments 2006
IMSO amendments 2008
FACILITATION Convention 65
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex I/II)
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex IV)
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex V)
MARPOL Protocol 97 (Annex VI)
London Convention 72
London Convention Protocol 96
INTERVENTION Convention 69
INTERVENTION Protocol 73
CLC Convention 69
CLC Protocol 76
CLC Protocol 92
FUND Convention 71
FUND Protocol 92
FUND Protocol 2003
NUCLEAR Convention 71
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex III)
PAL Protocol 76
PAL Protocol 90
PAL Protocol 02
LLMC Convention 76
LLMC Protocol 96
SUA Convention 2005
SUA Protocol 2005
SALVAGE Convention 89
OPRC  Convention 90
HNS Convention 96
OPRC/HNS 2000
BUNKERS CONVENTION 01
ANTI FOULING 01
BALLASTWATER 2004
NAIROBI WRC 2007
HONG KONG CONVENTION
HNS PROT 2010
Cape Town Agreement 2012
SUA Convention 88
SUA Protocol 88

IMO Conventions

Status of Conventions Panama

IMO Convention 48 x
SOLAS Convention 74 x
SOLAS Protocol 78 x
SOLAS Protocol 88 x
SOLAS Agreement 96
LOAD LINES Convention 66 x
LOAD LINES Protocol 88 x
TONNAGE Convention 69 x
COLREG Convention 72 x
CSC Convention 72
CSC amendments 93
SFV Protocol 93
Cape Town Agreement 2012
STCW Convention 78 x
STCW-F Convention 95
SAR Convention 79 x
STP Agreement 71
Space STP Protocol 73
IMSO Convention 76 x
INMARSAT OA 76 x
IMSO amendments 2006
IMSO amendments 2008
FACILITATION Convention 65 x
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex I/II) x
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex III) x
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex IV) x
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex V) x
MARPOL Protocol 97 (Annex VI) x
London Convention 72 x
London Convention Protocol 96
INTERVENTION Convention 69 x
INTERVENTION Protocol 73
CLC Convention 69 d
CLC Protocol 76
CLC Protocol 92 x
FUND Protocol 76
FUND Protocol 92 x
FUND Protocol 2003
NUCLEAR Convention 71
PAL Convention 74
PAL Protocol 76
PAL Protocol 90
PAL Protocol 02 x
LLMC Convention 76
LLMC Protocol 96
SUA Convention 88 x
SUA Protocol 88 x
SUA Convention 2005 x
SUA Protocol 2005 x
SALVAGE Convention 89
OPRC Convention 90
HNS Convention 96
HNS PROT 2010
OPRC/HNS 2000
BUNKERS CONVENTION 01 x
ANTI FOULING 2001 x
BALLASTWATER 2004 x
NAIROBI WRC 2007 x
HONG KONG CONVENTION x

x= ratification
d=denunciation

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