The Maritime Authority of Panama (Autoridad Maritima De Panama (AMP)) is the governing body that oversees all of the vessel registrations in the country. 

This is the organization that you will have to work with in order to register your vessel or fleet of vessels if you plan on taking advantage of the many benefits offered to ship owners in Panama.

While Panama is a popular place for such vessel registrations – to the point that the country has made several changes specifically to accommodate so many ships – there are still many steps in the process that can benefit from effective and experienced legal counsel. 

First, Why Register Your Ship in Panama?

There are several important advantages to registering a ship in Panama. This country hosts the largest shipping fleet in the world and as such has developed laws and protections that are very helpful for corporate and private boat owners.

Some of the most important benefits of ship registration in Panama include:

  • Tax advantages – The Republic of Panama does not tax income derived by vessels that are involved in international trade. 
  • Reasonable costs – The costs for registering a ship in Panama are much lower than other jurisdictions. 
  • Possible dual registration – You can register a vessel under the Panama flag as well as another country in which the company is incorporated.
  • Special advantages for pleasure vessels– Yachts, sailing vessels, catamarans, and other similar boats only have a sole enrollment charge.
  • All nationalities accepted – Any person or company can register their vessel under the Panamanian flag. 
  • No minimum tonnage – Ships of many sizes can be registered here.
  • Provisional registration for ships that are under construction – You can start the registration process before the ship is sailable.
  • Preliminary registration of title/mortgage – You can request a preliminary registration at one of the many consular offices at major ports around the world.
  • Get discounts for fleets – Fleets of up to 15 ships can receive a 20% discount. If the fleet goes up to 50 vessels, then the discount goes up to 35%.

Second, Why Do You Need an Attorney? 

More than a decade ago, Panama’s legislation passed the Merchant Shipping Law 57 that began to make it much easier for private and corporate owners to register their vessels in the country. It also created a range of incentives to build new ships and register entire fleets here.

So, given that Panama is working to make it much easier to do, is it really necessary to work with an attorney on this process?

The simple answer is: yes. There are still a lot of processes and requirements that must be accounted for, and only an attorney who is familiar with the laws and regulations of Panama can ensure that all your bases are covered.

Here are just a few of the things with which an attorney can help you in this process:

  • Setting up ship mortgages – While you can get a vessel mortgage in any country, you still have to register it at the Public Registry of Panama. An attorney can help ensure that all the necessary information of the mortgage and mortgagee is correct (whether for individuals or for fleets). 
  • Deal with the maritime court – The Panama Maritime Court is an effective organization for dealing with disputes and claims. Make sure you have someone on your side who is capable of working within this system.
  • Meet all regulations – There are a number of international environmental and safety standards that must be met. An experienced Panama lawyer can help you meet all these regulatory issues.
  • Get through the registration process – While Panama has worked to make this process simple and efficient, there are still many issues that may require some guidance or legal recourse. A lawyer can take you through every step of the ship registration process, from acquiring a provisional patent, to filing the vessel’s title documents, to getting the permanent patent, radio license, and more.
  • Pass your inspections – Every vessel that engages in international trade and is registered in Panama will be subjected to the Annual Safety Inspection Program. This is a critical part of keeping the maritime industry running correctly, and an attorney can help ensure that each inspection is done efficiently and that you are issued the correct certificates.

Whether you are registering a pleasure vessel or a fleet of cargo ships and tankers, it’s important to have someone who can help you with your Panama ship or vessel registry. Someone who understands the ins and outs of the system, and has experience dealing with the needs of clients from all over the world, can help ensure that this process is completed as quickly and smoothly as possible.