Panama Ship Registration

The Panama Register is the largest and one of the oldest of the open ship registers, originally established in 1925.  By late-1995, official statistics indicated 13,717 ships registered of 111.2 Million gross tons.  Of these, 6,014 are cargo ships, 2,165 are leisure yachts, 1,345 tankers, 858 fishing boats and 651 trawlers.  This places Panama as a the leading open register ahead of Liberia, Cyprus and Bahamas.  These ships are owned mainly by Japanese (60% of the ships) and Greek (30%) interests, 60% of newbuildings around the world are entering the Panamanian Registry. Just during early 1997, 220 newbuildings were registered.

Administrative proceedings related to vessel registration are in charge of the Directorate General of Consular and Maritime Affairs (SECNAVES), which grants navigation and radio licenses.  It also enforces navigation, safety, pollution and manning regulations.  Through its New York Representative Office and the Department of Marine Safety (SEGUMAR), casualties investigations and inspections are conducted.  More than 450 inspectors are authorized to inspect Panamanian flag vessels worldwide.  Along with the Panamanian Merchant Marine General Consulates in main ports, the Panamanian register authorities have a network for the timely inspection and documentation of vessels that no other open registry has.

Panama is a member of the following International Conventions:

Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea 1972/1981, Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) 1974/1981, Standards for Training, Certification and Watchkeeping of Seafarers 1978, International Maritime Satellite System (INMARSAT) 1976, Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) 1973/1978, Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and other Matter 1972, Intervention on the High Seas on Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties 1969, Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage 1969, Load Lines 1966/1971/1975/1979 and the Tonnage Measurement of Ships 1969

Any foreign or Panamanian national may register a vessel in the Panamanian Merchant Marine.  International service vessels are exempt from Panama income tax.  Shipowners take advantage of the flexibility of Panamanian offshore corporations by having such entity apppear as owner of the vessel.  Any ship may be registered provided it complies with the minimum seaworthiness, safety and environmental conditions required by international conventions.  However, ships over 20 years old are subject to a special inspection before being granted a statutory certificate of registry.

The ship registration procedure is initiated by applying through the Panama office or the Panama Merchant Marine General Consulates, paying the corresponding fees and submitting the followingdocuments:, Applications for navigation and radio licenses, Power of attorney, Bill of Sale (and builder’s certificate for newbuildings) and Acceptance of Sale, Official certificate of cancellation from the current registry stating that the vessel is free of all liens.  Vessels under construction may also apply for the Provisional Registration and radio call letters.

The maritime office will issue the Provisional Navigation License, valid for 6 months, and a non-renewable Provisional Radio License for 3 months.  The Provisional Navigation License may be renewed for additional 3-month periods upon payment of a penalty.  The Definitive Radio License must be obtained before these 3 months or a fine is imposed.  The previously mentioned ship documents, apostilled or authenticated by a Panamanian Consul, must be recorded at the Public Registry by a Panamanian attorney-at-law, so that a renewable, 4-year, Definitive Navigation License may be issued by SECNAVES in Panama.

Mortgages and title deeds may be preliminarily registered by the Public Registry Office and SECNAVES anytime in a period that averages 8 hours.  Panamanian mortgages and titles are widely recognized and accepted as enforceable by U.S., Far East and European finance institutions.  All vessels are subject to an Annual Safety Inspection (ASI) conducted by SEGUMAR.  The following international organizations are authorized to issue technical certificates: ABS, BV, CCRS, China Classification Society, DNV, Fidenavis, GL, HRS, JRB, KRS, LR, NKK, PRS, Rinave Portuguesa.  Other national organizations are authorized to issue certificates required by international conventions.

Foreign vessels that require a second flag, may be chartered to a Panamanian company for up to 2 years, and obtain the benefits of the Panamanian registry without losing its original registry. To obtain this “bareboat charter” registration, the applicant must present Certificate of the vessel’s original registration and the Consent of its original registry.  This Panamanian charter registration is granted for 2-year periods.

The Technical Department of SECNAVES handles the certification and examination of crews.  License equivalence for 43 countries has been introduced since 1990.  Special officers have been appointed in Manila, Singapore and Piraeus to process applications for exams or equivalence.  Upon application and payment of the fees, a 1-year transitional certificate is issued and the documents are sent to SECNAVES for granting of the Statutory Certificate of Competency.  SEGUMAR issues the MSM certificate required by IMO regulations.  Under new regulations, special discounts in registration fees and annual taxes of up to 20% are granted to groups of 3 or more ships entering the Panamanian Registry for the first time.  Ships above 100,000 GRT are entitled to a 50% discount.

Yacht Registration

If you have a yacht that needs to be registered or are considering buying one, then you must think of the best jurisdiction in which your yacht should be registered. Panama has a different structure for the registration of yachts than commercial ships.  The registration certificate of a yacht is first registered for a two year period, and is then renewable.

The Government Fee for foreign privately owned yachts is US $1,500.  The Registration Fee for Panamanians or Panama Corporations is US $1,000. These must also be paid on the renewal of the registration.

The necessary documents to register a yacht in Panama are the Sale and Purchase Agreement, Legal Power of Attorney to allow us to proceed with the work, the Deletion Certificate if the yacht has been previously registered, or the Builders Certificate and the Admeasure certificate of the vessel.  You must also be compliant with the Marine Radio Operator requirements to be registered in Panama.

Yachts in Panama can be held directly in a Panama Corporation, and the true owner can be both the directors and the shareholders of the Corporation.  Or you may choose to use Nominee Directors and have bearer shares so your name will not appear in any official documents.  Through Power of Attorney you will maintain control of the business and the bank accounts.

One of the benefits is that Panama allows for a dual registration for certain types of Charter Boats and Bare Boat contracts.  This must be with the consent of another jurisdiction that also allows for this type of agreement.  Proceeds from the sale or transfer of a yacht registered in Panama are not subject to capital gains tax even if the sale takes place in Panama. Panama offers both provisional and permanent registration of ships.

The fee to us  to register your yacht in Panama is US $6,500 and will include the formation of your Corporation and the filing of your documents, but does not include the government fee. The processing time will be between 8 and 15 working days.  Any yachts registered within Panama must maintain a Registered Agent which must be a lawyer or a Panama Law Firm.  It will not include the cost of the survey and certification of your yacht should one be required which will depend on the size, and your Registration Fees.

Panama has no restriction on the age, type or size of ship as long as it is seaworthy.  Ships and Ships mortgages are easily registered in Panama.  The revenues generated from international shipping are tax free in Panama. Panama allows for the dual registration for certain types of Charter and Bare Boat Contracts.  Proceeds from the sale or transfer of a ship registered in Panama are not subject to capital gains tax even if the sale takes place in Panama.

The Provisional Registration is for a period of three months.  It can be used for Temporary Navigation to allow you to decide whether you wish to purchase the Ship, to take the Delivery of the Ship and the last voyage to have the ship decommissioned.  The Provisional Registration may not be extended but may be updated to the Permanent Registration if you pay the difference in Registration Fees and Taxes.  You will need a sale and purchase agreement, a Compliant Marine Radio Operator License, and a Legal Power of Attorney to allow us to proceed with the work.  The minimum applicable taxes will be US $300.00 for a Provisional Ship Registration.  The Permanent Registration can be filed for within a six month period of receiving a Provisional Registration.

Before a First Registry can be made you must apply and register the name of the ship for approval.  The ship must receive a certificate of Survey by being surveyed for size and tonnage.  You must show clear proof of ownership with a Builders Certificate if it is a new ship with a Document of Sale or Transfer of Title.  The ship must have a Compliant Marine Radio Operator License.  This Permanent Registration will be valid for four years and can be renewed as long as the taxes are currently maintained and is compliant with the applicable laws.

The fee to register your ship through us is US $7,500 and includes the cost of the Panama Corporation and the processing of your documents.  The time to process your documents will be between  8 two 15 working days.  A Resident Agent must be maintained in Panama for any ship registration whom will either be a lawyer or a Panama Law Firm.  This cost does not include Filing Fees or the cost of your ships survey and certification which will depend on the size of the ship.

If you have any questions, of if you would like to place an order, please send us an email message to us.  We have to do ship registrations this way because of all of the variables involved, and we need to make sure we have the correct information from you for submission.

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