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Maritime Legal Services in Panama

The largest merchant marine fleet in the world (by dimensions and tonnage) flies the Panamanian flag. Huge shipping companies, as well as yacht and pleasure ship owners, choose Panama for registration due to the multiple ship registry advantages it offers. Through Mossack Fonseca, you can access ship registration and other legal services related to Panama’s maritime industry.

Find out below why Panama should be your first choice for ship registration and other maritime industry services.

Panama and its Maritime Tradition

The Republic of Panama has a great maritime tradition. Aside from the Panama Canal, which celebrated 100 years of operation in August 2014, an open registry system was adopted in early 1917. This transformed Panama into the state with the largest merchant marine fleet worldwide, both for dimensions and tonnage. Moreover, Panama has a modern maritime port cargo network, mainly at the extremities of the interoceanic waterways, providing important cargo transshipment services to and from South America and the east coast of the United States of America.

Ship Registry in Panama

Panama’s Ship Registry is one of the oldest open registry systems in the world. It was established in 1917, only three years after the inauguration of the Panama Canal. This structure permits the registration of any merchant, fishing or pleasure vessel under the Panamanian flag, without having to pay any minimum fee for Panamanian ship ownership, or fulfill any national operating requirements, other than those which must be met for ship registry, that is: guarantee compliance with appropriate seaworthiness standards, legal security relating to the ship’s title of ownership, facility to transfer ownership, and guarantee ship credits.

The Panama Ship Registry is a worldwide leader that satisfies the requirements listed above and more. A Panama ship ownership title grants full legal security and its ship mortgage offers exceptional stability for a creditor’s guarantee as regards the ship’s credits. The solidity of the title and speediness with which the creditor can process its credit and ship mortgage are crucial factors that have led the most prestigious banks and insurance companies in the world to have maximum trust in the Panamanian ship registration system.

Another advantage of the Panamanian registry system is the large network of consular offices maintained by the Republic of Panama around the world. Panama has over 120 consulates, including 70 devoted exclusively to the merchant marine, in cities and maritime centers of great importance worldwide. Panama’s consulates, particularly those located in cities engaged in the maritime and port industry, are well prepared to handle provisional ship registration requests in an effective and speedy manner.

In addition, the Panama Maritime Authority offers incentives both to ships that are already registered and to new registrations. Discounts are offered for customer loyalty, good practices, new registrations, fleets, and new construction, among others.

The Panamanian registration system is fast and easy. Provisional registration can be done with copies of documents and it takes only one business day. This provisional registration is valid for six months. During this period, a permanent ship registration must be made. This speedy provisional registration permits the shipping company to register and operate ships immediately, while permanent registration formalities are processed.

Maritime Services Offered by Mossack Fonseca

To meet your maritime legal service’s needs, our firm has an experienced team of lawyers specialized in the requirements, challenges, and procedures of the maritime industry.

Our main services in this sector include:

• Ship and yacht registration
• Assistance in the purchase-sale of ships and yachts
• Change of ownership
• Change of dimensions
• Obtaining special licenses and permits to navigate in Panamanian waters
• Renewal of patents and payment of taxes for ships
• Legal opinions
• Maritime litigation
• Escrow service
• Assistance in drafting contracts
• Obtaining technical certificates
• Registration and cancellation of ship mortgages
• Other related services

If you have any questions or need further information, please do not hesitate to contact your local Mossack Fonseca Office, or email us at or

by: Sue R Digregorio

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