The Panama Ship Registry

The Panama Ship Registry was established in 1917 by Law 63 and since 1925 the Panama Ship Registry accepts ships that belong to nationals and foreigners, under the condition of compliance of local and International Standards related to navigation, maritime safety, prevention and control of pollution and manning certification of seafarers.

The Panama Maritime Authority (PMA) is a government entity with the status of a Ministry of Maritime Affairs. The PMA is responsible for the Panamanian Ship Registry and the Port Authority. The Panamanian Ship registry has 3 General Directorates:

  1. Directorate General of Merchant Marine which is in charge of the Registration Process and technical matters related to ships.
  2. Directorate General of Seafarers has the responsibility to issue seafarers certifications and to comply with the provisions of International Seafarer’s conventions.
  3. Directorate General of Public Registry of Property Vessels is responsible for the registration of ownership titles, ship mortgages and other kinds of encumbrances over Panamanian vessels.

Panama the world’s largest merchant fleet, in terms of vessels and tonnage with over 8,000 vessels, 217 million GRT, 17% of the world’s fleet, over 200 inspectors worldwide, 1.2 million of vessel transactions annually, over USD25 trillion guaranteed by mortgage.

Competitive Advantages

Shipowner Eligibility/Nationality: Any natural or legal person, regardless of his/her nationality or place of residence, can register ships under the Panamanian flag. No nationality restrictions for manning either

Tax Advantages: Exemptions on profits from International Maritime Trade.

Vessel Eligibility/Tonnage: No minimum tonnage requirements for registration. Almost any category of ships can be registered, from passenger ships to dredges and floating docks. There are no age restrictions; however vessels older than 20 years are subject to a special inspection.

Special Register Schemes: (Bareboat Charter Registration), Single Voyages, for delivery and for ship scrapping. The dual registry system allows a charterer, leasing a ship registered in a country without an open registry, to benefit from the advantages of the Panamanian Registry without losing its original registry. It also allows the shipowner to maintain the original registration, which is merely suspended during the dual registration but regains its effectiveness upon the termination of the charter (up to two years, renewable). The authorization of the original flagging country, as well as the shipowner’s, is necessary.


Safety and Prevention: committed to safety of human life, pollution prevention and navigation safety, ensuring strict compliance with all international regulations and conventions of the IMO, not only as legal and mandatory instruments but more outstandingly in everyday practice.


The administration has acknowledged the efforts of those shipowners and shipbuilders to reduce the carbon print of their ships engaged in International Trade, by granting attractive economic incentives. Green and Eco ships

Discounts: The Panama Maritime Authority offer discounts

    • Up to 100% Discount for New Construction Vessels
    • Up to 60% Special fleet / for vessels belonging to economic groups
    • Good Performance – for vessels that have not been detained in the past 24 months
    • MODU ships – which can show that they have been registered in the Merchant Marine and re-apply for registration no later than 2 years after this law comes into effect

Pleasure Vessel Benefits

Pleasure vessels pay an initial fee of US$1,500.00. For pleasure vessels owned by Panamanian Citizens or a Panamanian Corporation the fee is only US $1,000.00.


  • Panama signed a joint declaration with other countries, condemning piracy violence against seafarers in the Gulf of Aden and the coast of Somalia.
  • As the world flag Registry leader we are actively involved in the fighting against piracy, in this regard Panama approved the use of Private Armed Security Personal on board Panamanian vessels.

Innovation, Technology and Environmental efficiency

GloMEEP – Panama is a lead pilot country of the Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnership project which aims to support increased uptake and implementation of energy-efficiency measures for shipping.

Eco-shipping – Recognizing innovations in ships that demonstrate:

  1. 60% Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), by presenting International Ship Energy Efficiency Certificate (IEEC);
  2. That the ship is propelled entirely by liquified Natural Gas as fuel; or
  3. Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator (EEOI)


In order to maintain the competitiveness of the National Merchant Marine, SEGUMAR offices around the world are working 24/7. Their objectives include the issuance of documents, certificates, letters of authorization and answers to technical questions about the MODU Code and related topics.

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