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Maritime Law

Panama Maritime Authority - Administrative Matters


More than 35 years ago, Patton, Moreno & Asvat began its legal practice as a law firm primarily focused on Maritime Law and Commercial Law. Today, we are still leaders in maritime financing, maritime litigation and ship registration in the Republic of Panama, as a result of the continued trust of our clients and the high level of service rendered by our team of professionals.


Our experienced lawyers of the Maritime Department have a real and deep knowledge of the industry, and have an active participation within the major maritime associations, as the Panama Maritime Law Association (APADEMAR), in which our partner Belisario Porras is the current President (2015-2017), Maria de Lourdes Marengo (President 2009/2010), Maria Teresa Diaz (Secretary 1993-1994) and Dr. Brett Patton (President 1983-1985), thus contributing to the development of the sector. The firm is also a member of the Panama Maritime Chamber and of the Iberoamerican Institute of Maritime Law.

Our clientele include shipowners, charterers, shipyards, ports and port terminals owners, insurance companies, international banks and financial institutions, private equity investors, consortiums and other players of the maritime sector.

Patton, Moreno & Asvat provide a complete service in each of the areas of the legal maritime industry:

  • Ship Registry and Finance

  • Ship Mortgages

  • Maritime Litigation

The firm has since evolved from an admiralty focused practice, to a comprehensive, general litigation and arbitration practice, including civil, commercial, administrative, constitutional, criminal, and regulatory litigation. Patton, Moreno & Asvat regularly represents clients in sensitive, complex cases, and has managed to establish itself as a relevant player in the field.


Patton, Moreno & Asvat boasts a multi-disciplinary team of lawyers from different fields and backgrounds, including former members of the public and private sector, certified arbitrators, constitutional and regulatory experts.

The team includes fully bilingual, English speaking lawyers, with studies in top U.S. and European universities; some of its members are admitted to practice in foreign jurisdictions such as the State of New York.

The team has ample experience in cross border litigation and international arbitration and dealing with international firms and clients. The team is used to catering and delivering to the fast paced, multiple-time zone influenced requirements of its clients.




An important consideration in the growth of the fleet has been the confidence generated in the international financial community by the security of mortgages over Panamanian registered vessels.

Among the salient features of ship mortgages over Panamanian registered vessels, we can mention:

  • A ship mortgage may be granted to secure all kind of lawful obligations, including future obligations, and obligations subject to precedent conditions.

  • The ship mortgage contract may be executed in any language and should be in writing, whether in private or authentic form.

  • The inscription of an extract of the ship mortgage contract in English is allowed.


A mortgage may be preliminarily registered thereafter in Panama or abroad through a Panamanian Consulate with maritime responsibilities, or in Panama through the Public Registry and such preliminary registration will be legally binding for a period of six months. During this period, the mortgage should be filed for registration at the Public Registry in Panama. Upon registration thereof, it will operate retroactively from the date of preliminary registration.



The Maritime Courts of the Republic of Panama play an important role in the worldwide maritime sector mainly because of the transit of vessels through the Panama Canal and the constant flow of cargo between the Ports of Balboa, in the Pacific, and Cristobal, in the Atlantic.

Patton, Moreno & Asvat is a leader in the field, representing clients of the sector from around the globe.

The services offered by Patton, Moreno & Asvat include:

  • Cargo Claims

  • Ship Arrest

  • Insurance Claims

  • Claims for privileged maritime liens

  • Claims for damages or loss of vessel

  • Claims related to charter parties

  • Claims for services rendered to the vessel.


The arrest of vessels is regulated by the revised text of Law No. 8 1982 as amended, also known as the Maritime Procedure Code.

Panamanian laws offer certain advantages regarding claims that arise from commercial maritime acts since they may be addressed in the Panamanian Maritime Courts. Normally, claims are initiated by the arrest of a vessel that will be transiting, or is in transit through the Panama Canal. A vessel takes approximately eight (8) hours to transit the Panama Canal and there is no possibility to turn the vessel around once the transit begins.

Due to its mobile character, a vessel may distance itself from its creditors and other claimants before they have the opportunity to initiate a procedure against it, or before they have the opportunity to obtain an arrest order of the vessel, leaving these claimants and creditors without an effective method to collect their claims. Due to vessel arrest procedures in foreign jurisdictions, these creditors and claimants may satisfy their claims in Courts of countries where the vessel takes berth, according to their activities.

Panama shares the arrest procedure with the majority of the maritime nations.

We would like to emphasize that Panama’s Maritime Jurisdiction is separated from the Civil Jurisdiction and that the rules of procedure have been adopted for the purpose of establishing a fast and flexible action different from the civil litigation procedure.

In Panama, a vessel arrest may proceed under three (3) circumstances, which are:

  • Arrest of a vessel to obtain a payment guarantee for the purpose of preventing the owner from selling the vessel and leaving the creditors without assets from which to recover.

  • To obtain jurisdiction over owners of vessels sailing through the Panama Canal or in Panamanian territorial waters;

  • To execute privileged maritime liens over the vessel.


It is clear then that the arrest may proceed through an action “in personam” against the ship-owner or an action “in rem” against the vessel.




María Teresa Díaz


Belisario Porras





María de Lourdes Marengo


Joaquín De Obarrio

Ship Mortgages
Arrest of Vessels
shipping litigation


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