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.

Arrest of vessels.

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.

The choice by the creditor insofar as to what procedure to employ depends on the nature of the claim.

As a general rule, the plaintiff may always resort to the use of an action “in personam” with an auxiliary petition for an arrest order against a vessel property of the defendant.
Actions "in rem" against the vessel with an arrest petition will only be available in those cases where the applicable law recognizes a privileged maritime lien against the vessel, or when there is an action “in rem” against the vessel.

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



María de Lourdes Marengo -
Maximiliano Quintero -
Joaquín De Obarrio -