Shiparrested: Panama Updates 2022

By Joaquín de Obarrio


The past few months have seen quite a few advancements in the maritime law practice and regulations in the Republic of Panama. We highlight some of the most relevant updates:


Maritime Courts enable the usage of electronic dockets and files.


As of December 13, 2021, all new cases filed before the Maritime Courts of Panama will be recorded and available electronically to the intervening parties. This new system allows the processing and review of legal proceedings at any time, including outside of court hours, from any device with internet access, allowing real-time management and interaction between the judicial office and the attorneys and parties.


The use of these electronic judicial files complements the already extensive practice of conducting virtual hearings in the maritime courts. The incorporation of new technologies effectively guarantees the uninterrupted availability of the Maritime Courts of Panama for ship arrests and maritime dispute resolution.


New Cabotage Law.


Through Law 266 of December 23, 2021, in force on the same date, the Republic of Panama seeks to regulate cabotage and inland trade activities in jurisdictional waters. Cabotage is defined as “maritime transportation of cargo, passengers and services, with origin and final destination within the jurisdictional waters of the Republic of Panama, for which an operating license is required”.


The law also establishes a special process for declaring a “wreck” any vessel, regardless of its flag, that is stranded in the jurisdictional waters of the Republic of Panama, as well as those under the Panamanian flag that are stranded in international waters, which according to a report from the Panama Maritime Administration, constitute a risk to maritime activities, navigation, human life, maritime environment, obstruct maritime traffic or pose a risk or danger to maritime safety.


Once the process has been completed, vessels that are declared wrecks will not be subject to any privileged maritime liens, encumbrances, commercial claims or debts. Consequently, it will lose its status as a ship and may not be subject to any claim before the maritime courts.


Merchant Marine Notices on Ukraine.


As of March 2022, the Panama Maritime Administration has issued guidance to Panama-flagged vessels and seafarers on board of these, in regards to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. Through Merchant Marine Notice MMN-03/2022 - UKRAINIAN AND RUSSIAN WATERS IN THE BLACK SEA AND SEA OF AZOV, the Panama Maritime Administration “strongly encourages all Panama Flagged vessels to avoid transit on Ukrainian and Russian waters in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov”. Through Merchant Marine Notice MMN-04/2022 - REPATRIATION OF SEAFARERS DUE TO THE SITUATION IN UKRAINE, the Panama Maritime Administration has informed that “due to the events in Ukraine and taking into account the views of the Maritime Transport Workers Trade Union of Ukraine (MTWTU – ITF affiliate) and guidance of Paris Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Tokyo MoU, the Panama Maritime Administration has considered it necessary to apply flexibility and pragmatism on the issue of extending periods of service on board ships in these circumstances, taking into account the difficulties that may be encountered in the repatriation of Ukrainian seafarers”.


Article first published in Shiparrested News - April Edition 2022