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



A law enacted in 1925 gave way to the development of a Panamanian Merchant Marine fleet by removing ownership. Its benefits has made Panama one of the leading open registry country with a significant portion of the world’s gross tonnage registered under its flag.

The Republic of Panama currently has the first largest Merchant Marine fleet in the world, 8,071 vessels representing 218.5 million gross registered tons.

Panama's pre-eminent position in the global shipping industry means that most leading maritime companies have strong legal connections in Panama. Patton Moreno & Asvat maintains a solid reputation and good relations with the two government bodies involved in the registry of ships and maritime mortgages, the General Directorate of Merchant Marine (DIGEMAR) and the Public Registry Office.   In addition, we are in constant communication with Panamanian consulates and maritime offices worldwide to ensure an adequate speedy processing, registration and enrollment.

In the area of maritime law our services include:

  • Advice in the selling and purchase of ships.
  • Ship financing.
  • Composition and registration of ship mortgages.
  • Ship registration in the Republic of Panama, Belize, The Bahamas, and in the British Virgin Islands.
  • Registration of Charter Parties.
  • Navigation Patent.
  • Radio License.
  • Any certificate required for international navigation


We represent clients such as:

  • BNP Paribas S.A.
  • HSH Norbank
  • Piraeus Bank
  • Bibby Ship Management Group
  • National Bank of Greece S.A.
  • Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Societé Genérale
  • Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank
  • Deutsche Schiffsbank Aktiengesellschaft
  • ING Bank N.V.
  • Fred Olsen & Co.
  • Credit Suisse AG
  • ASP Ship Management Group
  • Aboitiz Jebsen Ship Management AS
  • Essar Shipping
  • Norbulk Shipping UK Ltd
  • TBS Ship Management Inc.


María Teresa Díaz -
Belisario J Porras -


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.



María Teresa Díaz -
Belisario J Porras -


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.



María Teresa Díaz -
Belisario J Porras -
Khatiya Asvat -


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.



María Teresa Díaz -
Belisario J Porras -
Khatiya Asvat -