The Panama Ship Registry

The Panama Ship Registry is considered the largest along with with Liberia and the most mature open ship registry in the world, originally established in 1917 by Law 63.

By mid-1980, Dr. Hugo Torrijos took over the control of the registry, to transform it into one of the world’s most recognized open registry, thus considered the holder of the maximum tonnage registered under its flag worldwide.

The modern practice of flagging ships in foreign countries began in the 1920s in the United States after ship-owners became frustrated with increased regulations and rising labor costs and began registering their ships in other nations (originally Panama).  As other nations began to allow open registries a few nations became standouts in the flag of convenience industry.

Countries to be considered as world powers have objections to convenience flags given that they consider them as having substandard regulations; thus ships that do not comply and are a risk to maritime safety.  Additional claims made by countries with flags not considered as convenience flags sustain that ship-owners are allowed to remain legally anonymous in open registry systems, thus promoting impediments to prosecute or take legal actions against these individuals.

PSR is a committed maritime, legal and technical consultancy

firm serving ship-owners and the international banking community at a worldwide scale.


Minimum Requirements

Panama does not require pre-survey inspection; however, those vessels that have longevity beyond 20 years of construction must undergo an annual Inspection/ Survey, before applying for a Permanent Patent of navigation.

Technical Certificates

Those vessel that wish to move on from their current registry to Panama, are not required to re-survey their vessels, provided the vessels have in place valid safety certificates issued by a classification company accepted by Panama.


Panama´s tariff chart remains one of the most competitive in comparison with other open registries. No limitation on minimum tonnage is required for registration of a vessel in Panama.

How to register a vessel in Panama

The costs are calculated in accordance to the GRT and NRT, and prices may differ in accordance to the classification of the vessel, etc. It is quite difficult to provide an average.

Dual Registry

The Panamanian registry provides the possibility of “Dual Registration”. All foreign vessels under a bareboat charter agreement and duly registered in a foreign registry can be registered under the Panamanian.


A vessel mortgage may be executed in Panama or any other country, but it must be registered at the Public Registry of Panama. It will not be effective against third parties until it has been duly registered. The mortgage may be written or executed in any language or form.