Arrest of Vessels in Panama, by Jorge Loaiza III
Arias, Fabrega & Fabrega
– The Maritime Court of Panama, has been established since 1982, and is our first forum with special jurisdiction for local and international maritime claims. A second Tribunal was been created pursuant to Law 23 of 2001 and formally designated by the Judiciary to receive its first maritime claims starting the second week of March 2002.
– Maritime Judges are appointed by Assembly of Justices of the Supreme Court.
– By statute, the Maritime Courts are available carry out arrests of vessels, receive complaints and carry out summons 24 hours a day. The notice board of the Maritime Court has a daily listing of officials assigned to this special 24-hour service.
– The most common litigants are members of the Panama Maritime Law Association, a respected group within the practice.
– The Maritime Courts of Panama have jurisdiction over all matters involving maritime causes of action, except for port matters, which pertain to the Panama Maritime Authority. Local labour claims are also excluded, but attachments on vessels as a result of such actions must still be carried out by the Maritime Courts.
– Accordingly, the Maritime Courts are available to try maritime claims originated outside of Panama, where one of the following requirements is met:
* the proceedings are against a vessel or her owner and the vessel is arrested in Panama.
other property of the defendant is attached when the defendant is not domiciled in Panama.
*the defendant is physically in Panama and has been served in Panama on the particular proceedings.
* one of the parties is a Panama flag vessel or Panamanian law applies by contractual provision or pursuant to conflict of law rules of Panama or by submission of forum, which may be expressed (in contract or in any petition submitted during the proceeding) implicit (by acting in the proceedings without opposing want jurisdiction.)
– Generally speaking, a vessel may be attached in Panama for the following purposes:
1. To protect the interest of parties and prevent the disposition of assets that would otherwise serve the claims involving the proceedings.
2. To give subject matter jurisdiction to the Maritime Courts when the defendant is not present in the Panamanian jurisdiction.
3. To enforce maritime liens against it.
– Also in order to proceed with a petition for attachment the following minimum requirements must be taken in consideration:
1. Submit evidence of the existence of the plaintiff and power of attorney. However, with payment of bonds, in case the documents same are not readily available at the time of filing the complaint, it is possible to initiate proceeding and effect the arrest without these documents. In this respect we note that these documents must be submitted in originals and duly certified by notary public and legalised by Panamanian consul or apostilled in accordance with the 1961 Hague Convention.
2. Payment of initial custodial charges and thereafter, whenever the Marshall requires, additional contributions for such purpose. Failure to fund vessel’s maintenance costs would result in the release of the attachment.
3. Documentary evidence of the claim and, in case of in-rem claims, that the same constitutes a maritime lien against the vessel.