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Winds of change at Panama Ship Registry

The new head of Panama’s Ship Registry Fernando Solorzano sets out his agenda in an exclusive interview with Seatrade Global.

Panama’s new president Juan Carlos Varela who was sworn in 1 July , has put in a new team to lead the country’s maritime sector.

Jorge Barakat, former Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) deputy administrator from 2009 to 2011, is the new AMP administrator. Barakat, a renowned lawyer is accompanied by Alejandro Agustin Moreno, himself a lawyer with good experience in the sector, as deputy administrator.  The new appointees have been well received locally for their knowledge and integrity.

Heading the AMP Merchant Marine directorate and head of Panama’s Ship Registry is Fernando Solorzano whose career at the flag state runs over nearly two decades, having held the same position from 2004 to 2007 after which he became administrator of the AMP until 2009.

Although Panama remains the world’s first open registry, he will face increasing competition from other flags willing to offer lower prices and other incentives to switch flags.

“Providing a good and efficient service to shipowners round the world is of utmost importance to the flag and to me,” Solorzano told Seatrade Global.

The Registry has improved considerably in recent years under his predecessor Alfonso Castillero who opened several technical support offices of Segumar in Piraeus, Tokyo and Seoul, and brought Panama into the Paris MoU white list for the first time.  As of 30 June 2014, Panama registered 220.09m gt, up from 218.27m gt at 31 December 3013 which was the only year the flag tonnage had decreased from 220.44m gt at December 31, 2012.

“We need to increase our technical personnel in the countries where are based our shipowners, as well as in Panama in order to improve our services. That is the key to success: immediate response. At the moment, our technical personnel are not enough in the present centres and we need to open more support offices-Segumar,” he says.

A slight decrease in tonnage in 2013 showed the importance of two strategic elements: good service but also reasonable intermediary costs.

That had been a serious issue during the previous administration that gave a Panamanian company, Orion, the monopoly of issuing licences and assessments, inflating intermediary costs.  Orion’s monopoly was cancelled the day before President Varela took office. “We will soon review all tariffs and ancillary costs with particular emphasis for new buildings tariffs since we want them to be more attractive to ship owners,” said Solorzano.

On the new Ship Registry Chief’s priority agenda is the improvement of Panama’s position in Port State Control ranks and lowering the rate of detentions in the Paris, Tokyo and other MoUs aiming at classifying for the US’ QualShip 21 category. 

“Also, Panama needs to offer friendly on-line services, improve its electronic platform of services for both shipowners and its administration’s offices round the world, as well as for its seafarers. We have done some effort in that sense, but that is not enough,” he explained.   

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