"PMA to open Seoul office, upgrading seafarer-license service"
"PMA to fully exempt newbuilt vessels above 10,000grt from flag registration fee"
His Excellency Panamanian Ambassador Ruben Eloy Arosemena Valdes to Korea, who took office as newly appointed at the beginning of last October, immediately kept in close contact with Korean shipping players including Korea Shipowners’ Association and Korea Maritime University and others, giving them noteworthy promise that Panamanian Maritime Authority (PMA) would provide quick and friendly Panamanian flag registration service.
Amb. Arosemena, a specialist in maritime law, the former head of PMA overseeing Panamanian flag registration service and ex-vice president of Panama, unveiled in a recent interview with Maritime Press the advantages of Panamanian flag registration as the world-largest convenient flag registry along with his strong hope that his embassy would help provide quick and friendly registration service, listening closely to suggestions from Korean shipping players in future.
Amb. Arosemena said with a particular emphasis that PMA would open its regional office in his embassy building at the end of this year or early next year to provide Korean shipowners and Korean ship managers with its quick service of issuing seafarer license.
The Panamanian Consular Office presently issues provisional seafarer license valid for three months, but inconveniently it is time-consuming because the file for the license should go to PMA representative office in the Philippines from Korea. In order to clear such an inconvenient red-tape, PMA is slated to open a regional office in Korea in a bid to provide seafarer’s license issuing service to shipowners and ship managers not only in Korea but also in Japan, China and in other Northeast Asian countries.
Q: Please send your greetings to Korean Shipping players as new Panamanian Ambassador to Korea.
A: I am here in Korea as new Ambassador and General Consulate of the Republic of Panama to strengthen the bilateral agenda between The Republic of Korea and Panama in all areas that are important for both countries. We have a special interest in continuously getting the support of Korea government in the technology applied in our public sectors. We would also like to have a bilateral commercial treaty with Korea.
Regarding the shipbuilding industry, we would like to invite some of Korean shipbuilders to see Panamá as a strategic place have ship repair facilities installed. And for shipping players, Panama will soon be able to open the new expanded Canal that will allow big vessels called post-panamax sail between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. It will be a great benefit to the Korean shipping service providers.
Q: Please explain the actual status of the Panama Canal expansion project underway and estimated opening date. All the Korea shipping people are concerned about the canal expansion project which had some problem with delays.
A: The Panama Canal under expansion will open in 2016. The problem that we had with the contractors involved with this mega project was about the increase in contract price that they presented to the Authorities at the beginning of the international bid, but the Canal Authority handled the price difference in a very responsible way, not only taking into consideration the interest of Panama but also the importance of finishing this project by the target date.
Q: Korea shipowners are also very concerned about new scheme of toll fee (los peajes). Is there any possibility to increase toll fee due to the increased cost of the project? Does PMA try any effort to settle an appropriate toll fee level?
A: Unfortunately, I cannot give you a great answer to that question since the Panama Canal Authority has a great autonomy from the Executive Branch in Panama. What I can remind you, is that Panama has an important mechanist of consultation with the Shipping Lines when the Administration has a proposal for increasing the canal toll fee. That is as far as I can tell you.
Total Panamanian flag Fleet in the world: We have in our Registry nine thousand vessels whose ship-owners are from different countries as of September 2013, and by the end of this year, we should have new numbers. The tendency is an increase of about 10 % every year.
Panamanian flag fleet from Korean shipowners: As for Korea-controlled vessels, we process about seven hundred vessels in our Registry, but beside ship registry, we also process marine rating and official titles to Korean and other Asian countries, which is also important for this industry. As a matter of fact, we are about to open a special office in our Consulate to process in an expeditious way all titles that come from the eastern part of Asia.
Q: Panama is well known as the world's largest convenient flag country. What is the secret to it?
A: I would say that the secret is to more than 80 years of its experience. It made our reputation for being the world’s largest convenient flag country. The Republic of Panama as Open Flag Ship Registry complies with all of the International Maritime Organization regulations and other international conventions. Any individual or corporation, no matter what their nationality is and where place of origin is, is eligible to register vessels under the Panamanian flag.
Panama registry is stable and secure: The Panama Maritime Authority (PMA) is an autonomous State agency established in compliance with Law Decree No. 7 dated February 10 in 1998, with the maritime competencies. And also, all services of the PMA are provided by Panamanian consulates over the world at local time without any time difference.
Panama Registry is familiar with shipping & finance sector people: Panama Registry is well-known to the shipping & finance sectors because of convenient procedures. Gradually, the PMA is trying to settle all services by systemizing; for example, the introduction of the system PKI and the issuance procedure of provisional patent for sea trial are simplified and take only few hours if all required documents are submitted by email in place.
Q: Panama registry % was high in Korea and Japan in the past. But recently, Marshall Island, Liberia and other countries of convenient flag entered the Korean shipping service industry and are in fierce competition. If compared with other convenient flag states, what are the strengths of Panama registry?
A: Let me explain 3 sectors separately. For ship finance, reliable naval mortgage system is fully backed up by the Public Registry of the State and international banking system. When a vessel is delivered, the preliminary inscription of ownership title and mortgage are required. It’s available to release the certification of preliminary inscription to mortgager and mortgagee in 1 hour through the consulate where you reside. The public registry division of PMA in Panama provides 24hours service to all consulates in the world.
For the provisional registration, approximately it takes 1 hour under the PKI system at the Consulate of Panama in Seoul once all requirements are fulfilled. Especially, for vessels registered up to 31 December 2015, the PMA is providing new schemes of discount. One of them is to give100% discount free of registration fee to the newly built vessels of more than 10,000 GT and built in shipyards of Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, China and others with the exception for annual tax to be paid for the first year only. If you have new construction plan, please contact our consulate for more detailed information.
For the administration of seafarers, 1 day service for Provisional Panamanian License for seaman with the validity of 3 months is available at the Consulate of Panama in Seoul. Also, we will open the Sub-Regional Office of PMA in Seoul, Korea, to provide fast service of issuing full term license to Korean Ship-owners or ship management companies. We are expecting to open it at the end of this year or the first quarter of next year 2015.
Q: Could you tell us about your marketing strategy to Korean shipowners?
A: As you may know, the ongoing shipping markets over the world are in crisis and the paradigm of this market is changing. In reality, it is hard to say any strong marketing strategy could be effective or not. So, we will maintain close contact with our clients to listen to their opinions, suggestions or inconveniences of our flag registration, and provide friendly and good consular services to them. We are in constant contact with the PMA to improve its system to be a convenient and competitive registry.