Commercial and private yacht registration
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How to Register a Vessel in Panama By Gissela Martinez
Panama's Ship Registry is number-one worldwide in popularity due to the ease of use and very low registration taxes and fees as compared to other countries throughout the world. Marine vessel registration in Panama is widely used by international shipping companies due to the numerous advantages.
At the time of registration all vessels must pay a one-time enrollment fee, based on a variable scale, plus a government fee. Registration of the bill of sale is $0.20 per net registered ton or fraction thereof, plus 20% surtax. Annual tax is $0.10 per net ton, plus other charges. Liberal labor laws concerning Panama flag vessels are also an important consideration, and income earned on international shipping activities are specifically and expressly exempted from Panama income taxes.
It is possible to register recreational yachts in Panama. This has a different pricing structure than the ship registration described above. The registration certificate is issued for a two-year period, which is renewable after this period.
Applicable Registration Tariff:
- $1,500.00 - if owned by a foreigner
- $1,000.00 - if owned by a Panamanian (or a Panamanian corporation which is a nominal expense to arrange)
This tariff must also be paid upon renewal of the Registration.
Documents required for Registration:
- Sale & Purchase Agreement, Bill of Sale - or if the yacht is newly built, then a Builder's Certificate
- Power of Attorney
- Deletion Certificate from previous registry (or Builder's Certificate if brand new) Please note: you must also comply with the Radio Operator requirements, in order to register the yacht in Panama. If the yacht is more than 20 years old, then it will also be required to undergo a survey and safety inspection.
Anonymous Yacht Ownership – What is done if the yacht is purchased in the name of the Panama bearer share corporation. The ownership of such a corporation is anonymous in that no ownership records are in any database or registry. Thus if the yacht is owned by the corporation which is anonymous, the yacht ownership is anonymous. The nominee directors and your law firm (us) can handle the transaction for you completing all paperwork. We can wrap additional layers around the boat by having the Panama Bearer Share Corporation owned by a Panama Private Interest Foundation which is also anonymous, yet controllable by you. There are a number of different strategies we can employ to keep the ownership of your vessel anonymous and confidential as a tool to protect you from kidnapping, extortion, criminals and to keep your affairs private in general. Panama excels in privacy. Unfortunately financing with conventional lenders does not work with anonymous ownership strategies. If you were wondering when it comes time to sell the boat you basically just sell the corporation which owns the boat leaving the boat ownership in tact. There is no requirement to report new owners of Panama corporations.
Two Yacht-Based Panama Residency Visa Approaches
Because your yacht is owned by a Panama anonymous bearer share corporation and your investment is over $150,000, immediate residency is granted. You must have 3 full time Panamanian employees along with your company, which is easy to do with the standard minimal wage at $253 a month for crew members. This would be under the so called inversionista (business investor) program. However, if you invested $200,000 or more you could qualify under the solvencia economia propia program (person of means visa) and not even have the requirement of hiring at least three Panamanian crewman, since it can be easily argued that you are buying a home, albeit a moveable one. This latter probably would require investing in a full time moorage at a Panama port which would become your home away from home.
Full residency with a cedula is granted after one full year of holding the provisional residency card and after 5 years full citizenship is granted! (Click here for more details in our Panama residency section on these two visa classifications).
For more information on Panama Vessel Registration visit panamalaw.org
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