De Castro & Robles specializes in Admiralty and Maritime law, with emphasis in litigation before Panama’s Maritime Courts and Arbitration Tribunals, generally representing the interest of the owners and charterers of vessels arrested, their underwriters and P&I Clubs.
The First Maritime Court of Panama was created by Law 8 of 1982 to replace the former U.S. District Court of the Canal Zone which was disestablished to the terms of the treaty between Panama and the United States of America. This Court was the only source of admiralty jurisdiction at the Canal until then. The procedure followed by the Panama Admiralty Court resembles to some extent that of a U.S. District Court sitting in admiralty.
As years passed and maritime litigation grew, a Second Maritime Court was established in 2001, and shares jurisdiction with the First Maritime Court over cases arising out of maritime commerce and trade.
The Maritime Courts exercise jurisdiction in rem over vessels or cargo calling at the Panama Canal and other ports throughout the country. Jurisdiction in personam is acquired by the attachment of property pertaining to the defendant found within the Court’s jurisdiction which may consist of a vessel, cargo, bunkers, or any other property.
In order to arrest a vessel in rem or in personam with maritime attachment or ‘quasi in rem’, plaintiff must post a cost bond in the sum of US$1,000.00 and deposit US$2,500.00 initially with the Marshal of the Court to cover initial arrest expenses. The simplicity of this procedure makes it very attractive for claimants to arrest vessels transiting the Panama Canal or calling at other Panamanian ports.
The Maritime Courts are available to issue process and to release vessels from arrest 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Arrest and release of vessels are handled expeditiously in an attempt to minimize costs and expenses to ship owners and charterers. A motion to challenge the validity of an arrest is given priority on the Court’s docket.