Panama Threatens Sanctions For Ships Disabling Positioning Signals

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Panama’s maritime authorities issued a stern warning to all Panamanian flagged vessels seen as another crackdown on common tactics used by ships trying to avoid international restrictions or hide their activities. Panama’s directive follows the United States that recently highlighted the tactics used by illegal shippers and rogue nations.

The Panama Maritime Authority warns that it will impose sanctions up to $10,000 and/or de-registration or de-flagging of the vessel from the Panama registry for any vessel that deliberately deactivates, tampers or alters the operation of Long Range Identification and Tracking System (LRIT) or the Automatic Identification System (AIS).  

The notice also warns ships that Panama is monitoring all ships in its registry 24 hours a day and it will immediately initiate an investigation if LRIT or the AIS is not reporting. It says that an automatic alert will be sent to its Fleet Control and Monitoring Section, where they will look for a technical report that justifies the missing signal or a vessel will face sanctions. The warning also applies to any vessel that might be detained or restricted in Panama without authorization to change position or engage in commercial activity.

Panama is reminding ship owners and operators that the systems must be kept functioning, avoiding a loss of transmission at all times. Further, any vessels seeking registry in Panama are also required to undergo an LRIT conformance test.

The effort is seen as a reiteration as part of an ongoing effort to crack down on commonly used tactics by ships seeking to avoid international detection.

In May, the United States also issued a global advisory detailing the deceptive shipping practices being used by rogue nations including Iran, North Korea, and Syria to evade the current economic sanctions. The US State Department warned everyone involved in shipping to be vigilant or face sanction violations.

The U.S. advisory warned to be alert for voyage irregularities including attempts to disguise the ultimate destination or origin of cargo or recipients by using indirect routing, unscheduled detours, or transit or transshipment of cargo through third countries. Among the specific tactics outlined was the disabling or manipulating of automatic identification systems (AIS).

Panama’s action is seen as especially significant because of the size of the country’s registry as well as its reputation as a flag of convenience. The Panama Maritime Authority reports that its registry currently accounts for 17 percent of the world’s ocean-going fleet with approximately 8,000 vessels representing 217 million gross tons.

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