Sailing in Panama

Information on sailing in Panama, with details about getting a boating license, registering a yacht or other vessels, and requirements when arriving in Panama by boat...

Safety at Sea

Emergency numbers:

  • Fire Service (Bomberos) Tel: 103
  • Ambulance Tel: 911
  • Police Tel: 104
  • Panama Maritime Authority (in Spanish) Tel: 501 5600
  • Port Captain Tel: 232 7734

It is important to check weather reports before setting out to sail as weather conditions can change very rapidly. There can be notoriously strong currents and tides in Panama's Pacific waters.

Arrival Procedures

A Yachts Arrival document should be submitted online or via email at least 48 hours before arrival in Panama.

  • To download a Yachts Arrival document: Click here

A current cruising permit and a valid visa are required for all vessels, except recreational vessels, staying in Panama for less than 72 hours. Upon arrival, vessel and crew documents, as well as a zarpe (sailing order from last port), must be presented. A zarpe is still required when sailing within Panamanian waters.

Individuals or crew arriving by yacht from the Caribbean must visit an immigration office either in Colón or at the Shelter Bay Marina (advance reservation recommended). For arrivals from the Pacific, immigration is processed at the offices ashore. Associated fees include visa fees for individuals and yacht crew, cruising license fee, temporary registration fee (depending on boat size), check-out fees and a possible yacht inspection fee.

Clearance formalities may take up to two days to complete.

Procedures for Canal transit are more involved.

  • For the Panama Canal Authority instructions: Click here

Sailing Licenses

The most common licenses in Panama are the CDC (Continuous Discharge Certificate) and the COC (Certificate of Competency). In order to apply for a CDC and a COC, it is necessary to complete four basic courses (or to have a previous CDC and COC) and documented sea experience.

Panama CDCs and COCs are valid for five years.

  • For information on getting a Panama sailing license: Click here

Registering a Boat

The government authority responsible for boat registration is the Panama Maritime Authority.

The first step when applying to register a boat is to obtain a temporary Provisional Navigation License. Once this is issued, it is valid for six months. During that time, an application for a permanent Definitive Navigation License should be made. Permanent licenses are valid for two years.

  • For information on Navigation License applications: Click here


  • Upon registration: US$ 0.20 per registered ton and a 20 percent surtax
  • Yearly: US$ 0.10 per registered ton, plus possible additional maintenance fees
  • Flat fee tariffs during the initial registration and each two-year renewal

There are discounts for Panamanian corporations and fleets.

The following documents are required for registration:

  • Purchase and Sale Agreement, Bill of Sale or a Builder's Certificate, if the boat is new
  • Deletion Certificate from the previous registry or Builder's Certificate, if the boat is new
  • Power of attorney (if applicable)
  • Radio Operator License (temporary provisional three-month license is issued, while an application for a permanent license is made)

If the yacht is over 20 years of age, it is also required to undergo a safety survey

As of July 2010, two new temporary registrations are available allowing foreign-registered pleasure boats to stay in Panama for up to two years.

There are no international trade or income taxes or and there is no minimum tonnage for registration.

  • For further information on registering a boat in Panama: Click here

Marinas in Panama

  • Shelter Bay Marina: At the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal, near Colón
    : 433 3581 / 6781 6631
    Fax: 433 3581
    Open: 08:00-16:30
  • Careening Cay Marina
    Bocas del Toro
    Tel: 757 9242 / 6609 0152
  • Panamarina: At the northern entrance of Panama Canal, in the Portobelo National Park
    Tel: 6680 2003 / 6687 7747
  • Flamenco Yacht Club: Situated on the causeway
    Tel: 314 0665
  • Balboa Yacht Club
    : 228 5794