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Panama Ship Registry Grows in 2023 Maintaining 16 Percent Market Share

Panama flag
Panama maintained a 16 percent market share will growing the number of ships in the registry (Pete Unseth photo - CC BY-SA 4.0)

Published Jan 8, 2024 5:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Panama Ship Registry experienced continued growth in 2023 maintaining its leadership position in the industry as it continues to also modernize the registry. Panama and Liberia remain rivals for the leadership position in the industry well ahead of other flags even as Panama continues to purge its registry to ensure compliance and best practices among its fleet.

As of the end of the year, the registry is citing data that shows it grew during the year closing 2023 with 8,540 vessels, making it the largest registry by number of vessels. This is up from its position at mid-2023 of over 8,200 ships. For all of 2023, the administration highlights that the registry had a net increase of 83 ships, which represented a total of 7.2 million gross tons. 

Panama has been facing a growing challenge from the Liberian flag registry which is growing rapidly. While it has a smaller number of ships, the Liberia flag in mid-2023 surpassed Panama in total gross tonnage. IHS Markit reported that Liberia reached 252 million gross tons as of the end of July, while Clarksons Research put Liberia ahead by one percent in mid-2023. Panama now cites IHS Markit data that as of year’s end shows the Panama flag was on 8,540 vessels with a total of 251.1 million gross tons. 

Panama and Liberia each had a 16 percent market share as of mid-2023 and Panama highlights that according to Clarkson it has maintained that 16 percent while modernizing the registry. The current administration for the Panama Registry notes they achieved a 29 percent retention rate in 2023, which advances from their average retention rate of 28 percent since taking the leadership of the administration in 2019, and more than doubles over the 10-year rolling average which was 14 percent retention.

Having a large legacy fleet, Panama faced challenges with aging ships which they contended was part of an increasing detention ratio for ships under the flag. They are highlighting the success of their effort reporting that more than half (56.7 percent) of the ships entering the flag in 2023 are less than 15 years old and have an average age of four years. Among the ships entering the registry in 2023, newbuilds made up 339 ships represented a combined total of 8.3 million gross registry tons.

The Panama Ship Registry highlights the administration’s ongoing efforts to improve the quality of the fleet to ensure compliance. Last year, the administration canceled the registry of 161 vessels representing nearly 1.3 million gross tons. The average age of the vessels removed from the registry was around 17 years. Included in the ships that were canceled were 78 fishing boats associated with unreported and unregulated fishing.

Since assuming the leadership in 2019, the administration has focused on growing the Panama registry. Between July 2019 and the end of 2023, they report adding 33 million gross registry tons, according to data from Clarksons Research’s World Fleet Monitor. The Clarksons report shows that the Panama Ship registry was growing at a rate of 2.9 percent at the end of 2023.

Top photo by Pete Unseth (CC BY-SA 4.0)