Insurance premiums linked to sailing under the Panama flag have led the Carnival Cruise line to begin the withdrawal of its newly built ships from the Panamanian ship registry, to assume the flag of the Bahamas.
It follows the withdrawal of the Norwegian Cruise line, which had Panama as the port of departure for its ships, a clear sign of of problems for the
The Carnival vessels affected are the Mardi Gras cruise ships The Carnival Celebration built in 2022, and the Carnival Jubilee of 2023
The Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) was warned by the cruise line in notifications to the Merchant Marine Directorate about agreements assumed by the AMP that affect the financial operation of its ships under the Panamanian flag. The problem is directly related to the increase in the insurance premium, due to new decisions adopted by the AMP.
This seems not to have been addressed, so Carnival began the withdrawal of its ships, starting with the newest construction, a source from the tourism sector reported. He also explained that these ships changed to the Bahamas flag before they entered into operation, which is another blow to the Panamanian ship registry and tourism in the country.
The three ships already retired by Carnival have a combined capacity of 6,631 passengers and 1,785 crew members.
The administrator of the AMP, Noriel Araúz, will have to render explanations before the plenary session of the National Assembly for the contracts executed in his administration, specifically those linked to Pablo Torres, one of his personal friends. Torres, also the nephew of pro-government deputy Ricardo Torres, has already been questioned for other direct contracts and rentals that have been given to him by the AMP. The main union in the sector, the Maritime Chamber of Panama, demanded an explanation from the AMP on Friday for the departure of Norwegian Cruise, pointing out as a possible cause of the issue of mandatory fuel supply with MONJASA, something qualified as a monopoly.
In December last year, 23 cruise lines warned that the imposition of the AMP, which forces their ships to supply themselves with fuel from a single company, affected their operations and predicted their withdrawal.
The AMP approved a resolution last year that obliges cruise ships that dock in Panama to only take fuel with the Monjasa company linked to businessman Pablo Torres.