Claims for Loss or Damage to Cargo in Panama

  • Cargo traffic in Panamá

The Panama Canal since its inauguration in 1914 has meant being one of the main goods traffic bridges worldwide. It has connected ports and nations, has strengthened the international maritime trade, as well as, the economy of the country itself[1].

Since the expansion of the Canal, large vessels and dimensions such as the Post-panamax and the super Post-panamax, with a capacity of between 4000 and 13,640 TEU, can transit through the “aquatic motorway” that connects Atlantic and Pacific. In addition, the new dimensions allow the circulation of large passenger cruises, gas ships or coal carriage.

In short, both the Panama Canal and its expansion have been a boost in the development of international shipping industry, with a triple capacity of vessels up to 14 thousand TEUs (20-foot containers), and accepting 98 percent of the active global fleet. Up to 14 daily vessels may transit through the Agua Clara locks in the Pacific and Cocolí in the Atlantic[1].

The last record hit in the Panama Canal was achieved by the container vessel OOCL France with a maximum capacity for passage through the Channel of 13,926 TEUs (20-foot containers)[2].

  • Under which circumstances it is possible to file a case of Damage or Loss of Cargo in Panama

It has become evident that the transit of goods in Panama is astonishingly high; However, under what circumstances it is possible to file a case in this jurisdiction for Damage or Loss to Cargo.

In accordance with Panamanian legislation[1], the Maritime Tribunals shall have jurisdiction in cases arising from acts relating to maritime trade, transportation and traffic, occurring within the Republic of Panama, in its territorial sea, in the navigable waters of its rivers, lakes and in those of the Panama Canal. And outside the territory mentioned when:

  1. The actions are addressed against the vessel or its owner, and the vessel is arrested within the jurisdiction of the Republic of Panama.
  2. When the Maritime Tribunal has arrested other property belonging to the defendant, even if it is not domiciled within the territory of the Republic of Panama.
  3. When the defendant is within the jurisdiction of the Republic of Panama.
  4. When the vessel or one of the ships is a Panamanian flag, or the Panamanian substantive law is applicable under the contract or the provisions of Panamanian law itself, or the parties expressly or tacitly submit to the jurisdiction of the Tribunals of the Republic of Panama.
  • The Term to file a Cargo claim in Panama

Any action derived from the land or sea transportation contract, or charter, it will prescribe in a year.[2]

  • Applicable Law

Law 55 of August 6, 2008 of Panama’s Maritime Trade, regulates the Contract relating to the Transport of Goods by Waterways.

Although Panama is not a party to any International Convention in this respect, Law 55 embraces the same precepts as those contained in the Hague-Visby Rules.

  • Possible Cases

Maritime Claims for loss or damage to cargo

  • Cargo that arrives at the place of destination without apparent good order and condition.
  • Goods that arrives at the place of destination with no apparent damage.
  • Goods that does not arrive or does so late to the destination.
  • Goods that is diverted from the agreed / accustomed or geographically direct route.
  • Goods that is delivered to a receiver other than the owner of the cargo or consignee.
  • Goods that is illegally retained by the carrier / owner.
  • Poorly packed goods or inaccuracy in the specifications of the packages to be transported.
  • Inadequate, inaccurate or delayed delivery of the necessary documentation for the transport of the goods to the competent authorities.

Who may claim or Sue?

  • The owner of the cargo or who legitimately possesses the Bill of Lading (B / L).
  • The insurer, subrogated in the rights of the owner of the insured cargo.
  • The carrier

Whom to Sue?

  • Contractually: consignee vs. carrier and/or the vessel; carrier and/or the vessel vs shipper; Insurer vs carrier and/or the vessel.
  • Tort: consignee vs. shipowner and/or P & I and/or the registered owner and/or operator of the vessel.

Carreira Pitti PC Attorneys has worked in numerous cases related to carriage of goods by sea and multimodal, in its 30 years of experience in maritime litigation.

Recently, the Ordinary Hearing of an in personam and in rem Maritime Process took place, in which it was claim by our principals (consignee and cargo insurer, respectively), METALCO PANAMÁ S.A. and ACERTA SEGUROS against (the shipping company and its vessel) DRY BULK OCEANIS and M/N BULK HONDURAS the amount of the emergent damage and lost profit of the cargo ($ 1,739,721.47), due to receiving galvanized steel rolls, shipped from China to Panama, wet and rusty.

Another case is the Ordinary Maritime Process in which our principals (owner of the goods and agent authorized for their export) MINING DIRECTORATE GENERAL, SECRETARIAT OF STATE OF INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, AND STORES OF DOMINICAN GRAINS, S.A. (ALGRADOSA) claim against (operator of the MV SEA GLOBE) THORESEN THAI AGENCIES PUBLIC COMPANY LTD., (time charterer of the M.V. SEA GLOBE) THORESEN SHIPPING SINGAPORE PTE. (registered owner of the MV THOR NEPTUNE) THOR NEPTUNE SHIPPING CO LTD -jointly and severally liable- for the value of the goods ($ 875,923.59), which exercised a wrongful lien over the Shippers/Seller´s cargo for a supposed non-payment of the freight and costs of demurrage by the charterer, according to terms supposedly contained in a charter contract, of which our represented are not party.

Also a cargo claim for damage is the Ordinary Maritime Process, which our principal (consignee) HARVEST FRESH GROWERS, INC. follows (operator and owner of the vessel involved in the transport) MAERSK LINE A.P. MOLLER-MAERSK GROUP for a series of shipments of pineapple in which, not respecting the conditions and times of the, were damaged, quantifying the economic damage (fruit value, freight, customs expenses, fruit destruction, Handling and warehousing) at $112,465.08.

Contact us for more information.

[1] It contributes 6% of its gross domestic product (GDP). In 2015 it had an income of 2,610 million dollars and contributed more than 1 billion to the State. [JIMÉNEZ, Miguel. El País Semanal. (See 25 May 2017). Available at].

[2] Consult Data gathered by the Economic and Social Report – January 2017, issued by the Ministry of Economy and Finance (Directorate of Economic and Social Analysis). Available at

[3] Panama Canal. (Consultation: 26 May 2017). Available at

[4] Artículo 19, Ley 8 de 30 de marzo de 1982, reformada.

[5] Artículo 1651(3) del Código de Comercio de Panamá.


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *