Orion monopoly to end

Panama’s new government has suspended the flag-state’s officer licensing assessment programme, wresting it from a private company holding a controversial monopoly.

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The decision by new Maritime Administrator Jorge Barakat impacts assessments for officers’ licenses that had been carried out by Panama City-based Orion Maritime Training Center since 2011.

Barakat has announced plans to carry out audits of the licensing procedures, La Prensa newspaper reported.

As TradeWinds reported earlier this year, Panama’s maritime sector had been broadly critical of the fact that under Linares and former President Ricardo Martinell, a shadowy firm had the only permit to carry out the assessments for the world’s largest shipping flag.

Many called for the evaluations to be carried out in-house. AMP sources tell TradeWinds that the ministry plans to carry out its own assessments, but it is not clear what will be done in the interim now that Orion is out of the picture.

Barakat has also promised reform of consular services to the shipping industry that are carried out on behalf of the country’s ship registry. Industry participants have called for greater reliance on professionals rather than political appointees in consulates.

“We will carry out a historic reform of consular matters to strengthen the merchant marine in the international sphere, with transparency and technical savvy,” Barakat wrote in a recent Twitter post.

Last week, Panama’s National Assembly confirmed Barakat’s nomination along with that of his deputy, Alejandro Agustin Moreno, who was a partner at Panama City’s Moreno & Arjona law firm at the time he was named.

TradeWinds's efforts to contact Orion have not been successful.