Panama flag chief resigns

The head of Panama’s shipping flag has stepped down and will take a job at one of its major rivals, a source with knowledge of the situation said.

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Merchant Marine Director General Alfonso Castillero will be replaced at the world’s largest ship registry by Fernando Solorzano.

Castillero is understood to be taking a job as vice president at the Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry, the US-based company that runs the second-largest open flag.

His departure from a government job to the private sector comes amid sweeping personnel changes at the top levels of the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP).

Following the election of Juan Carlos Varela to the country’s presidency, Maritime Administrator Roberto Linares has been replaced by former second-in-command Jorge Barakat. Last week, the National Assembly approved Barakat’s nomination.

Castillero was popular among a broad spectrum of Panama’s maritime community, having led the registry as it moved from the Paris Memorandum of Understanding black list to the white list.

As TradeWinds reported in its Panama business report earlier this year, he advocated for further reform of Panama’s shipping flag that would have seen the registry take on a more corporate, independent structure modelled after the government-owned company that runs Panama City’s international airport.

“I find it prudent to highlight that the Panama registry requires immediate restructuring," Castillero said in a parting letter to registry customers obtained by TradeWinds. "The necessary changes cannot be made by the registry alone. They can only be achieved with the support and commitment of those at the highest levels of government.”

The naval engineer and former ship’s officer joined the AMP in 2004 as assist director of merchant marine.

Solorzano, meanwhile, will be a familiar face in the halls of the AMP, as he once was Panama’s top maritime official as former administrator of the ministry.

A ministry spokesman could not be immediately reached to confirm the changes.