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Monday, July 28 2014 @ 08:33 PM EDT

License To Operate A Small Boat With An Outboard Motor - Required By Law

Boats and Sailing By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Maybe it's just a personal flaw of mine, but people who are stubborn, bone-headed, and simply dense tend to get under my skin. People frequently contact me with questions or issues, particularly in relation to their interactions with local Panamanian government officials. And, when I can or if it's important, I will step in to figure it out and explain the answers I have received. I did this yesterday, and the person who was asking the original questions is still being obstinate. In short, he basically does not seem to want to believe or accept the answers I have obtained. He is now demanding to see the Panamanian laws or regulations governing these issues before he will believe or accept the facts as I have presented them. That's code for "bone head."

Yesterday I received a series of emails from "Capt Ron" in Bocas del Toro. He was all spun up because the local Port Captain in Bocas del Toro, Mr. Dario Vanhorne, issued an announcement on the local VHF Radio network used by the sailboat cruisers to let everyone know Panama's Maritime Authority (AMP) was going to be holding a series of classes next week, so that people can obtain the required license to operate a small boat with an outboard motor in Panamanian waters.

Vanhorne's announcement created some confusion and concerns. As a result, someone (and I don't know if it was Capt Ron who started this or someone else) was disseminating all kinds of incorrect information on these VHF networks. Capt Ron sent me an email - with the email addresses of about 40 other people in the carbon copy section - about the perceived problems. I asked for and received the name and number of the Port Captain in Bocas del Toro, and called him to get an explanation of what was going on.

Mr. Vanhorne explained the truth and facts to me, which I published in this article yesterday morning: Small Craft With Outboard Motor License Course - 23 to 28 July 2012 in Bocas del Toro. Among the points of false or otherwise incorrect information cleared up by this article, include;

  • "You Have To Take A Course In Spanish!" FALSE: The Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) is deploying a team to teach these courses, and they have translators on their team. In addition, Mr. Dario Vanhorne, the local port captain who works for the AMP, is also fully bilingual, and he will be there to serve as a translator as well if needed. They want you to have the safety information on how to correctly operate your boat, and it really does not matter if you get that information in Spanish, English, or any other language.

  • "Anyone Cruiser Arriving In Bocas Will Have To Pay $168 To Use Your Dinghy!" FALSE. Mr. Dario Vanhorne explained the requirement to have a license to operate a small boat with an outboard motor applies only to long term residents who live in Bocas del Toro. He said they have never applied this requirement to the members of the cruising community who simply use their dinghy to get from their sailboat to land. And, he also said they have no plans or intentions to start doing that any time in the future. He said they know exactly who are the long term residents - the people who use their boats to get from one place to another in the islands - and those who have just arrived. Panamanians are required to hold this license, and so are the foreigners. There is no difference. But, short term cruisers who have just pulled in are NOT required to obtain this license.

  • "It's A Two Day Course!" FALSE. Most people can take the course in about two hours. It takes about four to five hours total time, to take the course and to do the paperwork to walk out with your license. The AMP is offering the classes over a six day period, but you only have to go there long enough to get your license.

  • "There's A $280 Renewal Fee!" FALSE. The cost for foreigners is $160 dollars for the license, plus an additional $8 dollars for tax stamps to make it official. Panamanians are charged just $10 dollars for the same license. The license is valid for three years. When it expires you will have to renew the license, for the same cost. I have no idea where this "$280" number came from. It seems to have appeared out of thin air.

And This Is Where The "Bone Head" Part Comes In: If you read the article I published yesterday, it's pretty clear anyone using a small boat in Panamanian waters is required by law to have one of these licenses. Capt Ron began harping on his requirement to "see the law" - and in fact I simply didn't want to spend any more time on this issue. However it became clear to me this one individual was going to continue to completely confuse people by repeating wrong, incorrect, and false information. So, here are the laws, resolutions, and regulations which govern these issues in the Republic of Panama --

  • This document establishes the legal requirement to have a license - Resolucion JD No. 008-2001: Resolucion J.D. No.008-2001.

  • This document establishes the fees the Panama Maritime Authority will charge for this course - Resolucion JD No. 064-2010: Resolucion JD No. 064-2010. Specifically, go to page three, second article in the list of fees. In the chart, the ninth item from the top, called (in Spanish) "Operador de Lancha Con Motor Fuera de Borda Hasta 12 Mts De Eslora" (Boat Operator With Outboard Motor Up To 12 Meters In Length). There are two columns defining the fees, with one fee for Panamanians and other fee for foreigners. It's $160 bucks.

  • All Laws Which Govern The Panama Maritime Authority: Anticipating the next question, I have included this link to the website of the Panama Maritime Authority, where they have made available links to PDF documents for each and every Law, Executive Decree, Resolution, and Board of Director Decision which govern the way they do business: Gente Del Mar

Now, I'm Really, Really Done With This: Poorly informed individuals with hidden agendas spreading half-truths or rumors salted with fear mongering is a blatant disservice to the entire community of English speaking expatriates in Panama as a whole, and the community of sailboat cruisers as a sub-set. There is no doubt whatsoever that anyone who resides in Panama who regularly and routinely uses a boat with an outboard motor as part of their daily activities - be it in Bocas del Toro, Guna Yala, on the Pacific Ocean, or anywhere else - is required to have of these licenses. Capt Ron said "show me the law" so there it is. And no, I am not going to take the time to translate this for you - because I'm anticipating the next childish response. So feel free to read it - don't read it - translate it - don't translate it - I could care less. If you decide to attend this class and get your license, then fine. If you decide to not attend this class and not get your license, then you will have to deal with the consequences. The local government officials who work in the office of the Port Captain for the Panama Maritime Authority know exactly who are the long term residents of Bocas del Toro who need to have these licenses. Therefore, if you fail to obtain the required license (because you want to be an obstinate bone head) then do not be surprised when they fine you, issue you a ticket, and potentially confiscate your boat if you continue to flagrantly operate it without a license in violation of the law. And when that happens (and, it will) DO NOT write to me to bitch about it. Now, with all of that having been said, for real - I'm out. Of course, I have no doubt this entire thing will now be turned around, and I'll be made the bad guy. Whatever, I could care less. If you have any other questions about this requirement to obtain a license, contact Mr. Dario Vanhorne in the Port Captain's office of the AMP at 757-9447.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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License To Operate A Small Boat With An Outboard Motor - Required By Law | 3 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
License To Operate A Small Boat With An Outboard Motor - Required By Law
Authored by: crzhors on Wednesday, July 18 2012 @ 11:26 AM EDT

Thanks Don for setting it straight.....:)

License To Operate A Small Boat With An Outboard Motor - Required By Law
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, July 18 2012 @ 01:23 PM EDT

Don,
I thought there was a law that prohibited foreigners from being discriminated against? The difference in the fees between Panamanians and foreigners sure seems like discrimination to me.
Any thought on this?

License To Operate A Small Boat With An Outboard Motor - Required By Law
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, July 19 2012 @ 04:47 PM EDT

I wish to thank Don for taking the time to speak to Dario, and get an official publishable statement regarding the licensing situation. It makes us cruisers here in Bocas more comfortable with the direction.

I do wish to say however, that I was invovled in the cruisers net the morning that Dario communicated what he was instructed to say (as he put it). He was specific at that time that the license applied to all operators of outboard motors, and under questioning clearly stated at that time, that tenders and transient cruisers were not exempt.

Furthermore he stated that the classes and licensing would be held for one week in Bocas, and a discount was being offered to encourage cruisers to get their license (the $168). He went on to state that if new cruisers came in after the Bocas classes were held, then they would have to go to Almirante to obtain their outboard license, but the cost there would be $280.

I am not repeating what someone else told me, this is first hand. I am glad that Dario and his superiors have now clarified to Don what the actual situation is. Thank you again Don for taking the time to get involved!