Jun. 15, 2016

Jorge Barakat Pitty


Jorge Barakat Pitty

Minister, Maritime Affairs and Administrator of the Panama Maritime Authority


Jorge Barakat Pitty holds a degree in law and politics from the University of Panama and a master’s in negotiation, mediation and arbitration from the Latin American University of Science and Technology. In the public sector, he worked at the Maritime Court of Panama from 1999-2003 and was Deputy Administrator of the Panama Maritime Authority from 2009 to 2011. In the private sector he has held positions such as Legal Assistant in the Litigation Maritime Area, Advisor Ad-Honorem on Legal and Consular Affairs at the Consulate of Panama in Ottawa, Canada, and is a founder member of the law firm Barakat-Pitti & Associates.

What is the role of the Panama Maritime Authority in safeguarding Panama's maritime interests, and how has the organization evolved since its inception?

According to the legal mandate from the national Charter, the Panama Maritime Authority is called upon to be the regent body of the maritime sector and also the leader of the National Maritime Strategy. Our country manages the world's largest ship registry through this entity, with over 8,000 registered merchant vessels that account for 218 million in gross tonnage and represent 18% of the world fleet. Subsequently, our registry has more than 300,000 licensed seafarers worldwide working onboard these vessels. The staff and I are permanently committed to the safety of people at sea, safety of navigation, and the protection of the maritime environment. We oversee the local concessions provided to international players managing our port infrastructure, which is the most efficient in the Americas. The national maritime sector and the PMA are forecast to grow every day. Therefore this administration has believed, since the beginning, in the principles of capacity building and technology transference; these are the keys to success. I personally support the continuous training of our staff in all fields concerning maritime issues, either locally or through international courses given by organizations to which we belong, such as IMO.

What are the authority's most important goals and challenges?

The biggest challenge is to encourage maritime and logistics development throughout the nation. The goal is to develop the potential of the canal and the major ports. Future port developments are going to take place not just in the city, but all around. We are working with international organizations such as the Corporacion Andina de Fomento (CAF) and the Development Bank of Latin America to develop ports like Puerto Armuelles in Chiriqui, highlighting the importance of being transparent in all the steps that entail these kinds of concessions. We want this to be open to investors around the world that are looking into these projects. The main objective of the PMA is to be trustworthy and to give all the assurance that legality will lead the process.

How do you cooperate with other countries that share the waters surrounding Panama and other maritime organizations around the world?

Panama has a tradition of maintaining neutral and peaceful relations with other countries, as witnessed by our Panama Canal Neutrality Treaty, which guarantees safe passage through the canal of vessels from all countries without any distinction measures. In this respect, our country maintains an excellent relationship with our neighbors and the government actively participates in regional and international forums around the world, which allows the PMA to have mutual cooperation with many maritime nations.

What are the pillars of Panama's maritime strategy moving forward?

Panama's maritime strategy promotes the sustainable development of the maritime-logistics cluster to support Panama's socioeconomic growth and consolidate it as the main offshore platform for the Americas by improving processes between the public and private sector. All the aforementioned, supported by a strengthened and qualified human resources pool, are key parts of all business.

What contribution will the maritime sector make to the country's GDP and what are your expectations for 2016?

According to statistics provided by the Panama Chamber of Shipping, the maritime sector as a whole makes up 33% of Panama's GDP, and we expect this figure to grow next year as we continue to integrate the complete logistics platform of the country. Panama inspires a lot of confidence for the future expansion of the canal. Definitely, our country is ready for all the changes that will come due to the soon-to-open Panama Canal expansion. The ports are ready and the PMA is prepared to take on this increased level of activity in the maritime sector.