SINGAPORE – Vessels registered with Singapore or Panama will now benefit from faster checks and clearances when calling at the other country’s ports, after the two nations signed an agreement to strengthen maritime relations on Thursday (Sept 19).

Under the agreement, Singapore and Panama will work to promote the use and acceptance of ships’ electronic certificates to facilitate port state inspections, the exercise of port state control inspections, as well as personnel exchange.

Port state control inspection refers to the process where visiting foreign ships are inspected to verify their compliance with international rules.

The agreement comes after a high-level delegation from Singapore, led by Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min, flew to Panama to meet the country’s new government.

It was signed by Ms Quah Ley Hoon, chief executive of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, and Mr Noriel Arauz, minister of Maritime Affairs and administrator of the Panama Maritime Authority, in Panama on Thursday.

Both Singapore and Panama are among the top five ship registries in the world.

Singapore ranks fifth with a fleet of more than 4,700 registered vessels, while Panama is tops with over 8,000 registered vessels.

Dr Lam said: “This cooperation will strengthen maritime relations between our two countries.

“It will also yield significant benefits through speedier port clearances for vessels registered with our two countries calling at our ports.”

The maritime authorities of both countries said in a joint statement that the use of electronic certificates and cooperation on port state control reduces the administrative burden of issuing, sending and keeping hard-copy certificates on board.

It would also facilitate regulatory oversight and enforcement action by the authorities and expedite port clearance, the authorities added.