Cablegate: Panama's Progress On Maritime Security -- Good

Published: Wed 11 Feb 2004 08:21 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 PANAMA 000325
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/05/2014
REF: A. 2002 PANAMA 3800
B. 2003 PANAMA 798
C. 2003 PANAMA 1558
D. 2003 PANAMA 1608
E. 2003 PANAMA 1634
F. 2003 PANAMA 2017
G. 2003 PANAMA 2307
H. 2003 PANAMA 2409
I. 2003 PANAMA 2453
J. 2003 STATE 340550
K. 2003 PANAMA 3298
L. 2003 PANAMA 3300
M. STATE 25533
Classified By: Econ Chief, Andrew N. Bowen for reasons 1.5(d)
1. (SBU) The September 11 attacks called significant
attention to the potential for terrorist exploitation of
Panama,s leading maritime position. Panama has the world,s
largest flag state registry with approximately 6300 vessels
over 500 gross metric tons and approximately 300,000
seafarers. Additionally, approximately two-thirds of Canal
traffic originates or terminates at U.S. ports, roughly 13%
of U.S. seaborne trade. Nearly, 27 percent of
foreign-flagged cargo ships arriving at U.S. ports are
Panamanian. Moreover, approximately 150 U.S. military
vessels, including nuclear-powered U.S. submarines ("high
value transits"), visit Panamanian ports and/or transit the
Canal each year.
2. Given these equities, during the past year, the Embassy,
through its Maritime Security Working Group and in
coordination with Washington agencies, has undertaken a broad
Maritime Security agenda with the GOP (REFTELS). We have seen
a strong willingness on the part of the Moscoso
Administration for Panama to meet its responsibilities as a
major maritime player. Progress has been particularly good
since President Moscoso's appointment in June 2003 of
Panama,s Public Security and National Defense Council ("the
Consejo") Executive Secretary Ramiro Jarvis to coordinate
maritime security matters. Key components of the agenda
include: secure seafarer documents, U.S. force protection,
port security, container security, export controls,
proliferation security, and strengthening GoP institutions
(REF C). Progress by the GOP has been good on all of the
fronts and in several cases the ball is in our court;
however, we will have to keep the pressure on the GOP to
follow-through, in particular, on ISPS implementation and new
seafarer documents. The fact that this is an election year
in Panama will not facilitate things, but should also not
hinder progress too much. The following paragraphs provide a
brief update of key components of our agenda, which continues
to evolve as the USG develops its broader maritime security
--------------------------------------------- ---------
Component 1: Convince the GOP to create a secure system for
seafarer documents, to include biometric markers, and
verified credentials for Panama,s merchant marine.
--------------------------------------------- ---------
3. (C) Panama,s Maritime Authority (AMP) assured the
Embassy that the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) would
tender a public bid for creation of such a system by January
2004. MEF has allocated close to $3 million in order to fund
the process; however, the public tender remains pending. The
new documents will comply with requirements of the
International Labor Organization,s (ILO) Convention 108
(pertaining to International Identification Documentation),
which issued directives for seafarer documents following a
request from the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
The GOP and ILO maintain, however, that full-blown biometrics
are not required for this credential, although it will
contain some security features. The AMP is weighing the
possibility of including a fingerprint on the document.
Regardless of the Panamanian document's quality and improved
controls on how such documents will be issued (Ref G), we
remain concerned that the GoP will be challenged to conduct
adequate background checks on seafarers. While Consejo
Director Jarvis has indicated that the Embassy would have
access to the names of the applicants, we will continue to
press the GOP to obtain unfettered access to the seafarer
database to monitor issuance. (Note: Corruption/graft by AMP
officials and Panamanian Consuls in the issuance of
seafarer,s documents has been well documented (Ref B).
--------------------------------------------- ------------
Component 2: Push for the GOP to assure adequate, permanent
facilities for National Maritime Service (SMN) bases,
particularly at Pacific and Atlantic entrances to the Canal.
--------------------------------------------- ------------
4. (C) On October 9, 2003 the Interoceanic Region Authority
(ARI) signed over title to a new facility near the Atlantic
entrance of the Canal for the SMN. The Consejo has also
received an oral commitment from the Pacific-side
concessionaire that the SMN will be granted "long term use
rights" to a facility located on the concessionaire,s
property. NAS funds have been earmarked to assist the GOP in
reconstructing its Atlantic side pier facilities for the SMN.
Embassy is currently working closely with the SMN to begin
construction on the pier and associated facilities.
--------------------------------------------- -------------
Component 3: Develop a force protection arrangement to cover
Canal transits by nuclear-powered U.S. submarines.
--------------------------------------------- -------------
5. (C) This component focuses on force protection procedures
for high value transits (HVTs) through the Canal. The
Consejo is consulting with the Panama Canal Authority (ACP)
and security-related GOP agencies. The GOP appears willing
to conclude an arrangement whereby force protection
procedures will be incorporated into ACP regulations. A
formal GOP reply/counter-proposal is expected by mid-March;
we are optimistic that we can conclude some kind of agreement
before the current government leaves office September 1, 2004.
--------------------------------------------- ------------
Component 4: Support the creation of an analytical unit to
monitor freight and container movements to enhance security.
--------------------------------------------- -------------
6. (SBU) Implementation of the U.S. Customs, Container
Security Initiative (CSI) will facilitate the creation of
such a unit. A CSI port assessment team visited Panama
mid-January 2004. Post is awaiting the results of that
assessment. (NOTE: Roughly 4 million containers (TEU)
transited the Panama Canal in 2003; approximately 2 million
containers (TEUs) were handled in Panama's ports; but, only
75 thousand containers were loaded onto ships in Panamanian
ports and ended up in the U.S. (2002 stats).
--------------------------------------------- --------------
Component 5: Press the GOP to create port captaincies with
national security/law enforcement authority or port security
chief positions to coordinate these functions.
--------------------------------------------- --------------
7. (C) The GOP has designated the AMP with port captaincy
responsibility instead of the SMN, as reflected by absence of
authorizing text in the most recent draft of the SMN,s
Organic Law. However, to create a check and balance on the
AMP, the Embassy is considering advocating that the AMP be
required to designate a law enforcement officer from the SMN
to be located at each port to assist the captain of the port.
Comment: our concern about the AMP fulfilling this role is
twofold - first, the AMP is debilitated by graft and
corruption; second, the AMP does not have the law enforcement
authority or capability to serve as the port captaincy.
--------------------------------------------- -----------
Component 6: Urge implementation of legislative/regulatory
enhancements necessary for Export Controls and the
International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code
--------------------------------------------- -----------
8. (C) Export Controls: The USG through the State
Department,s Export Control and Related Border Security
Assistance (EX-BIS) program and the Department of Commerce,s
Transshipment Country Export Control Initiative (TECI) is
working with Panama to develop and improve its
export/transshipment controls. The GOP sent a team of key
decision-makers to Washington to work with Commerce, Customs,
and State Department officials December 8-11, 2003 to, inter
alia, review the legal requirements for establishing an
export control law and to improve its export/transshipment
controls. Based on that visit the GOP has committed to
introducing draft legislation to control the export,
re-export, transit and transshipment of strategic items
through the territory of Panama by April 2004.
9. (C) ISPS: The AMP is making considerable headway in this
endeavor, despite resistance from the powerful and
politically motivated Panama Maritime Lawyers Association.
After designating Phoenix Services group (a U.S. company) as
the primary Recognized Security Organization (RSO) for
vessels in August 2003, AMP responded to Japanese shipping
companies, concerns by designating two additional RSO,s on
December 15: Singapore based Singapore Technologies and
London-based Universe Security Group. The AMP has begun
receiving applications for ship security plans, and has
completed the reviews of some key shipping lines like Ned
Lloyd. The AMP fully recognizes that it will not/not certify
all of the required vessels in its fleet prior to the July 1
deadline. AMP officials note that it expects to certify all
ships above 1500 GMTs by the deadline, but that the laggards
will be those ships between 500 - 1500 GMTs. AMP officials
note that most of the Panamanian flagged fleet (approximately
70 percent) never travel to the U.S.
10. (C) The AMP has also made the preliminary announcement
of a second layer of "verifying RSO,s" that will physically
match individual security plans to specific vessels.
Unfortunately three of the designated verifying RSO,s from
Panama appear to be USCG Priority 1, or blacklisted, on
safety grounds. Nonetheless, the AMP has maintained that
including these societies was politically necessary to
appease local industry. AMP argues that since evaluations
for security are distinct from those for safety, it's
premature to discard these RSO,s. Finally, the AMP has
assured the USG that should any of these RSOs fail in the
security arena, the AMP would have a "One strike and you're
out" policy.
--------------------------------------------- ------------
Component 7: Urge the passage of an organic law for the SMN
to provide a framework for its institutional development and
for implementation of professional programs with stability
for key personnel.
--------------------------------------------- -------------
11. (C) The organic law, approved by the Moscoso Cabinet,
was submitted to Panama's legislative Assembly for passage in
early December 2003. Whether ultimately passed or not, the
organic law will at minimum take effect as a "Ley Ejecutivo."
The law defines the SMN's primarily law enforcement mission
and protects the institution and personnel (Ref L). Some
observers have criticized the organic law as inadequate to
meet the SMN's bureacratic needs. However, the law gives the
SMN greater legitimacy and could help buttress the SMN's
bureaucratic strength, if the SMN were able to find a
Director with better political skills than the current one.
--------------------------------------------- -------------
Component 8: Negotiate a bilateral agreement on cooperation
in homicide, kidnapping and terrorism cases on the high seas.
--------------------------------------------- -------------
12. (C) State's L/OES is currently preparing instructions
containing a draft MOU proposed by USCG HQ.
--------------------------------------------- ----------
Component 9: Push for control and verification of Panama,s
maritime security and ISPS compliance by a national authority
like the Consejo
--------------------------------------------- ----------
13. (C) The Consejo has been assigned the responsibility of
inter-agency coordination of Panama,s maritime security to
include working with Panama,s Maritime Authority (AMP) on
ISPS compliance. This marks a major step forward for Panama.
--------------------------------------------- ---------
Component 10: Negotiation of a Proliferation Security
Initiative (PSI) Boarding Agreement with Panama
--------------------------------------------- ---------
14. (C) As laid out in ref K, the GOP is open to negotiating
and concluding a boarding agreement to target ships suspected
of carrying weapons of mass destruction (WMD), delivery
systems and/or related materials. However, the GOP has
indicated its preference that the supplemental maritime
agreement signed on February 5, 2002, between the USG's Coast
Guard, the GOP's National Maritime Service (SMN) and
National Air Service (SAN), be amended to fulfill the purpose
of a PSI agreement. Post is optimistic that with the
guidance provided in Ref M (dated 4 Feb 04) we will be able
to move forward with amendment of the supplemental maritime
agreement to fulfill USG PSI objectives.
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media