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Central America 2016: Transport

Panama has the strongest transport market by some distance. Undoubtedly the largest project in the sector has been the $5.2 billion Panama Canal Expansion, which is set to create a new lane of traffic through the waterway and double the canal’s capacity. It is predicted that the expansion will shift international trade routes for larger vessels, and boost trade from the US East Coast and Gulf Coast through to Asia. Patton, Moreno & Asvat and Decastro & Robles boast “market-leading” maritime practices, while Arias Fábrega & Fábrega, one of Panama’s oldest and largest firms, retains a strong presence in the country.

The country’s aviation sector has experienced a more turbulent year. Its largest airline, Copa Airlines, recently revised its capacity targets for 2016 down to 2 per cent growth, having struggled to fight the effects of a contracting Latin American economy over the past year. Despite this, the company continues to add to its route networks, and along with the ongoing expansion of Tocumen International Airport, Panama looks set to build on its reputation as a regional aviation hub.

Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic are the next largest regional markets. New start-up carrier Dominican Wings, founded by Lithuanian air operator Avion Express, began operations earlier this year with direct flights from Las Americas International Airport in Santo Domingo, to Trinidad and Tobago, and looks to expand its routes across the region. The launch of the airline coincides with a boom in the country’s tourist industry, and is set to cater to the charter market, working alongside tour operators and other airlines.

The Costa Rican aviation market also received a boost last July, with the announcement of plans from the Viva airline group to begin operating low-cost flights out from San José to the rest of Central America. With the project forecast to greatly enhance Costa Rica’s tourism industry, and increase its appeal to foreign investors, it would seem that the need for sector-leading legal counsel is on the rise. 

Costa Rica

At Nassar Abogados, president and founder of the firm Tomás Nassar Perez is “a sensational practitioner” who is known for his “superb knowledge” of maritime law. He is joined by the “incredibly bright” Alina Nassar who is considered among peers to be “one of the leading aviation lawyers in Costa Rica”.

BLP is represented by two impressive individuals in this chapter, including the “terrific” David Gutiérrez, who wins praise for his “strong dealmaking skills” in relation to aviation finance. Ronald Lachner is “a consummate expert in aviation law” and is commended for his “excellent attention to detail”.

Roberto Esquivel at Oller Abogados is “a top-tier practitioner” and is regarded as “a firm favourite” when it comes to aviation regulatory cases.   

At Sfera Legal, Javier Escalante runs “a first-rate aviation practice”, and is particularly recommended for his “exceptional understanding of the market”.

Arias y Muñoz is represented by the “truly brilliant” Carlos Camacho, who delivers “pragmatic and insightful counsel” to clients when advising them on obtaining permits and complying with Costa Rican aviation and transportation regulations.

Dominican Republic

At Pellerano & Herrera, the “commercially minded” Luis Pellerano is “the go-to lawyer” regarding aviation finance in the Dominican Republic. Urania Paulino delivers “innovative and tailored solutions” to clients, who include JetBlue Airway Corporation, on all regulatory and safety issues relating to the Dominican aviation market.

Maria Esther Fernández Alvarez de Pou runs “a stellar aeronautics practice” at Russin Vecchi & Heredia Bonetti, and is described by peers as “a fantastic practitioner”.

Mesa & Mesa Abogados is represented by the highly regarded Rodolfo Mesa Chavez. As one peer states, “His comprehensive knowledge of aviation law makes him an asset to clients.”

At Jiménez Cruz Peña, founding partner Marcos Peña is recognised as “one of the finest practitioners in the country” in relation to aviation disputes.


At Arias & Muñoz, Mario Agüero is an up-and-coming practitioner known for his “great commercial understanding” and for delivering “top-notch advice” to companies in the aviation industry, including air operators.


Four impressive individuals at Patton Moreno & Asvat are listed this year, including the “fantastic” Ebrahim Asvat who wins praise for his “widely respected ship finance practice”. Alongside him, Belisario Porras is “a first-rate attorney”, and is considered among peers to be “a font of knowledge when it comes to maritime law”. Maria de Lourdes Marengo is recognised for her “market-leading practice” which encompasses both shipping and aviation financing. María Teresa Díaz focuses her practice on shipping and ship finance law, and is described by clients as “an experienced gifted lawyer”.

At Decastro & Robles, Alberto Lopez Tom is considered “a heavyweight litigator”, who is praised for his “invaluable experience before Panama’s maritime courts”. Founding partner David Robles has a longstanding reputation in maritime law and his knowledge is said to be “second to none”. Gabriel Sosa is “a cut above the rest” in relation to his shipping litigation practice, in which he regularly represents clients before Panama’s maritime courts and arbitration tribunals.

Roy Durling Jr is one of three leading lawyers at Arias Fábrega & Fábrega who garner inclusion this year. He is regarded by peers and clients alike as “a superb practitioner”, and is renowned for his “exceptional shipping and aviation finance work”. Jorge Loaiza III heads the firm’s shipping and transportation group. His involvement in amendments made to the maritime judicial procedure as well as the merchant marine administration; market commentators consider him “a true authority in the field”. Gian Castillero Guiraud is also a noted figure for his standout maritime practice.

Two leading practitioners at Morgan & Morgan achieve listings this year for their impressive work, including the “distinguished” Juan David Morgan Jr, who heads the firm’s maritime litigation practice and is recognised for his “calm and measured approach to cases”. Enrique de Alba is the director of the ship finance and registration practice group. He possesses “extensive experience” in both domestic and international maritime matters, and is known for his “exceptional work” dealing with bareboat charter agreements and naval mortgages.

At Galindo Arias y López, Ramón Ricardo Arias Porras is “extremely well regarded among peers” and wins praise for his “expert handling of air-transport cases”. Cristina Lewis de la Guardia is recommended by clients as “a commercially-minded practitioner” and is “well versed” in Panamanian aviation finance.

At Benedetti & Benedetti, founding partner Alida Benedetti runs “an accomplished maritime practice” and is recognised for her “astute legal mind”.

Lorenzo Marquinez at Alemán Cordero Galindo & Lee is commended by peers for his “sharp intellect”, and is “very knowledgeable” when it comes to aviation regulation law.

At his own firm, Francisco Carreira Pitti is known for his “terrific practice” that encompasses a broad range of maritime matters.

Juan José Espino deals with Panamanian aviation and maritime law at Pardini & Associates, and wins praise for his “fantastic work” by clients who include airlines and marine transportation companies.

At Icaza González-Ruiz Alemán, Joel Medina possesses “comprehensive knowledge of maritime and admiralty law” and is admired for his “insightful counsel and professionalism”.

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