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Ship Registration in BVI

Ship Registration in BVI

The Virgin Islands Shipping Registry is the authority in charge of the implementation of the Maritime policies and regulations applicable to all vessels that navigate the waters of the Islands.

Ship registration in BVI is a multi-step process that applies to vessels, yachts or otherwise, owned by a BVI offshore company or a natural person.

An important advantage when registering a ship under the BVI Flag is that this jurisdiction is part of the Red Ensign Group, comprised of the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories, including the British Virgin Islands, Isle of Man and others. The Red Ensign offers international advantages, apart from the fact that it is a recognized Category 1 ship registry. Ships that have the Red Ensign flag can receive British diplomatic or consular support and can have access to technical expertise from the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

What is the ship registration authority in BVI?

The Virgin Islands Shipping Registry is the one that receives the applications for the registration of vessels. The owners must be eligible for registration, meaning that they must qualify either as corporate bodies registered in BVI or as individuals. For companies, the representative must submit the valid Certificate of Incorporation and individuals need to provide proof of nationality, such as a passport.

Registration certificates for small vessels (under 24 meters) are issued in approximately four working days 

What is the ship registration process in BVI?

The list below includes the main steps needed for ship registration in BVI:

  • • Name reservation: this is a pre-registration step and the ship’s name needs to be approved by the registrar; the reservation period is limited.
  • • Survey: the ship is inspected in order to confirm its characteristics; the process is handled by classified societies.
  • • Application: once the survey is complete, the one making the registration can submit the required documents.
  • • The Carving and Marking Note: this is issued once the registrar confirms that the ship is eligible for registration.
  • • The Certificate of registry: the Registry can issue a provisional certificate first, which will be followed by the Certificate of British Registry.

The registration process can be lengthier in some cases and this is why we recommend preparing all of the documents and making the submissions as required by the authorities in order to avoid delays caused by incomplete or improper submissions. 

These steps are only a general guideline on the process for registering vessels in BVI. Please reach out to our team of agents who specialize in BVI company formation who can also inform you of the registration requirements for vessels owned by local offshore companies.

The ship radio and telecommunications licenses are issued by the BVI Telecommunications Regulatory Commission and interested individuals must submit a special application for this purpose.

The documents that are required by the Registry when submitting the application include the builder’s certificate, the bill of sale and other documents. When the ship was previously registered elsewhere, the applicant will need to obtain an official transcript from the previous register indicating that the vessel is free from encumbrances. 

The applicant will also need to submit a declaration of eligibility which shows that the owner is qualified to own a BVI vessel. 

Different registration fees apply according to the size of the vessel (there are two fees applicable, the registration fee and the annual fee).

What are some of the advantages of registering a ship in BVI?

As previously stated, the British Virgin Islands are part of the Red Ensign and this allows for internationally accepted yacht registration as well as international certificates. In some cases, provisional registration is possible in BVI and this may come as an advantage for some ship owners. The registration process, as well as the registration of ship mortgages,  is a simple one. Owners can also handle the change or transfer of ownership in a simplified manner. The political stability in the British Virgin Islands and the fact that the judicial system is British are other advantages.

You can register a ship in BVI even if you do not have British Virgin Islands residency. Our team can give you details about the conditions in this case.

BVI is a recognized international financial center and many investors are interested in BVI company formation. Those who are also interested in owning a yacht or another type of vessel, either for leisure or tourism purposes, can register their ship under the BVI flag.

Our partner lawyers in BVI offer a wide range of legal services for businesses of all sizes. If you are interested in matters other than ship registration and maritime law, our local attorneys can answer questions about business and commercial law, employment and tax law, debt collection, intellectual property, contract law and many more (including legal issues that may concern individuals, such as trust and inheritance).

For detailed information on registering a ship in BVI once you have opened a company here, please contact our agents who specialize in BVI company incorporation