Europa Trust Company Ltd, through its Europa Marine Consultants Ltd subsidiary, provides a full range of personal services to seafarers of all vessels by providing services for both private and commercial vessels.
Our experienced and dedicated team can assist vessel owners of all sizes on the following:
Worldwide yacht and vessel registrations and renewals
Procurement of marine insurance
Procurement of legal, tax and notarial services
Establishment of corporate holding structures
Vessel name and registry checks
Safekeeping of documents while you are at sea
Preparation and registration of charges
Marine crew licenses and payment set-ups
Contracts for sale and purchase of vessels
British flag registrations
British registration is recognised as one of the most popular means of safeguarding a marine investment. Any foreign national, through a Gibraltar company, can own and register a vessel on the British Register of Shipping. Gibraltar is a British port of registry where vessels can enjoy British registration without being liable for payment of VAT. The register provides security, good title, and comparative ease of registration with adequate safeguards. It is neat, safe and does no harm to the international reputation of the Registry. It also provides the user with all the protection, and obligations, of registration under the British flag including the assistance of embassies and consulates worldwide.
What is Vessel Registration?
Vessel registration has been in practice in one form or another since the earliest days of trading across the seas. It was used as a means to protect local markets by regulating ships transporting cargo among European nations and to ensuring that ships were built locally and used local crews.
Today, vessel registration is used to document a vessel’s ownership in order to provide evidence of its nationality for international law purposes.
Every vessel wishing to travel internationally must be registered. The nationality of a vessel allows it to travel wherever citizens of that nation are authorised to travel. Financing entities may be willing or able to provide funding opportunities to ships flying certain flags and not others due to laws allowing or prohibiting financial transactions with certain nations.
The country with which a vessel is registered is called its “flag state” and the vessel is bound by the laws of that state. The flag state exercises regulatory control over the vessel and is required by international agreements to inspect the vessel, certify its equipment and crew, and issue safety and environmental protection documents. The organisation that registers the ship and certifies it for compliance is known as the “registry.” Every nation’s registration requirements are different. For example, there may be different requirements for vessels of certain sizes, uses, and passenger or cargo occupancy.
Vessel registration in England is rooted in the Navigation Acts of 1660. Pleasure vessels were not covered because these acts were concerned with the protection of trade. Another reason they were not registered, was that recreational sailing was still in its infancy. Later, the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 set out the law relating to the registration of British ships. It dealt with nationality, title of ownership and mortgages. The act applied to the whole British Empire. As a result, this act provided the original legal framework for registration in many countries that were once part of the British Empire.
The Advantages of Gibraltar
Gibraltar is an important commercial and maritime centre due to its strategic geographical location at the entrance to the Mediterranean. Gibraltar has been referred to” Britain in the sun” – in reality it is “Britain in the Mediterranean”.
The merchant shipping and yachting laws of Gibraltar may be found in the Merchant Shipping Act and the Merchant Shipping (Registration) Act. These are based on the English merchant shipping acts from 1894 to 1988. Due to its busy port and maritime tradition, Gibraltar is at the forefront of maritime law.
The Gibraltar Yacht Registry
The Gibraltar Yacht Registry is an internationally recognised, high-quality and modern registry. It is an ideal choice for pleasure craft owners wanting confidence in belonging to a British registry and the flying the Red Ensign.
The Gibraltar yacht registry is a fully fledged British, category one Red Ensign register with the same status as any other British register.
Advantages as a Port of Registry
There are many advantages to registering a vessel in Gibraltar, particularly from the point of view of security and reliability. Vessels registered in Gibraltar are registered on the British flag. International conventions and agreements regarding shipping and safety, ratified by the United Kingdom, apply to Gibraltar.
- The vessel will fly the British Red Ensign (bearing the armorial coat of arms of Gibraltar) and enjoy the international recognition, protection and unrivalled prestige that comes with it.
- The ability to seek assistance from any of the British embassies and consulates worldwide where the vessel may be situated and protection by the Royal Navy.
- Legal title of vessel ownership on registration of transfer of ownership is a straightforward process.
- All vital details concerning the vessel is contained in the register, and in the certificate of British registry (“blue book “).
- The register provides security as to title because it is a public record, open to inspection by interested parties such as buyers or potential lenders (legitimate confidentiality can be arranged).
- The register enables the owner to dispose of the vessel easily in a cost effective and timely manner.
- No vessel will be de-registered without the mortgage first being discharged or the mortgagee’s consent.
Gibraltar has a unique position within the European Union and registration of a vessel in Gibraltar provides access to benefits such as exemption from Value Added Tax (VAT). As a British overseas territory within Europe, Gibraltar is part of the European Union (EU). However, it does not form part of the EU’s Common Customs Union. This means that Gibraltar is outside the Value Added Tax zone and has no VAT system. When you register a vessel in Gibraltar the favourable tax regime means you pay:
- no VAT in Gibraltar
- no import duty (provided the vessel is not permanently based in Gibraltar)
- no tax on the sale of the vessel.
Where the vessel is registered in the name of a Gibraltar company, the earnings of that company are not liable to tax (provided they were accrued or derived outside Gibraltar, such as yacht chartering).
Ideally, two or more vessels should be registered in the name of separate companies. Sister vessels will be protected from debts incurred by other vessels within the fleet.
Gibraltar’s position at the gateway to the Mediterranean provides a convenient port of call for merchant vessels, cruise liners and yachts. It has a deep sea port for berthing large ships and a choice of three marinas for yachts. There are total of 400 berths with depths of up to 4.5m, capable of taking super yachts up to 90 m in length.
Berthing rates are competitive and our team would be very happy to arrange a reservation for you.
Because Gibraltar is VAT free, general repairs; provisions; freshwater; and spares can be obtained at competitive rates. Crew can organise their personal affairs from Gibraltar including everything from banking, investments, insurance, health, legal and tax affairs.
Gibraltar also benefits from an international airport.
Who may register a vessel on the Gibraltar (British) flag?
In principle everyone may benefit from the Gibraltar flag. The manner of acquiring the benefit varies according to nationality.
British citizens, European Union and European Economic Area nationals may register a vessel in their own names, provided they have a majority interest in the vessel. However, it is often more beneficial for British and non-British individuals to use a company to own and operate a vessel.
Corporate registration is a solution for persons who do not qualify to register a vessel as an individual. Companies registered in the European Union, the European Economic Area, Foreign Marine Entities and Gibraltar companies may register a vessel in their name.
We can arrange the incorporation of your own Gibraltar company or a company in a jurisdiction suitable for your domicile, residence and tax status.
Using a corporate structure to own and operate a vessel provides a degree privacy to the ultimate owner, because otherwise, their name will appear on vessel documentation. It also limits liability in the event of a claim. Claims may arise from third-party agreements (for example maintenance, repairs etc), employment of crew members, or when negotiating the purchase or construction of the vessel.
Sale of the vessel by transferring the shares of the company may facilitate an easier, speedier and more cost-effective transfer of the vessel. A corporate structure may also assist in overcoming costly inheritance issues.
The requirements of vessel registration depend on the type of registration applied for and the dimensions of the vessel. The type of registration may be pleasure, commercial, or bareboat charter. Vessels over 24 m in length will be required to provide additional documentation, including surveys.
Our experienced team will be happy to attend to the registration process for you.
Name and Clearance
Clearance must be obtained from the Registry by undertaking a name check to ensure the proposed name is different to any other British registered vessel.
Once the name clearance has been received from the Registry, the owner may make an application to the Registrar for registration.
The vessel must undergo a tonnage survey. It is not necessary for the vessel to be physically surveyed within Gibraltar.
Over 24 Metres
Pleasure vessels over 24m require an International Tonnage Survey. This may be arranged with one of the approved classification societies:
- American Bureau of Shipping
- Bureau Veritas
- Det Norske Veritas
- Germanischer Lloyd
- Lloyd’s Register of Shipping
- The Royal Institution of Naval Architects –RINA
- Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (known as ClassNK or NK)
Pleasure Vessels under 24 metres
Pleasure vessels under 24m require a Tonnage Measurement Survey. This may be arranged with one of the approved classification societies and also:
- The Yacht Brokers, Designers & Surveyors Association
- MECAL Limited
- The Society of Consulting Marine Engineers & Ship Surveyors
Large Commercial Yacht Code (LY2)
Vessels operating commercially that are over 24m (and under 3000GT) carrying up to 12 passengers, are required to comply with the UK Large Commercial Yacht Code (LY2). The Gibraltar Maritime Administration will issue the appropriate certification following a successful survey.
Passenger Yacht Code (PYC)
Vessels operating commercially that want to carry more than 12 passengers (up to a maximum of 36) must comply with the Passenger Yacht Code (PYC). The Gibraltar Maritime Administration will issue the appropriate certification following a successful survey.
Evidence of Title or Ownership
The owner must provide evidence of title (in other words proof of ownership) to the Registrar.
Where a vessel is new or has not been registered previously, a builder’s certificate (and where applicable, bills of sale) to prove the owner’s link to the vessel.
Where the vessel is pre-owned, a notarial bill of sale must be produced to the registrar.
If vessel has been previously registered, then that registration will have to first be cancelled. The Certificate of Deletion must be submitted to the Registrar, together with the application for re-registration.
Marking the Vessel
Before the vessel is registered (except where it is under construction) it must be marked permanently on the main beam or on a suitable visible part of the main structure, with its official name and number.
When the Registrar is satisfied that the vessel is eligible to be registered and has received the certificate of survey, a carving and marking note will be issued.
Issue of a Certificate of Registration
Once satisfied that everything is in order, the Registrar will issue the Certificate of Registration or “Blue Book” which is much loved by yachtsmen, but now issued only in certain Overseas Territories, such as Gibraltar!
Ship Station License
It is an offence to install or use any radio equipment on board a Gibraltar registered ship, craft, hovercraft, lightship or oilrig or other vessel predominantly moored in the Gibraltar waters without a radio licence. A licence is required even if the transmitting equipment is not in constant use, or if it is used only for distress purposes.
The vessel must be registered with the Ship Registry, Yacht Registry or Gibraltar Port Authority before a Ship Station Licence can be issued.
Licences do not transfer on change of vessel ownership.
If a vessel has been sold, details of the new owner’s name and address must be sent to the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority. If you have purchased a new vessel, a new application will need to be made to obtain a new Licence.
You are strongly advised to keep the Ship Station Licence documents with the equipment when you travel abroad. Foreign licensing administrations may confiscate the radio equipment where a valid Licence cannot be produced on demand.
What the Licence Covers
The Ship Station Licence will allow you to use or keep any combination of maritime radio equipment. The Licence allows you to use:
- MF, HF, VHF maritime equipment;
- satellite communications equipment (Ship Earth Stations);
- low powered on board communications equipment;
- on board repeater stations; and
- 406MHz and 1.6 GHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBS).
None of the equipment, including safety equipment such as maritime 406MHz and 1.6 GHz EPIRBs, is licensed for use on land. You will need a Licence for EPIRB equipment, even if EPIRBs are the only type of Radio Equipment you choose to carry.
The equipment will be authorised to operate on international maritime frequencies only. Details of the international maritime VHF channels that you will be licensed to use may be obtained on request.
Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs)
An Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) is a small self-contained battery operated radio transmitter the primary purpose of which is to alert the appropriate emergency service, and to assist in determining the position of survivors in search and rescue operations. The 406 MHz EPIRBs must be coded with the Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number of the vessel on which it is carried.
Type Approval and Equipment
Your radio equipment must meet certain minimum performance standards. These require the equipment, for example, to operate in certain environmental conditions. The specifications are designed to avoid interference being caused to others and are an essential safety of life requirement.
It is in your personal interest that the equipment meets these operating specifications.
You are strongly advised to ensure that your equipment is type approved maritime equipment and to check that the equipment has passed the appropriate type approval tests.
A callsign will be allocated to the vessel when the radio equipment on the vessel is first licensed. It remains with the vessel even if there is a change of ownership or change of vessel name.
Callsigns are not transferable from one owner to another. If you decide to change the name of the vessel after the apparatus has been licensed, you must apply for an amended Licence.
Maritime Mobile Service Identities (MMSIs)
An MMSI number is a unique 9-digit identification assigned to a vessel for use in Digital Selective Calling (DSC) alerting or EPIRB identification. To be issued with an MMSI, the vessel must be fitted with DSC equipment, an EPIRB, or a Ship Earth Satellite Station (SES). If the radio equipment is already licensed and you wish to add an MMSI or MMSI Digital Selective Calling facility, you will need to amend your licence. The MMSI number will be added to the Ship Station Licence. The ITU will be provided with details of your MMSI number that will also be made available to port authorities to assist in the operation of the safety and distress service.
Selective Calling (SELCALL)
A Selcall number is a code which when programmed into radio equipment will automatically alert that system for signals meant for that station only. The allocation and usage is confined to commercial vessels and/or for business use. If approved, your Selcall number will be added to the List of Ship Stations published by the ITU and your Licence Document. If you require a Selective Call number, this must be specifically requested.
The fee depends on whether the vessel is used for solely pleasure or commercial purposes. There is a two-tier rate. One for commercial users and another for solely pleasure users.
Pleasure use relates to a vessel that is used solely for recreational purposes and not for trade or profit, and in respect of which the owner or user receives no payment in cash or in kind from any person other than as a contribution to the direct expenses, such as fuel, mooring fees etc., involved in the operation of the vessel during a voyage or excursion.
Fee levels may vary year-to-year and are set by the Government of Gibraltar
You are required to appoint a local contact (agent) in Gibraltar. This should be the same local contact as provided to the Ship or Yacht Registry. This is necessary for correspondence and service of documents regarding the licence.
- Yacht and vessel registrations and renewals
- Radio licensing
- Vessel name checks
- Safekeeping of your important documents while you are at sea
- Berthing reservations
- Preparation and registration of charges
- Procurement of marine insurance
- Procurement of legal and notarial services
- Establishment of corporate vehicle structures
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does It Take To Register A Yacht?
All transactions submitted to the registry are processed within 24hrs (of the next working day) of submission of the relevant forms, required documentation and respective fees.
Can Transactions Be Processed On The Same Day?
Same day processing is available provided applications are submitted before the closing of the public counter (12h45) at the Yacht Registry together with an urgency fee.
Do I Need A Local Representative?
If the owner(s) making up the majority interest (i.e. 33 shares) is not resident in Gibraltar, a Representative Person/Registered Agent must be appointed.
Can I Renew My Registration In Advance?
Registrations can be renewed earliest two months before its expiry date.