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Introduction

Gibraltar’s key location at the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea and its quality Ship Register has made it an important commercial and maritime centre.

With Gibraltar being a common law jurisdiction as well, it is a very attractive jurisdiction for those considering the registration of their vessel. It has a separate register for commercial and pleasure vessels, however, there is no size limit for pleasure vessels.

Advantages of registering in Gibraltar

The Gibraltar Ship register is a member of the Category 1 Red Ensign Group of the UK and the UK dependency registers. The Gibraltar Ship register is also considered to be a Member State’s register for the EU and a vessel registered in Gibraltar is a UK ship registered in the Port of Gibraltar. This entitles a Gibraltar registered ship access to EU cabotage rights, resulting in a reduction in Port fees across the EU.

Gibraltar is bound by all international conventions and agreements in relation to shipping and safety which have been ratified by the United Kingdom thus giving vessels registered in Gibraltar the same status as that of any other British registry.

In fact, the Gibraltar Ship Registry has “White List” status under the Paris MoU, meaning that Gibraltar registered ships are much less likely to be targeted for inspection by Port State Control inspectors in other countries. This affords ship owners additional peace of mind for their operations at sea.

One special feature of the Gibraltar Register is the strict security for mortgagees since no ship will be de-registered without the mortgage being discharged first or without the mortgagees’ consent.

Gibraltar’s common law system provides various advantages to banks and other financial institutions who wish to provide finance to ship owners. Many of the major international ship financing banks favour Gibraltar’s Ship Registry for precisely these advantages, some of which are outlined below:-

Priority of mortgages

If there is more than one mortgage registered by different mortgagees against the same ship, or a share in a ship, the mortgagees rank in priority between each other according to the date and time at which each mortgage was recorded in the Registry and not according to their respective dates and times.

Mortgagee has power of sale

Every mortgagee whose interest has been recorded in the Registry has the power to sell the mortgaged ship or share. The first recorded mortgagee can do this without a court order and without the consent of any subsequent recorded mortgagee.

Subsequent recorded mortgagees may not sell a ship or share mortgaged in their favour without a court order and without the agreement of all recorded prior mortgagees.

Mortgagee may take title

A single recorded mortgagee may take valid title to a ship, or a share in the ship, without a court order and without the agreement of the owner or of any other third party.

If there is more than one mortgage registered by different mortgagees against the same ship, or a share therein, the agreement of all registered mortgagees is necessary before any one or more of them may take valid title.

All of the above may also be done with the sanction of a court order.

Registration process

The registration of vessels in Gibraltar is undertaken by the Ship Registry in relation to commercial vessels and the Yacht Registry in respect of pleasure craft. The Maritime Administrator has primary responsibility for the Register which benefits from Category 1 status with unrestricted registration, except for nuclear powered vessels and fishing vessels.

The following Classification Societies are approved by the Gibraltar Register: Lloyd’s Register, American Bureau of Shipping, Germanischer Lloyd, Bureau Vertias and Det Norske Veritas.

Vessels over 20 years will need to be surveyed and will only be accepted with the Registry’s approval after the appropriate survey is carried out.

In addition to British citizens (including Dependant Territory citizens and British overseas citizens) the Registry allows nationals of EU countries to register ships in Gibraltar as individuals.

The emphasis and policy of the register is on the quality of the vessel. Therefore, each vessel prior to being accepted will be inspected by either class or the Registry’s appointed surveyor. The Gibraltar register upholds a high standard of maritime safety and vessels must comply with the applicable requirements of international conventions and Codes of Practice relating to maritime safety and pollution prevention. The Maritime Administrator or the nominated surveyor will visit a registered ship every five years to check its safety equipment and undertake a general inspection to ensure that the highest standards are being maintained.

Services

Our firm is experienced in this field and we take care of all matters in connection with the registration of a ship in Gibraltar. Our firm also works in collaboration with a ship management and marine consultants company and as a result is able to offer a ‘one stop shop’ service to owners and managers of commercial vessels and yachts. Our services include:

  • Registration of yachts and ships in Gibraltar;
  • All aspects of ship financing, to include drawing up deed of covenants and mortgage deeds and registration of mortgages at the ship registry and/or Companies House;
  • Deletions of vessels from the register;
  • Renewing registration certificates for vessels and their ship station licences;
  • Registered agent services; and
  • Survey, inspection and audit and other associated services.