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Law

Merchant shipping and yachting laws in Gibraltar are based on the English Merchant Shipping Acts 1894 to 1988. The relevant Gibraltar Law is the Merchant Shipping Act and the Merchant Shipping (Registration) Act.

What Vessels can be Registered in Gibraltar?

Pleasure yachts of any size can be registered in the Gibraltar Registry of Pleasure Yachts.

Generally any commercial vessel can be registered in the Gibraltar Commercial Ships Register except fishing vessels and ships with nuclear reactors.

Category 1 Red Ensign Group Register

The Gibraltar Commercial Ships Register is a Category 1 Red Ensign Register where all types of commercial vessels of unlimited tonnage can be registered under the British flag. Surveys can be carried out locally.

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.

There are already many pleasure yachts and ships registered in Gibraltar and the advantages which this confers are considerable.

Who Can Register in Gibraltar?

In practice the easiest way for a foreign national to register a vessel in Gibraltar is to use a Gibraltar company. This allows a person of any nationality to use the Gibraltar Registry of Ships or Registry of Pleasure Yachts and can also confer numerous tax advantages.

However, as of right, the following persons and entities qualify to register in Gibraltar as long as they are the owners of a majority share in the vessels:

  • British citizens, British Dependent Territories citizens, British overseas citizens, British subjects and British overseas nationals; persons who under the Hong Kong (British Nationality) Order 1986 are British Nationals (Overseas);
  • Citizens of the Republic of Ireland;
  • Citizens of and companies registered in the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA);
  • Citizens of the following countries:- (a) Argentina; (b) Aruba; (c) Bahrain; (d) Brazil; (e) the Canary Islands; (f) China; (g) the Faroe Islands; (h) Haiti; (i) Israel; (j) Japan; (k) Liberia; (l) Madeira; (m) the Marshall Islands; (n) Monaco; (o) Panama; (p) South Korea; (q) Switzerland; (r) Suriname; (s) the United Arab Emirates; (t) and the United States of America;
  • Gibraltar Companies;
  • Foreign Maritime Entities (foreign entities which are authorised and have power to own and operate ships can under certain special circumstances qualify to register in Gibraltar).

Fast & High Quality Cost Effective Service

Our firm is experienced in this field and we take care of all matters in connection with the registration of a yacht or ship in Gibraltar. The actual registration procedures are very quick. However, obtaining survey reports and certificates from classification societies can take some time.

Prestige & Competitive Rates

Gibraltar is a fully fledged British Category 1 Registry with the same status as any other British Registry. Yacht registration charges are highly competitive. Ship registration charges and annual tonnage taxes are also more favourable than in other British Registries. Yacht and Ship owners can, therefore, enjoy the prestige and advantages of registration in a Category 1 British Port whilst paying competitive rates.

Yacht & Ship-Owning Gibraltar Companies

The earnings of Gibraltar yacht and ship-owning companies are not liable to tax in Gibraltar. It can, therefore, be of added advantage to register a vessel in the name of a Gibraltar company.

Protection from Debts of Sister Ships

Gibraltar companies can be used to register fleets of ships so that each ship is owned by a different company. In this way the other ships in the fleet will be protected against Debts owed by any of its sister ships.

No Import Duty

No Import Duty is payable by non-resident owners when registering a vessel in Gibraltar under a British Flag.

REGISTRATION OF YACHTS

Introduction

Pleasure yachts of any size can be registered in the Gibraltar Yacht Registry. Yachts less than 24 metres in length which are in commercial use may also be registered at the Gibraltar Yacht Registry. The registration requirements for both pleasure and small commercial yachts are exactly the same except that an extra certificate needs to be produced by an approved classification society for the latter namely, a “Certificate for Small Vessels in Commercial Use”. The service provided is fast and efficient and provided that the survey is organised quickly a yacht can be registered in about one week.

Application Form, Declaration of Ownership & Name of Yacht

An application form and declaration of ownership must be completed by the owner.

A name which is different to any other British registered vessel must be submitted for approval which can be confirmed within 24 hours and sometimes in the same day.

Evidence of Title

Evidence of title must be submitted. If the vessel is new or has never been registered before, a builder’s certificate and subsequent Bills of Sale which link the owner to the vessel must be provided. For an older vessel or one which has been registered before, a sequence of Bills of Sale tracing ownership either from the builder’s certificate onwards or for the last 5 years must be submitted.

Survey & Classification Societies

A tonnage measurement survey must be carried out either locally by the Port Surveyor or by one of the approved classification societies detailed below.

  • American Bureau of Shipping;
  • Bureau Veritas;
  • Det Norske Veritas;
  • Germanisher Lloyd;
  • Lloyds Register of Shipping;
  • Registrazione Internazionale Navale (RINA); or
  • Yacht Brokers, Designers and Surveyors Association.

For yachts less than 24 meters in length the following two classification societies (in addition to the above) are also authorised to carry out the tonnage measurement survey: MECAL Limited and The Society of Consulting Marine Engineers and Ship Surveyors.

For commercial yachts less than 24 metres in length, the classification society or Port Surveyor needs to produce an additional “Certificate for Small Vessels in Commercial Use”.

Corporate Ownership

If the ship owner is a company the following documents must also be provided: a certified copy of the certificate of incorporation, an appointment of an authorised officer and a letter as to the principal place of business of the company.

Carving & Marking Note

Once the Registry is satisfied that the yacht can be registered in Gibraltar it will issue a carving and marking note which shows the official number and name which must be marked on the hull. The owner or the authorised officer may sign the carving and marking note. Except for vessels over 24 metres in length where the carving and marking note must be certified by one of the surveyors of the above Classification Societies.

Certificate of Registration (“Blue Book”)

Once this has been returned to the Registry a Certificate of Registration will be issued.

Renewal of Certificate of Registration

The Certificate of Registration must be renewed every year and is done so on payment of a nominal fee. Our firm can do this on behalf of the owners.

REGISTRATION OF COMMERCIAL SHIPS & VESSELS

Introduction

Generally any commercial vessel can be registered in the Gibraltar Commercial Ships Register except fishing vessels and ships with nuclear reactors. The service provided is fast and efficient and provided that the necessary surveys and certifications are organised quickly a commercial vessel can be registered in about one week.

The following types of registration can be undertaken:

  • Full
  • Provisional
  • Bareboat Charter
  • Ships under construction

Application Form, Declaration of Ownership & Name of Ship

An application form and declaration of ownership must be completed by the owner.

A name which is different to any other British registered vessel must be submitted for approval which can be confirmed within 24 hours and sometimes in the same day.

Evidence of Title

Evidence of title must be submitted. If the vessel is new or has never been registered before, a builder’s certificate and subsequent Bills of Sale which link the owner to the vessel must be provided. For an older vessel or one which has been registered before, a sequence of Bills of Sale tracing ownership either from the builder’s certificate onwards or for the last 5 years must be submitted.

20 Year Old Vessels

Commercial vessels which were first constructed more than 20 years ago require special consent from the local Minister for the Port before it can be registered in Gibraltar.

Classification Societies

Surveys must be carried out either locally by the Port Surveyor or by one of the approved classification societies detailed below.

  • American Bureau of Shipping;
  • Bureau Veritas;
  • Det Norske Veritas;
  • Germanisher Lloyd;
  • Lloyds Register of Shipping;
  • Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (NKK); and
  • Registrazione Internazionale Navale (RINA).

Surveys & Certificates

Surveys must be conducted by any of the above classification societies and certificates provided depending on the type of vessel. These include: Load Line Certificate; Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate; Cargo Ships Safety Construction Certificate; Cargo Ships Safety Equipment Certificate; Cargo Ships Safety Radio Certificate; Passenger Ships Safety Certificate.

More specific information can be provided upon request.

Crew

The officers of the crew must possess qualifications which are accepted by the British Authorities. Further details can be provided upon request.

Annual Tonnage Tax

An annual tonnage tax of £800 is payable to the Gibraltar Commercial Registry plus a percentage calculated according to the Gross Registered Tonnage of the vessel as follows:

Up to & including 50,000

£0.07 per ton

50,001 to 100,000

Up to 50,000 - £0.07 per ton

50,001 to 100,000 - £0.04 per ton

100,001 or more

Up to 50,000 - £0.07 per ton

50,001 to 100,000 - £0.04 per ton

As from 100,001 - £0.02 per ton (subject to a maximum of £9,000)

Corporate Ownership

If the ship owner is a company the following documents must also be provided: a certified copy of the certificate of incorporation, an appointment of an authorised officer and a letter as to the principal place of business of the company.

Carving & Marking Note

Once the Registry is satisfied that the yacht can be registered in Gibraltar, it will issue a carving and marking note which shows the official number and name which must be marked on the hull. The carving and marking note can be certified by the local Maritime Administrator, the local Port Surveyor, or a surveyor of one of the above Classification Societies.

Certificate of Registration (“Blue Book”)

Once this has been returned to the Registry a Certificate of Registration will be issued. Additionally, within 60 days of the vessel being registered in Gibraltar, any previous registration must be terminated.

Duration of Certificate of Registration

The Certificate of Registration must be renewed at varying intervals and is done so on payment of a small fee. Our firm can organise this on behalf of the owners and the intervals are as follows:

  • Full - Every year
  • Provisional - Every 3 months or until full registration
  • Bareboat Charter - Every 2 years

SHIPPING AND YACHTING FACILITIES

Gibraltar has a deep sea port which can berth all but the largest of ships. Activity in the port has been brisk during recent years and Gibraltar remains an attractive and a convenient port of call at a strategic location both for merchant vessels, cruise liners and yachts.

There are numerous companies and ship chandlers who service visiting vessels which can supply bunkers, on which no tonnage dues are payable, fresh water, spares, general provisions, underwater cleaning and surveys all VAT free and, therefore, at very competitive rates. Gibraltar also has duty medical officers who can promptly treat the crew of vessels berthing in Gibraltar.

As far as yachts are concerned, there are two large marinas offering excellent berthing facilities at competitive rates. These are supported by excellent out of water repair facilities.