Ship Registration: Law and Practice

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8.1 The most easterly of the Windward Islands in the Caribbean, the island of Barbados became an independent State in 1966, having been a British colony since 1627. Despite its independence, Barbados remains an active member of the Commonwealth and continues to have strong links with Britain through the office of the Governor General who is appointed by the Crown. The links with Britain are evident in the parliamentary and legal system, which are based largely on the British model. The Privy Council still remains the highest court of appeal. English is the official language. The official unit of currency is the Barbados dollar, which has been linked to the US dollar since 1975. 8.2 The registry function is administered by Barbados Maritime Ship Registry (‘the Barbados Register’) which has a head office in London and a network of registrars worldwide. Barbados appears on the White List of the Paris MOU of port State control compliance.1 In January 2018 there were 141 vessels over 100 gross tons, totaling 1,112,542 gross tons, on the Barbados Register.2

Sources of law

8.3 Registration of ships and mortgages on the Barbados Register is now governed by the Shipping Act 1994, Cap. 296 of the Laws of Barbados, as amended (‘the Act’). References to sections in this chapter are to sections of the Act. The Act governs the eligibility of vessels and their owners, the terms and conditions of service of the officers and crew and the safety of passengers, crew and cargo in conformity with the international Conventions to which Barbados is a party. The Act distinguishes between ships owned by and trading within the Caribbean community and foreign-going ships. The Act is supplemented from time to time by the Shipping Regulations, which lay down the prescribed fees for initial registration, annual fees and fees for the issuance of various documents. They also set out the prescribed format for various registration documents and application forms.

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Vessel eligibility

Vessel type

8.4 Section 8 of the Act permits the registration of the following vessels on the Barbados Register:
  • (1) pleasure yachts;
  • (2) local fishing vessel registered under the Fishing Acts;
  • (3) any ship where at least 44 of its 64 shares are owned by persons singly or in association, who are either qualified persons or Caricom persons;3
  • (4) a foreign-owned ship engaged in foreign-going trade only. Foreign-going trade is defined in section 8(11) as trade to and from, but not within, the states of the Caribbean community or trade between ports outside the Caribbean community.

In the case of near coastal trade ships (ships that trade within 500 miles of Barbados) or Caribbean trade ships of 150 gross tons or over, the provisions of (3) above are relaxed and registration will be permitted regardless of whether less than 44 of the 64 shares are in Barbadian ownership, provided the ship is owned by a Caricom person and will operate generally as a near coastal vessel or Caribbean trade ship (s.10).

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