Ship Registration: Law and Practice

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9.1 Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory,1 in which the Crown is represented by the Governor and Commander-in-Chief. It is also the oldest self-governing former UK colony, representative government having been first introduced in 1620 and internal self-government in 1968. A referendum was held in 1995 in which the electorate voted to retain Bermuda’s links with the UK. The legislature comprises two Houses of Parliament, similar to the British model. The lower house, the House of Assembly, consists of 36 elected members. The upper house, known as the Senate, has 11 members. The Crown remains responsible for the administration of justice, external affairs, internal security and defence. Geographically, Bermuda is located in the western Atlantic Ocean approximately 570 miles to the east of the North Carolina coast. Bermuda comprises a chain of 150 islands, although only about half are inhabited. The resident population is approximately 65,500. English is the national language. The current unit of currency is the Bermudan dollar, which is linked to and is equivalent in value to the US dollar. 9.2 Since 1 October 2016, a new quango,2 the Bermuda Shipping and Maritime Authority (‘the Bermuda Authority’) has taken over from the Department of Maritime Administration all responsibilities relating to the registration of ships in Bermuda.3 Bermuda is ranked as the 21st largest register in the world by dead-weight tonnage4 and also appears 21st in the Paris MOU White List of port State control compliance performance published in July 2017.5 With an average of 69,795 dwt per vessel, Bermuda has the highest such figure in the leading 35 flag States.

Sources of law

9.3 The registration of Bermuda ships is governed by the Merchant Shipping Act 2002 (as amended) (‘the Act’) and the Merchant Shipping (Registration of Ships) Regulations 2003 (as amended) (‘the Regulations’). Unless otherwise stated, references to sections and regulations in this chapter are references to sections and regulations in the Act and the Regulations, respectively.

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Vessel eligibility

Vessel type

9.4 The Register maintained by the Registrar in accordance with section 23 is divided into two parts:
  • Part I for ships owned by persons qualified in accordance with the Regulations;
  • Part II for ships which are registered under section 31 (ships on charter by demise).

As a Category 1 British Register, there are no restrictions on the type of vessel or tonnage that may be registered in Bermuda.6

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