Ship Registration: Law and Practice

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16.1 The island of Jamaica is situated in the Caribbean Sea to the south-east of Cuba and has a population of approximately three million. The capital is Kingston where the main port is located. A former British colony, the country gained its independence on 6 August 1962 and is now an independent parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth. The head of State is Queen Elizabeth II who is represented in Jamaica by the Governor-General. The legal system is based on English common law and the organs of government are the legislature (consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives), the executive (the Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister) and the judiciary which is independent of both the legislature and the executive. The Prime Minister is the leader of the party having a majority of the 63 seats in the House of Representatives and is responsible for forming the government. The legal tender is the Jamaican dollar (JMD or J$).

Sources of law

16.2 The Jamaica Ship Registry was first established in 1921. Registration of ships in Jamaica is now primarily governed by the Shipping Act 1998. The Shipping Act established the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ) as the body that administers the Registry and is responsible for the training and certification of seafarers, safety and pollution issues, and the development of shipping generally. The Shipping Act came into force in January 1999 and is closely modelled on UK legislation and practice. The port of Montego Bay has been declared the national port of registry pursuant to section 32 of the Act. Unless otherwise stated, references to sections in this chapter are references to sections in the Shipping Act 1998.

Vessel eligibility

Vessel type

16.3 All vessels used in navigation in Jamaican waters must be registered, licensed (an option for vessels under 24 metres) or exempt by reasons of their size, as described below. Separate registers are maintained for:
  • (1) ships;
  • (2) ships under construction;
  • (3) provisionally registered ships;

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    (4) bareboat chartered ships;
  • (5) pleasure craft; and
  • (6) fishing vessels.

Vessels below 24 metres in length, wholly owned by persons qualified to own Jamaican ships and operating in or from Jamaican waters, have the option of being licensed. Licensing is a simple form of registration. Pleasure craft of less than 5 metres in length not equipped with propulsion machinery or pleasure craft of less than 3 metres in length equipped with propulsion machinery of less than 5 horsepower, are exempt.

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