Ship Registration: Law and Practice

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St Vincent and the Grenadines

St Vincent and the Grenadines

23.1 The State of St Vincent and the Grenadines consists of a chain of 32 small islands in the Caribbean Sea between St Vincent in the north and Grenada in the south. The main island is St Vincent, the capital of which is Kingstown. The current population is approximately 110,000. A British Crown Colony until 1979, the country is now fully independent and a member of the Commonwealth. The head of State is Queen Elizabeth II whose representative is the Governor-General. The government consists of the House of Assembly, made up of 15 elected members and four senators. Kingstown is the home port of registry for all vessels registered under the flag of St Vincent and the Grenadines. The Cabinet has appointed a Commissioner for Maritime Affairs to supervise all matters relating to merchant shipping and to perform the duties of a registrar outside the country. The legal tender is the East Caribbean dollar (EC$). 23.2 The Commissioner for Maritime Affairs maintains offices in Geneva and Monaco, at which registry business is conducted, supported by regional offices in Dubai, Hong Kong, London and Piraeus. In addition, offices serving the registration of yachts are established in Fort Lauderdale and Luxembourg. The flag State appears within the Paris MOU Grey List published in July 2017.1

Sources of law

23.3 The registration of vessels under the flag of St Vincent and the Grenadines is governed by the Shipping Act 2004, as amended by the Shipping (Amendment) Act 2007. References in this chapter to ‘the Act’ are references to the Shipping Act 2004 as amended, and references to a section are to a section of the Act. The Act consolidated the law relating to shipping and for that reason repealed the Merchant Shipping Act 1982, the earlier statute which dealt with ship registration and related matters.

Vessel eligibility

Vessel type

23.4 Any type of ship may be registered (except fishing vessels, for which registration has been suspended), subject to the age and ownership requirements referred to below.

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Age limits

23.5 A ship under construction may be registered. A ship must not be older than 18 years (15 years for tankers) at the time of registration, unless special permission is granted. This condition does not apply to ships that are to be registered for one last voyage to a scrap yard.


23.6 In order to be eligible for registration under the St Vincent and the Grenadines flag a vessel must be owned by either:
  • (1) a body corporate, partnership or other association of individuals registered in any foreign country or whose main office is situated outside St Vincent and the Grenadines which has appointed a registered agent in St Vincent and the Grenadines;
  • (2) an individual who is a citizen of St Vincent and the Grenadines domiciled in St Vincent and the Grenadines;
  • (3) a body corporate, partnership or other association of individuals registered in accordance with the laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines and having its main office in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Company formation

23.7 The main company law statutes in St Vincent and the Grenadines consist of the Companies Act 1994 and the more recent International Business Companies (Amendment and Consolidation) Act, Chapter 149 of the Revised Laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines, 2009 (‘the 2009 Act’). The 2009 Act consolidated and amended an earlier statute in 1996 that introduced into St Vincent law the concept of the international business company (‘IBC’). An IBC is not permitted to engage in certain types of activity, for example the provision of goods or services in the ordinary course of business to persons resident in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Since most potential users of the Register are unlikely to trade with St Vincent and the Grenadines, the fiscal advantages of using an IBC will make it a more appropriate type of ship-owning vehicle than a domestic company. Although an IBC will continue in existence until dissolved, section 6 of the 2009 Act permits an IBC to be registered as a limited duration company for a fixed period of up to 30 years if such a facility is particularly required. An IBC is deemed to be non-resident.

Registered office

23.8 An IBC is required to have a registered office in St Vincent and the Grenadines which may be the office of its registered agent (s.67 of the 2009 Act).


23.9 An IBC may have only one shareholder. There are no nationality restrictions.

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Directors and secretary

23.10 The number of directors of an IBC is fixed by its articles or bylaws. There must be at least one director. Directors may be individuals or corporations. There are no nationality restrictions. There is no requirement for an IBC to have a company secretary. However, if the directors wish to appoint a traditional UK-style company secretary, section 108 of the 2009 Act permits them to appoint by resolution an officer or agent of the company who may be authorised to affix the common seal of the company.

Bareboat charter registration

23.11 Section 5A gives a discretion to the Commissioner for Maritime Affairs to allow the registration in the St Vincent and the Grenadines Registry of vessels registered in a foreign registry which have been bareboat chartered to persons otherwise qualified to own a registered St Vincent and the Grenadines vessel. This may be effected for the duration of the bareboat charter or the expiry date of the underlying charter if sooner, but not, as a general rule, for more than four years. Should a charterer wish to extend registration beyond the maximum of four years, then an application can be made by either the charterer or its authorised agent, for extensions of up to two years at a time, subject to the written consent of the underlying registry, the owner of the vessel and any registered mortgagees. Such consent must be provided within seven days of the Commissioner informing those parties of the request for an extension. Before a vessel can be registered on the Bareboat Charter Register, the Commissioner for Maritime Affairs must receive the following:
  • (1) a written application from the charterer or his registered agent;
  • (2) a declaration of bareboat charter accompanied by a copy of the bareboat charter agreement (which will not be available for public inspection);
  • (3) a copy of the existing tonnage certificate;
  • (4) payment of the relevant fees and taxes;
  • (5) a certificate of good standing of the bareboat charterer (if foreign);
  • (6) true copies of any mortgages, with authenticated translations if not in English, indicating the name of the vessel, the names of the parties, the total amount originally secured, the amount required to discharge the mortgage and the maturity date;
  • (7) confirmation from the relevant classification society that the vessel is in class and is in possession of valid statutory certificates;
  • (8) a transcript or an extract of the underlying registration of the vessel that shall include a description of the vessel, the owners and, where applicable, all registered mortgages and encumbrances of the vessel (which will be available for public inspection);
  • (9) the written consent for the vessel to be bareboat charter registered in St Vincent and the Grenadines of the appropriate authorities of the underlying registry who may be required by the Commissioner to declare that during the period of bare-boat charter registration the vessel will not be entitled to fly their flag; the owners of the vessel and all holders of registered mortgages, hypotheques and charges;
  • (10) proof of liability insurance, such as P&I certificates for third party, crew, pollution and wreck removal;

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    (11) ISM Code and ISPS Code declarations of company, designated persons and officers;
  • (12) confirmation from an authorised organisation that the interim SMC, ISSC and MLC/MLC inspection reports are being issued;
  • (13) Continuous Synopsis Records file and application for amendment to CSR;
  • (14) application for Maritime Labour Convention declaration Part I; and
  • (15) LRIT conformance test report.

Any mortgages or other charges entered in the foreign register are recorded, during the period of bareboat charter registration, in a bareboat charter registry book maintained by the Registrar of Ships and the Commissioner for Maritime Affairs. No mortgages or encumbrances may be registered against a bareboat charter registered vessel, such power remaining vested in the underlying registry (s.5B(1)).

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