Ship Registration: Law and Practice

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United Kingdom

United Kingdom

24.1 The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is situated in the British Isles, to the north-west of continental Europe. The UK is a constitutional monarchy whose head of State is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The organs of government comprise the legislature (Parliament), the executive (Her Majesty’s Government) and the judiciary, which is independent of both the legislature and the executive. The UK has been a member of the European Union since 1972 and in 2016 voted by referendum to leave. The legal tender is the pound sterling (£ or GBP). 24.2 The UK Ship Register (‘UKSR’) is part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, an executive agency of the UK Government Department for Transport. Following an extensive consultation process, UKSR was modernised and re-launched in September 2017. The ‘Maritime Growth Study’, published in September 2015, contained proposals that aimed to enable UKSR to compete internationally following a period of some decline.1 It was reported that the registered merchant fleet of the UK had diminished by 17% between 2013 and 2014, to 19th in the world by dead-weight tonnage. By November 2017 it was announced that the UK had reached 14th place on world fleet tonnage statistics, the highest since 2013.2 The UK appears ninth in the Paris MOU White List of Port State Control compliance published in July 20173 and is a member of the US Coast Guard QUALSHIP 21 program.

Sources of law

24.3 Registration of British ships in the UK is governed primarily by the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, as amended (‘the Act’) and the Merchant Shipping (Registration of Ships) Regulations 1993, as amended (‘the Regulations’). Extracts from the Act and the Regulations are provided in Appendix V and Appendix VI. Unless otherwise stated, references to sections and regulations in this chapter are references to sections and regulations in the Act and the Regulations respectively. Section 18 enables the UK Government to

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establish different categories of registries4 in those Overseas Possessions that maintain shipping registers. In the Overseas Possessions5 the UK’s legislation is supplemented by local legislation and regulations.

Vessel eligibility

Vessel type

24.4 The Register maintained by the Registrar under section 8 is divided into four parts:
  • Part I for ships, owned by qualified persons, which are not fishing vessels or ‘small ships’;
  • Part II for fishing vessels;
  • Part III for small ships under 24 metres in length owned by individuals who require simple registration which is not a registration of title; and
  • Part IV for bareboat chartered vessels.

Subject to a vessel satisfying the requirements for the relevant part of the Register, any vessel used in navigation (other than a Government ship referred to in s.308) may be registered without restriction as to size.

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