Gibraltar: Protection And Privilege: Registering Ships In Gibraltar

Last Updated: 9 June 2009
Article by James Ramagge

Due to its strategic location at the entrance of the Western Mediterranean, Gibraltar has historically been a maritime centre, and has naturally evolved its own portfolio of maritime services including a Ship Register. The procedures for registering a ship are simple and efficient, and the current tax regime makes Gibraltar an attractive venue for registering ships.

Gibraltar was captured in 1704 by the British, and has remained British since. Gibraltar now enjoys British Dependent Territory Status, with a measure of self-government in what are termed "defined domestic matters", with Britain enjoying responsibility for Gibraltar's foreign affairs. As such, Gibraltar is part of the EU under Article 227(4) of the Treaty of Rome, by virtue of Britain's membership, with special derogations from the Common Agricultural Policy, the Customs Union, and VAT.

The Gibraltar Register

Given its British Dependent Territory Status, ships registered in Gibraltar are British Ships entitled to all the protections and privileges afforded vessels registered at other British Ports of Registry, and fly the red ensign defaced with the Armorial Bearings of Gibraltar, the Castle and Keys.

Additionally, the Gibraltar Register is classed as an EU "Member State's Register" as defined in the Annex to the Official Journal of the European Communities (97/C 205/5 No. C 205/15). In a communication from the Commission dated the 11th May 2006 to the European Parliament, The Council and others the Commission has updated and rectified the interpretation of Council Regulation (EEC) No 3577/92 applying the principle of freedom to provide services to maritime transport within Member States (Maritime Cabotage.) The Commission has pointed out that Ships registered in Gibraltar are entitled to have access to Maritime Cabotage under the same conditions as any ship registered in a Member State on the basis that the Community set of rules in the field of Maritime Transport is entirely applicable to ships registered in Gibraltar.

The Port

Gibraltar Port became a Category I Port of Registry on the 19th March 1997 when its Merchant Shipping (Registration) Act 1993 ("MSRA") came into force, bringing it into parity with Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the Isle of Man. The Maritime Administrator, operating under the Gibraltar Government's Ministry of Tourism and Transport, heads the Registry. Under Section 6 of the MSRA, the Maritime Administrator is required to keep a Register of Ships registered, or provisionally registered, including Bareboat Registrations, as well as a register of Ships under Construction.

The Registry

The Registry does not run on a commercial profit-making basis, but rather on the basis of its stated objectives of "facilitating international trade and commerce by providing the service of a maritime register committed to the highest standards of safe operation of ships and the protection of the marine environment". Whilst the Gibraltar Government carries out its role, functions and obligations as a flag state (as well as a port state), it does so under the guidance provided by the United Kingdom, which is the primary party to all International Conventions.

The Registry has enjoyed significant growth in the last few years particularly as a flag of choice for those shipping companies wanting to conduct intra European trade. This is as a direct result of Gibraltar registered ships being considered as vessels of a Member State's Register and the favourable tax climate for shipping companies in Gibraltar. These advantages, coupled with a well run Register which is focused on the needs of its clients and responsive to their concerns, has cemented the Gibraltar Registry as a successful and progressive Port of Registry.

PRINCIPAL FEATURES OF THE GIBRALTAR REGISTRY AND FLAG

Registrable Ships

All types of Vessel are registrable under the Gibraltar Flag save for the following exceptions:

  1. A Ship whose first construction was completed more than twenty years before commencement of the year in which application is made unless the written approval is first obtained from the Maritime Administrator, whose own approval is subject to the consent of the Minister of Tourism and Transport;
  2. Ships with a nuclear reactor;
  3. Fishing Boats; and
  4. Ships whose condition is unsatisfactory so far as safety and pollution are concerned.

Qualified Persons

Section 7 of the MSRA sets out the basic qualification of persons to own a Gibraltar registered Ship which are as follows:

  1. Bodies corporate or legal entities incorporated, established or registered in Gibraltar
  2. Bodies corporate or legal entities incorporated, established or registered in a member state of the EU provided that they either have a principal place of business in Gibraltar or have appointed a Gibraltar resident to act as their representative person
  3. Foreign Maritime Entities being a lawfully existing foreign entity whose place of incorporation, establishment or registration, provides the power to own and operate ships, and permits it to sue or be sued in the name of the entity
  4. British Citizens
  5. British Dependent Territories Citizens
  6. British Overseas Citizens
  7. Persons who under the British Nationality Act 1981 are British Subjects
  8. Persons who under the Hong Kong British Nationality Order 1986 are British nationals (overseas)
  9. Citizens of the Republic of Ireland
  10. Nationals of any member state of the European Union
  11. Nationals of any state party to the European Economic Agreement

The above shows the flexibility of the register as regards ownership: a particular advantage to ship owners who already have established companies to own their vessel under a different flag and are considering re-flagging to Gibraltar Bareboat Charter Registration

Provisional & Bareboat Charter Registration

The legislation permits the provisional registration while a ship is at sea (Section 19), and bareboat charter registration into and out of the Gibraltar register (Sections 32 and 33). In the case of the former, a Provisional Certificate of Registry will be issued pending the permanent registration of the Vessel, and will have validity for a period of 90 days. In the case of the latter, the applicant charterer must be in possession of the ship under the Bareboat Charter, and must be a qualified person to own a British Ship as set-out above. The applicant, if incorporated outside of Gibraltar, must appoint a Gibraltar resident to act as its Resident Agent. Additionally, the Applicant must execute an undertaking that whilst the Ship is bareboat registered under the Gibraltar Flag, it will not fly the flag of any other registry, nor show as the home port any port other than Gibraltar. The consent of the ultimate owner, mortgagee (if any), and the flag state of the primary register must also be obtained to finalise the bareboat registration. Apart from the above and providing a copy of the Bareboat Charter to the Authorities, the requirements for registration are the same as for full registration.

Manning

Owners of Gibraltar registered ships of over 500GRT and over, and other ships engaged in international voyages, must obtain in respect of each vessel a Safe Manning Document (SMD) issued by the Maritime Administrator, thereby ensuring that manning requirements are met. Manning requirements follow the international conventions ratified by the United Kingdom and thus contain no restriction on nationality of officers and crew, except in the case of strategic vessels. These require that ships be manned by Crew who are certified and in possession of the appropriate Certificates of Competence or other recognised documents in accordance with STCW. The Countries recognised by Gibraltar for the purpose of issuing Certificates of Competency and Certificates of Equivalent Competency are:

Australia Malaysia
Belgium Myanmar
Bulgaria Netherlands
Canada New Zealand
Croatia Norway
Czech Republic Pakistan
Denmark Philippines
Estonia Poland
Faroe Islands Portugal
Finland Republic of Ireland
France Romania
Germany Russia
Greece Serbia & Montenegro
Hong Kong Singapore
Iceland Slovenia
India South Africa
Iran South Korea
Italy Spain
Jamaica Sweden
Latvia Ukraine
Lithuania United States
Malta  

Fees & Costs

Fees and other costs associated with registration under the Gibraltar Flag are as follows:

Registration of a Foreign Maritime Entity £200.00
Registration of a Ship £500.00
Re-issue of Certificate of Bareboat Registry £250.00
Renewal of full Registration (every 5 years) £100.00
Change of Name of Ship £300.00
Transfer of Ownership £300.00
Transfer of Registration £300.00
Issue of Certificate of Deletion £100.00
Issue of Duplicate Certificate £100.00
Recording of Mortgage or Discharge thereof £200.00
Transfer of Mortgage £200.00
Issue of SMD/Statutory Cert./Exemption £100.00
Hourly fees for survey/audit (Gibraltar Surveyor) £90.00 plus travel time at £45.00 per hour

Taxation

Ships registered at the Gibraltar Registry are required to pay an annual tonnage tax based on the Gross Tonnage of the Vessel as follows:

Up to and including 50,000 GT £700 plus £0.07 per GT
From 50,001 to 100,000 £750 plus £0.07 per GT up to 50,000 GT plus £0.04 per GT in excess of 50,000
100,001 or more £700 plus £0.07 per GT up to 50,000 GT plus £0.04 per GT from 50,001 to 100,000 GT plus £0.02 per GT in excess of 100,000 GT subject to a maximum annual tonnage tax payable in the sum of £9,000

REGISTRATION PROCEDURE

Registration Information

In order to facilitate the expeditious registration of a Ship under the Gibraltar Flag it is important to have the following information made immediately available to the Registry:

  1. Proposed Name (and previous name if any)
  2. Type of Ship (passenger/Tanker/Bulker etc.)
  3. When and where built
  4. Yard number (in case of new buildings still not registered)
  5. Present Registry
  6. IMO Number
  7. Length and Breadth
  8. GT and NT
  9. Power in KW
  10. Classification Society
  11. Name, address and details of local representative
  12. Name, address and details of operator/technical managers
  13. Operator's Copy of ISM Document
  14. Existing SMD and ISM-SMC (if applicable)
  15. Trading are/area of operation
  16. When and where proposed registration is to take place
  17. Name, address and details of agents at port of Survey

Registration Documents

The following documents are required for the registration of the Vessel:

  1. Name approval confirmed
  2. an application for registration signed by the qualified person or representative person together with the authority under which such representative person signed the application
  3. a Certified true copy of the applicant's Certificate of Incorporation, and Memorandum & Articles of Association, together with a Certificate of Good Standing, in the case of a body corporate
  4. a Declaration of Eligibility
  5. a Builder's Certificate together with any Bills of Sale affecting the Ship. If the Builder's Certificate cannot be found, a declaration signed by the applicant together with the Bill of Sale transferring title to the applicant.
  6. a Declaration that the Ship is free from all maritime liens and encumbrances or alternatively the written consent of all Mortgagees to the registration of the Ship in Gibraltar
  7. a Certificate of Confirmation of Class for an existing Ship, or a Certificate of Seaworthiness or an Interim Certificate of Class for a newly built ship dated no earlier than 10 days before the date of registration is submitted
  8. proof of Liability Insurance provided by a Member of the International Group of P & I Clubs confirming liability insurance coverage which insurance shall cover the default of the owners repatriation obligations
  9. proof of insurance cover for Oil and other Pollution
  10. bareboat charter (in the case of a bareboat charter registration)
  11. application to register a Foreign Maritime Entity (if applicable)
  12. Certificate of Measurement & Tonnage
  13. Appointment of Registered Agent
  14. Appointment of Representative Person
  15. Certificate of Deletion in respect of previous flag within 60 days from the date of registration

Flagging Survey

Gibraltar registered ships are surveyed specially for flagging in purposes by a surveyor appointed by the Maritime Administrator. Gibraltar uses the services of classification societies which are full members of the International Association of Classification Societies and are also recognised by the UK-MCA The statutory services can only be performed by these exclusive surveyors. All functions performed by the Classification Societies on behalf of the Administration, are closely audited and monitored by the Gibraltar Administration or the UK-MCA on its behalf. Additionally, Gibraltar ships are surveyed by its own surveyors at least once in every five years, and the initial issue of Passenger Ship Safety Certificate, Cargo Ship Safety Equipment Certificate, International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate, Certificate of Fitness and ISM certification is looked after by the Administration directly, using the services of the UK-MCA Surveyors.

Upon satisfactory completion of the Measurement & Tonnage and Flagging-in Surveys, and upon satisfactory submission of the documents set-out above, the Maritime Administrator will issue a Carving & Marking Note setting out the Name, Official Number, Tonnage, and home port of Registry of the Vessel, all of which particulars must be marked on the Vessel. An authorised surveyor or other person duly authorised on behalf of the Administration must certify such marking. Upon confirmation of receipt by the authorised surveyor of the certified carving and marking note, the Registry will issue the Certificate of Registry.

Parallel to the application for registration, but separate thereto, the Applicant must apply for the issue of a Ship Radio Licence and the issue of the required MMSI number from the Wireless Officer at the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority. The Applicant must give full details of all the communication equipment aboard the Ship, and must appoint a duly recognised Accounting Authority and PSA, accompanied by the fee of £75.00. Upon issue of the Certificate of Registration, the Wireless Officer issues the Ship Radio Licence, which is renewable on an annual basis.

SHIP FINANCE AND TAX

Ship Finance

Gibraltar maritime law is wholly English based. As such, Gibraltar tends to follow the UK in Ship Finance methodology. It is open to the parties to elect the choice of law to govern the loan agreement and the security granted, although it is always advisable to make the Mortgage and deed of Covenant subject to Gibraltar Law, even where the remainder of the ship finance package is to be regulated by another law. The fact that there are no exchange controls also enables the parties to denominate the loan in any currency.

The statutory mortgage is in short form, and always accompanied by a Deed of Covenant made in support of the Mortgage. If the assignment of insurances and earnings, and say, charge of deposit accounts, is to be regulated by Gibraltar Law then all documents follow English Law precedent. If the loan is made to a Gibraltar Owning company, then all security must be registered against the Company at the Gibraltar Companies' Registry, with only the mortgage requiring registration at the Ship's Register.

Tax

Most significantly, Section 6 (2) of the Income Tax Act which imposed a charge to tax on ship owners on the basis of residence was repealed in December 2005. Ship owners will be liable to pay income tax in Gibraltar in respect of income accruing in, derived from, or received, in Gibraltar in respect of any trade or business. However, the Commissioner of Income Tax has confirmed that a ship owning company does not accrue or derive its income in Gibraltar if:

  1. The ship operates outside Gibraltar;
  2. It does not carry passengers or cargo to or from Gibraltar;
  3. The income is not remitted or banked in Gibraltar;

The Commissioner of income Tax has also recently directed that in the case of ship owning companies there will be no liability of a lender to pay income tax or requirement for withholding if:

  1. The lender is not resident in Gibraltar;
  2. The primary security is situate outside Gibraltar and;
  3. Interest payments are met from sources of income external to Gibraltar.

The simple and efficient procedures in registering a ship in Gibraltar make this jurisdiction an attractive choice for ship owners to register their ships but for the ship owner, at an operational level, it is also significant that the Gibraltar Register is classed as an EU "Member State's Register" and that it is on the White List of the Paris MOU. Furthermore, the tax regime currently applicable is an additional consideration which makes Gibraltar attractive for the registration of ships.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.