In spite of the global economic turbulence of recent times, the last two fiscal years have witnessed the Cayman Islands strengthen and consolidate its position as the global leader in ship registration.  

The Cayman Islands Shipping Registry which now has a fleet of nearly 2000 vessels, continues to enjoy a reputation for excellence; its ensign remains the flag of choice for super yachts the world over and in the 2010/2011 fiscal year, for the first time in the history of the Marine Authority of the Cayman Islands its registered fleet surpassed the 4 million gross tones mark.  

The popularity of the Cayman Islands as a safe haven for ships ,and indeed offshore business generally, is not a recent phenomenon yet its continued success is no accident. It is well known that, as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, the Cayman Islands has profited from a solid legal environment with a stable parliamentary democracy since 1831. Equally, it is no secret that there is no direct taxation in the Cayman Islands. 

However, it is important to appreciate that its prominence as the flag of choice internationally would not have been achieved without the diligent and ongoing work of MACI in conjunction with the willingness and ability of local law makers to tailor legislation and regulation so as to consistently respond to the needs of the global marketplace whilst simultaneously keeping up to date with the latest international maritime standards.

For two decades the Cayman Islands has been listed as a Category 1 member of the prestigious Red Ensign Group and as such is able to "flag" vessels of all types and sizes, from private yachts to supertankers, bulk carriers and even submersibles. Significantly, the Cayman Islands is white-listed across the two major Port State Control Memorandums of Understandings (i.e. Paris and Tokyo) as well as meeting and surpassing the highest standards set by Qualship 21 (the US Coast Guard).

Importantly for ship owners internationally, it is no longer a requirement for a Cayman Islands flagged vessel to be owned by a Cayman Islands individual or entity. Indeed, by way of example, registration is available to the following owners:

Citizens of any country included in the Third Schedule to the Money Laundering Regulations of the Cayman Islands (which at the last count listed 43 countries including the USA and Canada);
Citizens of member states of the European Union;
Entities incorporated, established or registered in and having a place of business in the United Kingdom or any of its overseas territories or Crown dependencies or a member state of the European Union or EEA.

Of course, as one might expect from one of the world's leading financial centres, for citizens of those states which do not qualify for registration directly, the local financial services industry is well qualified to assist with the necessary corporate holdings structures. The fact that owners and lenders registering vessels in Cayman can avail themselves of its first-class legal and financial advice is a tremendously attractive feature of registration.

As stated above, the endeavors and achievements of MACI must not go unnoticed. For example, in order to accommodate lenders and owners in different time zones and on different continents, MACI has established representation in no less than 11 locations globally: George Town, Grand Cayman; Southampton, UK; London, UK; Ft. Lauderdale, USA;; France; Greece; Italy; The Netherlands; Singapore; Hong Kong and Japan. 

This global service network underpins MACI's ability and commitment to serve its international clientele. 

MACI's success is also due to the assiduousness of the surveyors of the Cayman Islands Registry who are well respected worldwide for running a tight ship. Said surveyors maintain a dynamic survey and audit programme for vessels and will refuse to register ships that do not comply with international standards. Maintenance of such values has ensured that the Register enjoys a well-deserved reputation for accommodating the highest quality tonnage afloat.

In closing, it is necessary to highlight and underscore some of the recent achievements of the Registry which evidence the quality of the service it provides. Said accomplishments include, but are by no means limited to, the attainment of the ISO 9001 (Quality Management Standard); compliance with the International Maritime Organization VIMSAS  and Maritime and Coastguard Agency standards (a four yearly monitoring visit which provides the UK with an opportunity to verify that the Cayman Islands is exercising its obligations to the UK Secretary of State in respect of shipping matters) and the Audit of Crew Compliance (ensuring that the Cayman Islands is demonstrating compliance with the requirements of the STCW Convention – Standards for Training Certification and Watchkeeping [for seafarers]). MACI has also rolled out and maintained the Passenger Yacht Code (PYC), a code of practice for passenger yachts carrying more than 12 and up to 36 passengers.  The PYC is an equivalent standard for passenger yacht construction which was not previously available in the regulatory environment.  The development of the PYC standard was spearheaded by MACI in conjunction with the Red Ensign Group administrations.

As part of its ongoing impetus to keep abreast of new legislation, the Cayman Islands is making preparations for the implementation of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC 2006), which is a major development flowing from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and spans a wide spectrum of standards relating to living and working conditions on board ships.  It is expected to enter into force by August of next year.

Whilst current provisions in Cayman Islands shipping law already address many of the requirements of MLC 2006, proactive actions have been in train for at least 12 months, in liaison with the shipping industry and the other members of the REG, to ensure that full compliance with this Convention will be achieved in a timely manner.  As an example, Cayman Islands surveyors have been trained to undertake MLC compliance audits and will be offering these to the industry on a voluntary basis from 01 July 2012 and Letters of Compliance issued after a successful voluntary audit will be credited against the required MLC Certification when the Convention enters into force.

In summary, the Cayman Islands continues to support both vessel owners and lending institutions in expertly navigating the choppy waters of the global economic climate. Its success in so doing is directly attributable to the superior quality of the product it offers to its discerning international clientele.  With the able and experienced hand of the Marine Authority on the tiller, there can be no doubt that the Cayman Islands will retain its enviable reputation for many years to come.

Originally published in Cayman Financial Review

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