The Registration of Merchant Ships in Belize is governed by the provisions of the Registration of Merchant Ships Act 1989. The Act sets up a registry for the registration of vessels flying the flag of Belize.

Registration of Vessels

Vessels may be registered by submitting the prescribed application form and the appropriate fee to any of Belize's Ship registry designated offices throughout the world. At each of these offices there is a deputy registrar appointed to accept and process applications.

All vessels registered this way are initially granted provisional registration which is valid for a period of one year. Prior to the expiration of that period the applicant should proceed to complete the registration process to obtain permanent registration of the vessel. The Act provides for quarterly extensions of provisional registration.

Documents Needed

The following documents are required to obtain registration of a vessel with Belize's Ship Registration Office.

1) A notarized builder's certificate, if the vessel is new.

2) In the case of a vessel previously registered--

(a) an authorized affidavit by the applicant undertaking to complete the vessel's deregistration from the previous registry; and

(b) a photocopy of the vessel's last navigation licences, tonnage certificate of ownership, and encumbrances.

3). A written confirmation of the appointment of the vessel's shipping agent.

4). In the case where a transfer of ownership is being effected simultaneously with registration, a Bill of Sale and a document or instrument of Delivery and Acceptance.

Quick Registration

If it becomes necessary to obtain registration of a vessel at a time when all the documents referred to above cannot be delivered to the Deputy Registrar, then provisional registration is still possible. If the applicant delivers to the Deputy Registrar a duly authorized affidavit undertaking to deliver the documents required for permanent registration within 60 calendar days, provisional registration will then be granted.

If the documents however, are not delivered within the 60 days the registration may be cancelled.

Certificate of Registration

On the completion of registration of a vessel, and upon the payment of the prescribed fees, the Deputy Registrar shall grant a CERTIFICATE OF REGISTRY (provisional or permanent).

Transfer of Vessel

1. The ownership of a registered vessel shall be transferred by a Bill of Sale followed by delivery of the vessel. A document of Delivery and Acceptance executed by the buyer and duly notarized is acceptable proof of delivery of the vessel.

2. Registration of title at Belize's Ship Registry head office is necessary to complete registration.

3. All mortgages must contain the following information:

i Names and addresses of the mortgagor and the mortgagee.

ii The maximum amount secured by the mortgage including all accrued interest, costs, collection expenses, any amounts resulting from currency fluctuations and other sums agreed between the parties.

iii The maturity dates of capital and interest or the manner of determining these dates except if the mortgage is repayable on demand, or if it is security for future obligations or for obligations which have not arisen at the date of execution.

iv The rate of interest payable or the manner of determining such rate.

v Full description of the vessel including its tonnage, dimensions, registration number and radio call sign.

vi Any other provisions which may be agreed between the parties.

Note: The mortgage may provide that in the event of default the mortgagee may proceed to sale by private treaty. All vessels which are subject to mortgages in their previous registry shall within 60 days of provisional registration deliver a duly notarised written consent of the mortgagee's permission to transfer to Belize's flag.

Also, a duly notarised written consent of the mortgagee shall be necessary for the issue of new navigation licences on transfer of ownership, for the change of name of the vessel or the shipowner, and for the vessel's deregistration.


All documents required to be registered with the Belize Ship Registry may be registered on a preliminary basis which shall be valid for Six Months. There is a statutory application form to be used to apply for preliminary registration. All applications for preliminary rgistration must be accompanied by duplicate copies of the documents to be registered on a preliminary basis, together with the payment of the prescribed fees. Upon verification of the documents Belize Ship Registry shall issue certificates of preliminary registration. In addition, the Registry will return a copy of the document filed with a special seal confirming that the document was used for preliminary registration.


Applications for permanent registration must be made within six months of preliminary registration at the designated offices of Belize's Ship Registry together with the payment of the prescribed fees. To apply for permanent registration the certified copies of the documents which were sealed for preliminary registration must be returned by the applicant to the Registrar. The documents for permanent registration must be in English or accompanied by an English translation thereof. Upon completion, a registered certified true copy duly sealed will be returned to the applicant.

Every vessel registered in Belize shall at all times keep a shipping agent appointed by the shipowners. Applications to act as shipping agents must be formally made in writing to the Registrar. Agents may be individuals or corporations.

Dual registration

Vessels registered in Belize may, in order to comply with terms of a charter contract, obtain a second registration without affecting their Belize registration. An application for dual registration must include full details of the charter contract. Belize officials may authorise dual registration for a period of two years in the first instance. The applicant for dual registration shall ensure that such dual registration complies with the requirements of the other registry.


Foreign vessels may be registered at Belize's Ship Registry under the terms of a charter contract. A notarised copy of the charter contract must be delivered to an office of the Ship Registry. Upon payment of the prescribed fees, a special navigation and radio licence, valid for one year in the first instance, shall be issued. During this period of dual registration no title documents or mortgages or other documents relating to the vessel shall be registered at the offices of Belize's Ship Registry. In closing it must be noted that Belize is also attracting Yachts and other pleasure vessels as well. There is a one time Registration fee of $750. and only an annual tax of US$500. thereafter,regardless of the size of the vessel. The Nation of Belize provides not only a safe harbour for ships but also a great base for international trade.

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.