Yacht Registration - An Introduction

It is a requirement of the International Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982 (UNCLOS) that all vessels sailing internationally must be registered and carry on board officially issued documents as evidence of their registration and therefore their nationality.

The Certificate of Registry issued by a vessel’s state of registry (flag state) effectively acts as a passport for the vessel.

Whilst sailing on the high seas the vessel will be subject to the laws of its flag state.

Whilst operating inside the territorial waters of another flag state the laws of the vessel’s own flag state still apply but it must also comply with any local laws that may apply.

A vessel that is operating outside the territorial waters of the owner that is not registered in accordance with UNCLOS is a stateless vessel meaning that the vessel is operating in contravention of international law and can be seized and prevented from leaving port. The stateless ship then becomes subject to local rather than international law which can have other unwelcome implications of a legal and fiscal nature. 

The concept of registering vessels can be traced back to Roman times. Registration is essentially the act of recording within the public records of a jurisdiction, the particulars of a vessel.

In addition to attributing nationality to a vessel, the act of registration provides a mechanism through which its ownership can be determined.

The yacht owner faces an extensive and potentially bewildering choice of registration options for their vessel.They will need to choose between registering the yacht in a home state, where they have a genuine connection by way of nationality, residence or economic ties, or alternatively choosing to register in a flag state that may offer them benefits not afforded by the home state.

The yacht may be one of the most valuable possessions of the owner and it therefore follows that the decision on where to register their vessel should be well informed.

The chosen jurisdiction should ideally offer prestige and universal acceptance whilst providing political and economical stability without subjecting the owner and the yacht to unnecessary regulation and bureaucracy.

Many yacht owners are not aware that there exists annually updated tables ranking the performance of the world’s shipping registers in form of the Paris and Tokyo MoUs whereby the world’s registries are categorised into ‘white’, ‘grey’ and ‘black’ lists and ranked in order of quality.

Although these tables are aimed at commercial shipping, yacht owners selecting registries listed on the ‘grey and ’white’ lists of such tables can expect, for good reason, a greater level of control and inspection from the authorities and difficulties in obtaining insurance cover.

A yacht owner might also wish to consider the image that be projected by flying the flag of any jurisdictions whose location might be hard to pinpoint on a map, that might have no seafaring heritage or be a tax haven of ill repute.

The British Register of Ships has traditionally been recognised as the ‘go to’ international register for yachts largely due to being a high quality, prestigious and universally accepted register predicated by many centuries of seafaring tradition and maritime history.

Crucially the British Register of Ships has in recent years been at the forefront of the adaption of international maritime law into substantially equivalent yacht friendly regulations.

All things being equal the British flag and the registries comprising the ‘red ensign’ group provide the best operating system for a yacht of any size and type.

Other nations have also developed their registers in recent years to entice yacht owners with Malta and the Republic of the Marshall Islands becoming increasingly popular alternatives to the British Register of Ships.

To help simplify the choice of registry for yacht owners we have created a yacht registry selector form that yacht owners can complete in order to receive a free no obligation proposal for the registration of their yacht at our recommended port of registry.

The form can be accessed through the below link. The other links provide access to yacht registry guides and example pricing indications.

Yacht Registration

Yacht Registration - An Introduction
The British Register of Ships & The Red Ensign Group
The UK Ship Register (Part I) v. UK Small Ships Register SSR (Part III)
Registration of Yacht Tenders
The Yacht Radio Licence – A Guide To Licensing, Call Signs, MMSI Numbers & More
The Carving & Marking of Yachts – A Guide
Delaware Yacht + Vessel Registration – A Warning!
Netherlands / Dutch ICP Yacht Registration – A Warning!

Yacht Registries

Cayman Islands Yacht Registration
Guernsey Yacht Registration
Isle of Man Yacht Registration
Jersey Yacht Registration
Malta Yacht Registration
United Kingdom (UK) Yacht Registration
Polish Yacht Registration

Yacht Operation

EU VAT & Yachts – Frequently Asked Questions
Temporary Admission (Temporary Importation) for Yachts in Europe
The Charter of Yachts in the European Union
Cruising Licences for Yachts in the United States
Yacht Leasing In Malta

Yacht Survey & Certification

The Tonnage Measurement Survey
Rules for the operation of Private Pleasure Yachts under the British Flag
Rules for the Charter of Yachts Under 24 Metres under the British Flag
Rules for the Charter of Yachts Over 24 Metres under the British Flag
The Intended Pleasure Vessel Code (IPV Code)
Rules for the Charter of Yachts under the Malta Flag
Marshall Islands – Yacht Engaged In Trade (YET) Dual Private & Commercial Charter Yacht Registration

Yacht Agents

Guernsey & Jersey: Channel Islands Yacht Export & Delivery


25 March 2020 at 07:58

Here is a batch of Tonnage Plates for yachts we are registering with @RedEnsignGroup under British flag here @oceanskiesltd HQ awaiting courier despatch. These plastic strips are an important part of the yacht registration process #yachtregistration #yachtregistry pic.twitter.com/5xGR7f0Xo3


17 March 2020 at 07:43

A beautiful start to the day again here @Oceanskies in St. Peter Port Guernsey were we are pleased to welcome the latest @sunseeker_int Sunseeker 50 Predator #Guernsey @guernseyharbours @locateguernsey @vistguernsey #PositiveVibes pic.twitter.com/rajLtbGriM


16 March 2020 at 13:42

On this sunny Monday we are pleased to welcome this beautiful @Sunseeker_Intl 76 Yacht to @gsyharbours which is undergoing @RedEnsignGroup registration with Oceanskies - Anyone would think its Summer! #yachtregistration #yachtlife #Guernsey @LocateGuernsey #PositiveVibes pic.twitter.com/gy0sguWV5S


11 March 2020 at 16:55

Today we have been Northern France visiting an incredibly busy @Lagooncats factory near La Roche sur Yon for the tonnage survey of a newbuild Lagoon 46 sailing catamaran undergoing @RedEnsignGroup registration by Oceanskies #lagooncatamaran #yachtregistration #tonnagesurvey pic.twitter.com/rwmKAuzOvX


10 March 2020 at 17:21

Today Duncan has been in a sunny and warm Monaco for the tonnage survey of an @PrincessYachts Princess 82 undergoing red ensign registration by Oceanskies - we are a leading yacht registration agency working with the world’s best yacht registries #yachtregistration #tonnagesurvepic.twitter.com/PUl9Sy4L9a9a


04 March 2020 at 06:53

Very pleased to act as agents for the visit to @gsyharbours of a @Sunseeker_Intl 76 Yacht @PrincessYachts Y78 #Sunseeker #SunseekerYachts #SunseekerFamily #Princess #princessaroundtheworld #Princessyachts #Guernsey @VisitGuernsey pic.twitter.com/Y3Tk7X8paE