United Kingdom MCA UK Yacht Registration - A Guide


The United Kingdom (UK) Ship Register is one of the world’s most popular choices for the registration of yachts.

Oceanskies is a Channel Island based yacht documentation agency that is responsible for a significant percentage of yacht registrations in the UK each year and the purpose of this guide to to highlight the many advantages of the register and to introduce the Jersey yacht registration services that we provide.

The UK

The UK is one of the world’s leading maritime nations. London is the world’s foremost centre for maritime business services. The unparalleled tradition of excellence in legal, arbitration, insurance, P&I, shipbroking and finance makes results in the UK being the first choice for the registration of yachts sailing internationally.

The UK Ship Register

The UK Ship Register is a British ‘red ensign’ register administered by the UK Government’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).


Before 1786, there were no central government records of ship registration, although ships began to be registered around the middle of the 17th century when foreign built ships were required to register with customs in order to obtain the same trading privileges as British built ships.

Towards the end of the 17th century British-built ships were required to register before trading to or from the British colonies and later this requirement was extended to ships importing wool from Ireland.

The Merchant Shipping Act of 1786 required all British ships of more than 15 tons to register with Customs in their home port. A copy, known as a transcript of each entry was sent to the Custom House in London or Edinburgh becoming the first national register of ships.

Today the UK Ship Register is governed by the Merchant Shipping Act of 1995 that can trace its origins back to the original 1786 act.

UK Ports of Registry

The UK register is administered by a central Registry of Shipping and Seamen located in Cardiff, Wales.

The registry oversees registration of vessels at all 116 mainland UK ports of registry.

London is the most popular UK port of registry but an owner of a yacht intending to register with the UK Ship Register can choose any one of the 116 UK ports of registry listed in the following table:

Aberdeen Dartmouth Kirkcaldy Port Talbot
Aberystwyth Dover Kirkwall Portsmouth
Alloa Dumfries Lancaster Preston
Arbroath Dundee Leith Ramsgate
Ardrossan Exeter Lerwick Rochester
Ayr Falmouth Littlehampton Runcorn
Banff Faversham Liverpool Rye
Barnstaple Felixstowe Llanelli Salcombe
Barrow Fishguard London Scarborough
Beaumaris Fleetwood Londonderry Scilly
Belfast Folkestone Lowestoft Shoreham
Berwick on Tweed Fowey Maldon South Shields
Bideford Fraserburgh Manchester Southampton
Blyth Glasgow Maryport St Ives
Borrowstoness Gloucester Methil Stockton
Boston Goole Middlesbrough Stornoway
Bridgewater Grangemouth Milford Haven Stranraer
Bristol Granton Montrose Sunderland
Brixham Great Yarmouth Newcastle Swansea
Buckie Greenock Newhaven Teignmouth
Burntisland Grimsby Newport Troon
Caernarfon Hartlepool Newry Truro
Campbelltown Hartlepool West North Shields Weymouth
Cardiff Harwich Padstow Whitby
Cardigan Hull Penzance Whitehaven
Chester Inverness Peterhead Wick
Colcester Ipswich Plymouth Wigtown
Coleraine Irvine Poole Wisbech
Cowes Kings Lynn Portland Workington

The Flag (‘Ensign’)

Owners of UK registered yachts are able to fly the prestigious red ensign that is recognised and held in high regard throughout the world.

The Certificate of British Registry

Upon completion of registration formalities a UK registered yacht is issued with a Certificate of British Registry. The Certificate of British Registry is valid for five years from the date of issue.

Eligibility – Yachts

The UK Ship Register will accept private pleasure yachts and commercial yachts of any size that are based and operated anywhere in the world.

Eligibility – Owners

The UK Ship Register is an international register meaning that the register is not just restricted to UK companies or UK citizens

The following are qualified to be the owners of yachts to be registered on the UK Ship Register:

  • A British Citizen;
  • A British Dependent Territories Citizen;
  • A British Overseas Citizen;
  • Companies incorporated in one of the EEA countries;
  • Citizens of an EU member state exercising their rights under articles 48 or 52 of the EU
    Treaty in the UK;
  • Companies incorporated in any British overseas possession which have their principal
    place of business in the UK or those possessions;
  • or European Economic Interest Groupings.

The following table list countries and territories eligible for UK yacht registration based on these criteria:

Anguilla Finland Latvia Spain
Austria France Lithuania Sweden
Belgium Germany Luxembourg Switzerland (citizens only)
Bulgaria Gibraltar Malta United Kingdom
BVI Greece Netherlands
Cayman Islands Guernsey Norway (citizens only)
Croatia Hungary Poland
Cyprus Iceland Portugal
Czech Republic Isle of Man Romania
Denmark Italy Slovakia
Estonia Jersey Slovenia

Summary of Features & Benefits of UK Yacht Registration

  • The UK is a neutral, politically stable sovereign state amongst the top performing flags on the Paris MoU and Tokyo MoU ‘White Lists’ for port state control
  • Member of the coveted ‘Red Ensign Group’ of British ship registries enabling the prestigious red ensign to be flown
  • Government funded, operated, backed and staffed ship registry
  • Regulated by the United Kingdom’s Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA)
  • Neutral port of registry marked on the vessel holding the reputation of a quality register that is familiar to port and customs authorities around the world
  • High service levels driven by a customer first service ethos resulting in quick turnaround of applications
  • Wealth of experience with thousands of vessels of all types and sizes current on the register
  • Competitive registry fees with no tonnage tax or other annual ship registry fees for yachts
  • European time zone
  • UK registration is valid internationally and documentation issued in English so widely understood.
  • UK registered yachts do not have to ever physically visit UK (unlike other registries, for example Delaware state registration which is only valid for yachts principally used in the State of Delaware)
  • Ability to obtain a provisional registration to cover vessel for navigation immediately after purchase
  • Part I of the register provides proof of title and enables the owner to register a mortgage on the vessel
  • Certificate of British Registry is valid for five years and at the end of the five years the process for renewing the registration for a further five years is very easy
  • British Consular services and support are available to UK registered vessels when sailing internationally
  • Yachts can be coded and operated as commercial charter yachts on the register
  • Entitlement to register includes all EU citizens and companies which can avoid the need for company formation for the majority of potential clients, (other red ensign jurisdictions may not accept EU citizens and companies as being qualified to register in their own name)
  • UK has minimal nationality restrictions giving yacht owners flexibility in whom they employ as crew onboard their vessel
  • The MCA supports ship owners request for use of armed guards on board UK registered yachts in piracy areas subject to complying with risk assessments and further UK Government guidance
  • UK registered yachts are entitled to diplomatic protection, consular assistance and Royal Naval protection (dependent on availability of assets/& nature of the threat)
  • The UK holds an international reputation for expert advice and guidance with a proactive leading role at IMO, EU and Quality Shipping Committees

UK Yacht Registration By Oceanskies

Oceanskies is based in the Channel Islands and provides a fixed fee yacht registration service to all yacht owners wishing to take advantage of the benefits of UK registration for their yacht.

The registration service results in Oceanskies taking responsibility for the entire registration process on behalf of the owner.

Our fees include all registry fees and disbursements providing the internationally recognised UK Certificate of British Registry valid for five years and a lifetime radio licence allocating the vessel’s call sign and MMSI number.

Crew Employment & Payroll for UK Registered Yachts

Through Oceanskies Crew Limited we are able to provide crew payroll outsourcing services from the Channel Islands for crew working onboard UK registered vessels.

This service is a very popular ‘bolt on’ service for our clients as it simplifies the employment of the crew of their UK registered yacht.

The yacht owner engages Oceanskies Crew Limited to employ and pay the crew of their vessel through a crew services agreement. As employers, Oceanskies Crew Limited issues the crew with contracts in line with the Marine Labour Convention guidelines, pays them, issues payslips, sea service testimonials etc.

For further information please refer to the crew employment and payroll section of our website at the following link:

Other UK Yacht Registration Services by Oceanskies

Oceanskies are able to provide a range of stand alone fixed fee additional registration services including:

  • Obtain provisional UK registration valid for three months;
  • Provision of UK Representative Person enabling non UK resident owners access to the register;
  • Registration of new owner details in event of vessel transferring to a new owner qualified to maintain the UK registration of the vessel;
  • Drafting of sale documents such as a Bill of Sale in the UK format and any supporting documentation required by the Buyer of the vessel;
  • Transfers of vessel registration to the UK from other British Registries of Ships, (and vice versa);
  • Performance of tonnage surveys and issue of Certificates of Survey for UK registration;
  • Effect change of vessel name;
  • Make amendments to registered particulars of vessel;
  • Renew registrations at end of ten year validity period;
  • Manufacture and supply of tonnage plates displaying official number and tonnage for Carving & Marking purposes;
  • Registration / discharge of marine mortgages;
  • Arrange deletion / cancellation of UK registration to provide a Closed Transcript of Registry (Deletion Certificate); and
  • Obtain Current Transcripts of Registry to provide at the time of issue a ‘snapshot’ of the register confirming:

    – Vessel dimensions and particulars such as the builder, length, breadth, tonnage, year of build and engine details;
    – Details of the current registered owner; and
    – Details of any mortgages or encumbrances such as a bank loan registered against the vessel.

Please do not hesitate to contact is for a fixed price quotation for any of these services.

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Registry Selector

Where To Register?




Guernsey Office

Oceanskies Limited

Castle Emplacement

St. Peter Port, Guernsey GY1 1AU

Channel Islands, Great Britain

Malta Office

Oceanskies (Malta) Limited

56, Ground Floor, Europa Centre

Saint Anne Street,

Floriana FRN 9011, Malta



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