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Cayman Islands

Shipowner Eligibility 

The following qualify to own a Cayman Islands ship:
Nationals, bodies corporate or shipping entities from an EU or EEA state, including their overseas territories ("Qualifying States"). Bodies corporate and shipping entities must be established in, and maintain a place of business in, any of the above states or territories. For the avoidance of doubt, the UK, its possessions and territories are Qualifying States.

An individual/s who is not qualified as set out above, may nevertheless be part- owner/s of a Cayman-registered vessel if a majority interest in the vessel is owned by a person or persons qualified to be owners. Thus, a person/s not qualified as set out above may still own up to 31 shares (either individually or collectively) of the 64 shares in a vessel.

Foreign Corporations registered in the Cayman Islands as a foreign company and having a place of business within the Islands.

Shipping Entities formed in one of the Qualifying States. Shipping entities embrace ownership structures such as limited and general partnerships, hybrids such as the Danish parten rederai, and groupings structured on civil law such as the European Economic Interest Group. A shipping entity may or may not have legal personality separate and distinct from its members.

Shipping Entities do not embrace trusts. The law does not allow any trust, either express, implied or constructive, to be registered. However, the law does not preclude a trustee from being registered as owner. In this way, the Registry will not be involved in any dispute over the legitimacy of an alleged trust.
Any further questions regarding whether one is eligible to register a vessel can be directed to

About the Flag

The Cayman Islands are located in the Caribbean Sea approximately half way between Cuba and Honduras. The capital of George Town is situated on the largest of the three islands, Grand Cayman. A overseas territory of the United Kingdom, the Cayman Islands follow English common law but comprise a separate jurisdiction with separate laws from the UK. The Head of State is the Queen of England, who appoints a Governor to preside over the government. There is a parliament with both elected and officially appointed members. The Senior Minister is the Leader of Government Business. There is a unicameral legislature. English is spoken.

The economy depends heavily on tourism, offshore financial services and investment in local real estate. The unit of currency is the Cayman Islands dollar, and the Caymanians enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. About 90% of the island's food and consumer goods must be imported, mostly from the United States, the United Kingdom, and countries in the region. The Cayman Islands Shipping Registry (CISR) is the Maritime Administration of the Cayman Islands. The Registry operates as an integrated unit, having the registration, safety and administrative sections of the Administration under one umbrella, thus enhancing efficiency and response time.

The governing merchant shipping law of the Cayman Islands is primarily based on the corresponding English maritime law of the United Kingdom (UK), suitably adjusted where necessary to accommodate issues unique to the Cayman Islands. In this regard, there are several innovative provisions in the updated Merchant Shipping Law designed to widen the scope of persons and other legal entities eligible to register ships under the Cayman Islands flag. Regarding safety provisions, the CISR generally applies international Convention standards. Features introduced in the 1999 amendments to the Merchant Shipping Law include the following:

Ships under construction and mortgages thereon can be registered.
Mortgages on provisionally registered or conditionally registered ships can be registered.
Fractional shares can be registered where the ship is owned by a shipping entity that does not have a separate and distinct legal personality.
Enhanced mortgagee protection is afforded.

The Port of Registry for Cayman Islands ships is George Town. A Cayman Islands ship may fly the UK Red Ensign as its national colors, or may wear the Cayman Islands Red Ensign, which consists of the UK Red Ensign with the Cayman Islands crest in the fly.

The Cayman Islands enjoy a rich seafaring heritage. The Cayman Islands Shipping Registry (CISR) is part of the Red Ensign Group of Category One British registries comprising: Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Isle of Man and the UK. As a Category One British Registry (granted in 1991), the Cayman Islands are able to register vessels of all sizes and classes, from small yachts to super tankers. However, as a matter of policy, fishing vessels are not currently being registered except those owned locally and operating in Cayman waters.

Company Formation

Four types of companies may be registered in the Cayman Islands: ordinary, ordinary nonresident, exempted, and foreign companies. They may be incorporated with member's liability limited by shares or by guarantee, as unlimited companies, or as nonprofit organizations. Ordinary companies are, for the most part, companies used to carry on business within the Cayman Islands. Exempted and ordinary nonresident companies are those whose proposed activities are to be carried on mainly outside the Islands. All companies may own ships. Foreign companies registered as such are those incorporated outside the Islands but carrying on business within the Islands.

All locally registered companies must have a registered office in the Cayman Islands. Ship owning companies not registered in the Cayman Islands must have a representative person resident in the Islands. Ordinary companies must have one shareholders' meeting in the Islands. There are no exchange controls imposed.
The CISR offers preliminary advice but does not register Cayman Islands companies. The Cayman Islands Companies Registry is responsible for the registration of corporate and other ownership entities in the Cayman Islands. The most convenient way to incorporate and register a company in the Cayman Islands is to utilize one of the firms of local practitioners licensed to do company management. These firms can provide such services as the registered office, nominee shareholders, directors and officers as well as the management of the company on the instructions of the beneficial owner(s). Incorporation can be obtained in 24 hours.

For registration of ordinary and exempted companies, the Memorandum and Articles of Association must be subscribed by the members (initial shareholders) and filed with the Registrar, accompanied by the relevant fees. The basic information required for incorporation includes the name of the company, whether ordinary or exempted, the authorized share capital, issued share capital and types of shares, names and addresses of directors and officers, and address of the registered office. There must be at least one shareholder.

There are a number of restrictions on the naming of companies. The name of a new company cannot resemble that of an existing company, cannot contain words suggesting royal patronage, or include the words "Bank", "Trust", "Insurance", "Assurance", "Chartered", or "Chamber of Commerce" unless the necessary licenses have been obtained. The availability and acceptance of a name can be verified with the Registrar prior to preparation of the Memorandum of Association, but names cannot be reserved for companies to be formed at a later date. Exempted companies do not have to include in the name the word, Limited or Ltd.

The registered office should be notified of any special features in the Articles of Association and given a brief summary of the company's purpose. Exempted Companies may apply for an Exemption Certificate guaranteeing that no tax will be levied on the Company for 20 years. Such a certificate can sometimes be helpful as a guarantee to a mortgagee that interest payments will not be liable to withholding tax in the Cayman Islands for the period of the mortgage. Exemption Certificates may be renewed. Ordinary nonresident companies should also apply for a Nonresident Certificate. An ordinary company granted nonresident status may deal in shares of any exempted company, foreign partnership or foreign corporation, but may only carry on such other business in the Cayman Islands as is necessary to further its foreign business.

Foreign companies may be registered in the Islands after the appropriate fee has been paid and the Registrar has been supplied with the following:
Certified and authenticated photocopy of the Charter and By-laws or Memorandum and Articles of Association (including a certified translation)
List and specified details of the directors
Name and address of a person resident in the Islands who is authorized to accept service of process and any notices on behalf of the company


There is no direct taxation either of companies or individuals in the Cayman Islands.

Registration and Documentation

An application to register must be made by the owner or his authorized officer/agent. Where a ship is owned by a company, an authorized officer must be appointed to sign the application documentation. The appointment of authorized officer must be made by the owner in writing or, if the owner is a company, under the common seal of the company. Approval of the ship's name must be applied for and the Registrar can approve the name locally.

The following evidence of ownership must be produced:
For a new or unregistered ship: Builder's Certificate and any Bills of Sale tracking ownership history up to the time of registration. A builder may issue a Bill of Sale in lieu of a Builder's Certificate.

For a ship prior registered elsewhere: evidence of identity of registered owner from the prior registry and Bills of Sale tracking any change of ownership from last registration up to the time of current registration.
For a ship impounded and then sold through a competent court: the court order declaring forfeiture and granting title to the purchaser.

For a ship sold judicially by a competent court: the court order granting title to the purchaser.

For a ship condemned by a competent court: an official copy of the condemnation order. This normally applies to ships taken from an enemy as prize and the person in possession of the vessel applies for title under "Prize Jurisdiction".

All Bills of Sale in a foreign language must be translated into English and certified as true and correct copies. Every owner must make a Declaration of Ownership. The forms of declaration vary according to whether the ship is owned by an individual or by a company. A false declaration can lead to forfeiture of the vessel.

When the above requirements have been met and after the appropriate survey, the Registrar will allocate an official number to the vessel and issue a Carving and Marking Note to the surveyor. When the Carving and Marking Note has been signed and returned to the Registrar, the ship will be registered and a Certificate of Registry issued. Where required (i.e. the ship is fitted with radio transmitters) the Registrar of Ships will also assign the international call sign.

Bareboat Charter Registration

Under the Merchant Shipping Law 2000 consolidation, the Cayman Islands allow for demise charter registration onto the flag or from the flag for fixed periods of at least two years or such lesser period as may be approved by the Director of Shipping. Vessels of registered length 24m and over are eligible for demise charter registration. The charterer must be qualified to be an owner of a Cayman Islands ship, and the vessel must be one which, if the charterer were the owner, would be eligible to be registered. Under the terms of the charter, the operation, management and control of the ship including responsibility for the engagement or employment of the master and crew of the ship, is vested in the charterer.

A qualified demise charterer may register a ship under a flag that better facilitates commercial operations and is different from the underlying Flag where it was originally registered by the owner. Matters relating to title, mortgage and other proprietary interests continue to be subject to the Law of the underlying registry (chartering-out Flag). However, for operational purposes, the nationality of the ship becomes that of the Flag where the charterer registers it (chartering-in Flag).

Preferential financing and other conditions may be available on the underlying register.

There is also provision in Cayman Islands law for Demise (Bareboat) Chartering-Out and for Sub-Demise Chartering, under appropriate circumstances.

Vessel and Yacht Eligibility & Survey Requirements

The main International Maritime Conventions to which the UK is Party have been extended to the Cayman Islands and therefore apply to Cayman Islands ships.

Cayman uses the Merchant Ship Flag-in Matrix to assess an existing merchant ship's operational condition and hence acceptability for registration (not used for new-builds). This Matrix includes criteria such as the vessel's PSC record, age and type of vessel, classification society and previous Flag.

If the vessel is over 15 years old or if it obtains a high score (100+) on the Flag-in Matrix, Cayman may also require a "pre-registration" survey (a general inspection carried out by a Cayman surveyor of a vessel's structure, machinery, accommodation, and cargo and ballast areas (if applicable), and of its documentation history) in addition to the required Convention and statutory surveys and audits.
For pleasure yachts for private use and not engaged in trade, there are minimum Convention and statutory certification requirements. These requirements include the appropriate sections of MARPOL 73/78 (such as IOPP and IAPP for vessels 400 gross tonnes or more), COLREGS, and the like, depending upon the vessel's size.

Pleasure yachts in private use not engaged in trade may, however, opt to voluntarily comply with the Large Yacht Code (LY) and in such cases, whilst registration does not require such compliance, the vessel will be surveyed for compliance at the time of registration and if found compliant then the appropriate Convention and statutory certificates will be issued accordingly.

For commercial vessels entering the Register, the initial survey for registration will normally be conducted by a CISR surveyor or, alternatively, by a surveyor from another Red Ensign Administration. The initial surveys, including safety surveys, are usually undertaken prior to registration although, where circumstances warrant, short-term arrangements can be made to enable some surveys to be completed after registration. Continued registration will of course require satisfactory completion of the outstanding surveys within the time frame agreed.

After the vessel enters the Register, a good level of delegation of statutory surveys to approved Classification Societies is provided for, with the Cayman Islands undertaking audit surveys at a minimum of five year intervals. In practice, with harmonized surveys, crew accommodation inspections and ISM audits, registry surveyors will probably visit a ship at a minimum of every two and a half years. Approved classification societies are ABS, BV, DNV, LR and RINA. Class NK is expected to be approved in due course and, should an owner have ships classed with NK, he should talk to the registry. Fees for surveys will be charged directly to shipowners by the organization concerned.


The CISR is a recognizing authority not an issuing authority. Accordingly, it reviews crew certificates issued by an issuing state and writes recognition endorsements relating to that certification. Only certificates issued by administrations appearing on the IMO's White List showing functions and levels prescribed in Section A I/2 of the Code will be considered for Cayman Endorsements. Under its obligation to vet the administrations whose certificates are accepted for the issue of Cayman Islands Endorsements, the CISR will not, as a matter of course, accept the certificates of any administration on the IMO White List. An applicant should therefore check with the CISR to determine whether his crew's issuing state is acceptable and, if not, discuss with the CISR the possibility of vetting procedure being put into effect so that it can become so. Every commercial ship must have a Minimum Safe Manning Certificate.


Registration, transfer or transmission, and discharge of mortgages against a Cayman-registered vessel may be effected immediately upon submission of the required documentation to the Cayman Registrar.
When a vessel is being registered with Cayman a mortgage document may also be submitted to simultaneously register the interest of any mortgagee in respect of the vessel. The Registrar will record details of the mortgage on the Register and endorse on the mortgage document itself the date and time of registration.

Mortgages rank for priority in order of the date and time of registration and may be in one of two forms:
Principal Sum and Interest: The Registrar will record the principal sum and interest as agreed, where available.

Account Current: The Registrar will record that the mortgage amount due at a particular point in time is subject to the sum that is due on the account at that time.

In the event of a ship being seized or impounded, the mortgagee's interest shall remain registered and subject to a Court Order, if applicable.

Duty and Tax Free
There are no duties or taxes payable to Cayman on the value of the registered mortgage. The mortgagee (i.e., the lender) need not be a "qualified person/s, company, or entity" nor have a "place of business" in Cayman in order to register a mortgage.

A mortgage document may be deposited at one of the following six locations:
CISR Head Office in George Town, Cayman Islands
CISR European Regional Office in Southampton, UK
CISR Representative Office in Athens, Greece
CISR Representative Office in Tokyo, Japan.
Cayman Islands Government Office in London, United Kingdom
CISR Representative Office in Fort Lauderdale, United States

Whether deposited at Head Office or at one of the five other depository locations, the mortgage is registered thereafter in the Register as from the date and time of its initial deposit and remains an encumbrance on the vessel until discharged by Cayman.

A mortgage may be recorded irrespective of the underlying vessel registration type (full; interim; provisional; under construction or demise (bareboat) charter-out) and these mortgages remain so registered until these are discharged, even if the vessels cease to be registered with Cayman.


Service CI$
Ship Registration
First registration of a ship; Registration of a Bareboat Chartered ship transferred IN; Registration Anew or re-Registration of a ship; Interim Registration of a ship or Transfer of Registration of a ship between British Registers
Up to 150 gross tonnage 328
Over 150 and up to 400 gross tonnage 492
Over 400 and up to 1500 gross tonnage 697
Over 1500 gross tonnage 984
Registration under the issue of a Provisional Certificate of Registry 205
Registration of ship under construction 246
Registration of Transfer or Transmission of Ownership of a ship of gross tonnage
Up to 150 gross tonnage 246
Over 150 and up to 400 gross tonnage 328
Over 400 and up to 1500 gross tonnage 369
Over 1500 gross tonnage 492
Registration of:
Alterations to a registered ship; Change of Name of a registered ship or Change of Address or of other particulars of a Registered Owner, other than Change of Owner, including the re-issuance of the Certificate of Registry. 164.00 for each alteration or change
Authorisation of a "Declaration of Lifeboats and Tenders Attached to a Ship", where applied for other than at the time of initial Registration of the parent ship 82
Re-issuance of a Certificate of Registry to a ship and recording of changes in the Register with respect to a pleasure yacht changing status from private to commercial use or vice versa 246
Processing and approval of application for reservation of a name for a ship
where application has been made and fees paid for the registration of the ship for which the name is being requested N/A
where application is otherwise made 492
Marine Survey and Licensing Fees
Tonnage Measurement survey and issue of Tonnage Certificate and Certificate of Survey, where the ship is:
Under 24 meters in length 296
24 meters and over in length 738
Application review and issue of a Minimum Safe Manning Document (MSMD), where the ship is:
Less than 500 gross tonnage 270
500 gross tonnage and above 450
SMC for a Sister Ship or near Sister Ship or to vary an existing MSMD, where the ship is:
Less than 500 gross tonnage 162
500 gross tonnage and above 225
Endorsement attesting to the recognition of STCW 95 certification 182
Statutory Certificates (i.e. SOLAS, Marpol, Load Line, Tonnage, etc. Hourly Rate
Registration of a mortgage, the transfer of a mortgage, the transmission of a mortgage, or the discharge of a mortgage
In relation to a ship of up to 499 gross tonnage 246
In relation to a ship of over 499 gross tonnage 369
Recording of a Priority Notice regarding a mortgage
In relation to a ship of up to 499 gross tonnage 164
Tonnage Measurement and Annual Tonnage Fees
Survey for tonnage measurement and issue of appropriate Tonnage Certificate under the Tonnage Regulations
Under 24 meters in length 369
24 meters in length and over 738
Annual Tonnage Fee
For merchant ships of any tonnage:
Minimum Annual Fee 820
For the first 2500 GT 820
Remaining tonnage above 2500 GT (per unit) 0.09
For Commercial Tenders up to 200 GT 328
For Pleasure Yachts (including those engaged in trade)
Minimum Annual Fee (for Vessels up to 500 GT) 328
For the first 1000 GT 492
Remaining tonnage above 1000 GT (per unit) 0.16
Crew Compliance and Safe Manning Fees
Assessment of Application for and initial issuance of a Minimum Safe Manning Document (MSMD)
For a vessel of less than 500 gross tonnage 328
For a vessel of 500 gross tonnage or more 492
For a sister ship or near sister ship of less than 500 gross tonnage 164
For a sister ship or near sister ship of 500 gross tonnage or more 246
Assessment of Application to vary and re-issue an existing MSMD or the renewal of a MSMD upon its expiration, as appropriate
For a vessel of less than 500 gross tonnage 164
For a vessel of 500 gross tonnage or more 246
Assessment of Application for an Endorsement or Licence recognising a Certificate of Competence for service in a Cayman Islands ship and the issuance of an Endorsement or Licence as appropriate 246
Processing of Application for a Seaman's Discharge Book or other Seafarer's Document 82
Verification of sea service upon request from a seafarer who has served on board a Cayman Islands ship 82


Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands
Government Administration Building
133 Elgin Avenue
PO Box 2256
George Town
Cayman Islands (United Kingdom)
+1 345 949 8831
+44 489 799 203
+1 345 949 8849

Stockholm Agreement 96
IMO Convention 48
* IMO amendments 91 
* IMO amendments 93
SOLAS Convention 74
SOLAS Protocol 78
SOLAS Protocol 88
LOAD LINES Convention 66
LOAD LINES Protocol 88
TONNAGE Convention 69
COLREG  Convention 72
CSC Convention 72
CSC amendments 93
SFV Protocol 93
STCW  Convention 78
STCW-F Convention 95
SAR  Convention 79
STP Agreement 71
STP Protocol 73
IMSO Convention 76
INMARSAT amendments 94
INMARSAT amendments 98
IMSO amendments 2006
IMSO amendments 2008
FACILITATION Convention 65
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex I/II)
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex IV)
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex V)
MARPOL Protocol 97 (Annex VI)
London Convention 72
London Convention Protocol 96
INTERVENTION Convention 69
CLC Convention 69
CLC Protocol 76
CLC Protocol 92
FUND Convention 71
FUND Protocol 92
FUND Protocol 2003
NUCLEAR Convention 71
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex III)
PAL Protocol 76
PAL Protocol 90
PAL Protocol 02
LLMC Convention 76
LLMC Protocol 96
SUA Convention 2005
SUA Protocol 2005
SALVAGE Convention 89
OPRC  Convention 90
HNS Convention 96
Cape Town Agreement 2012
SUA Convention 88
SUA Protocol 88

IMO Conventions

Status of Conventions Cayman Islands (Member of the Red Ensign group)

IMO Convention 48 x
SOLAS Convention 74 x
SOLAS Protocol 78 x
SOLAS Protocol 88 x
SOLAS Agreement 96 x
LOAD LINES Convention 66 x
LOAD LINES Protocol 88 x
TONNAGE Convention 69 x
COLREG Convention 72 x
CSC Convention 72 x
CSC amendments 93
SFV Protocol 93
Cape Town Agreement 2012
STCW Convention 78 x
STCW-F Convention 95
SAR Convention 79 x
STP Agreement 71 x
Space STP Protocol 73 x
IMSO Convention 76 x
IMSO amendments 2006
IMSO amendments 2008
FACILITATION Convention 65 x
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex I/II) x
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex III) x
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex IV) x
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex V) x
MARPOL Protocol 97 (Annex VI) x
London Convention 72 x
London Convention Protocol 96 x
INTERVENTION Convention 69 x
INTERVENTION Protocol 73 x
CLC Convention 69 d
CLC Protocol 76 d
CLC Protocol 92 x
FUND Protocol 76 d
FUND Protocol 92 x
FUND Protocol 2003 x
NUCLEAR Convention 71
PAL Convention 74 d
PAL Protocol 76 d
PAL Protocol 90
PAL Protocol 02 x
LLMC Convention 76 d
LLMC Protocol 96 x
SUA Convention 88 x
SUA Protocol 88 x
SUA Convention 2005
SUA Protocol 2005
SALVAGE Convention 89 x
OPRC Convention 90 x
HNS Convention 96

x: Accession/ratification
d: Denunciation

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