OFFICIAL GUIDE TO SHIP & YACHT REGISTRIES

Cook Islands

Shipowner Eligibility 

Only "Qualified Persons" are eligible to own ships registered in the Cook Islands. To be a "qualified person" one must be:
a Cook Islander or permanent resident of the Cook Islands
a company incorporated in the Cook Islands or an "overseas company"
defined in the Companies Act 1970-71
a company incorporated or registered as a foreign company under the International Companies 1981-82 Act, or a partnership as defined and registered under the International Partnership Act 1984
a member of (The Cook Islands Yacht Squadron) an organization notified by the Minister in the Gazette

About the Flag


The Cook Islands acts in free association with New Zealand. In the conduct of its foreign affairs, the Cook Islands interacts with the international community as a sovereign and independent state. Responsibility at international law rests with the Cook Islands in terms of its actions and the exercise of its international rights and fulfillment of its international obligations. Located in the South Pacific Ocean about halfway from Hawaii to New Zealand, the Cook Islands has the right to move at any time to full independence by unilateral action. The Chief of State is the Queen of England through a representative, and the Head of Government is the Prime Minister. The Cook Islands enjoy a British legal tradition. The courts are efficient, honest, and transparent and, due to the relatively light load of cases, the country is one of the fastest jurisdictions in the world. Cases in the Cook Islands High Court are heard by current and retired judges of the New Zealand High Court and can be scheduled within weeks.

The Cook Islands are a member of IMO, FAO, UNESCO and the UN Environmental Conference. They are not, however, a United Nations member. The capital is Avarua, and the principal language is English. The economy is based on tourism, fishing and financial services. New Zealand and Japan are the chief trading partners. The currency is the New Zealand dollar.

The Cook Islands Register is considered a flag of convenience by the ITF. The Registry is governed by the Ship Registration Act, 2007 and the Maritime Transport Act, 2008.

Company Formation

The Companies Act 1970-1971 governs domestic company activities and the International Companies Act 1981-1982 governs international companies. International companies may be limited by shares or by guarantee with no liability or unlimited liability. Shareless companies are permitted with restrictions. There is no minimum share capital required for either type of company. Companies must have a registered office which may be that of a licensed trustee company. There must be one director, whether resident or nonresident, and one resident secretary. Directors' and shareholders' meetings may be held by telephone or by circulating a minute for signature. Annual returns are necessary but audited financial statements are not needed if the members so resolve annually. There is no disclosure of profits required and no exchange controls imposed. One shareholder is needed for incorporation. Companies are incorporated by registration of documentation only by a licensed trustee company usually using standard forms.

Taxation

Domestic companies are liable for 20% taxation. No taxation exists for international companies, and no taxes are payable on international shipping income.

Registration and Documentation

How Do I Register a Cargo Vessel in Cook Islands?
Ownership of Cargo Vessel to be Registered

Registration of a cargo vessel upon the Cook Islands Ships Registry is governed by the Ship Registration Act 2007; vessel ownership requirements state that a ship is or will be owned (in the majority of shares) by a "qualified person". This is defined as:
a person who is resident in the Cook Islands; or
an entity which
is incorporated in the Cook Islands; or
an existing international company registered in the Cook Islands;

Both such corporate entities are exempt from taxation in the Cook Islands.

Requirements for Provisional Registration
The vessel registration process is commenced by completing an 'Application for Vessel Registration, Call Sign and Official Number' available through a Deputy Registrar (specific to region), who will lead you through the process.

The application form is to be accompanied by:
Copy of application to register a Foreign Company or incorporate a Cook Islands International Company
Copy of Builder's Certificate (new construction only) or Bill of Sale
Copy of confirmation (letter or email) from Classification society that they will issue certificates while vessel under Cook Islands Flag (if applicable)
Copies of all vessel's present certificates issued by flag state and classification society
Copy of schedule of interested shareholders (if applicable)
Copy of Power of Attorney (if applicant is an authorized officer of owner)

Subject to approval by the Registrar of Ships, and upon payment of the registration fee, a Provisional Certificate of Registry will be issued. This certificate is effective from the date of issue and valid for a period of 3 months. During this time the requirements for permanent registration are to be completed. The Registrar may extend the period of provisional registration in special circumstances.

Requirements for Permanent Registration
Original Application Form (duly executed and witnessed as specified therein)
Copy of certificate of incorporation of a new Cook Islands International company or a certificate of registration of an existing Foreign Company on the Cook Islands Companies Register
Original or duly validated* copy of Builder's Certificate (new construction only) or Bill of Sale
Original or duly validated* copy of Deletion Certificate (from yacht's previous Registry)
Copy of certificate from ship's P&I insurance company including crew insurance
Copy of certificate from ship's P&I insurance company including crew insurance
Copy of confirmation (letter or email) from Radio Accounting Authority that they will agree to act as AA while ship under Cook Islands Flag
Original or duly validated* schedule of interested shareholders (if applicable)
Original or duly validated* copy of Power of Attorney (if applicable)
*Reviewed, signed and sealed by a Justice of the Peace, a Commissioner for Oaths, Solicitor, Notary Public or the Registrar or Deputy Registrar of Ships of the Cook Islands Ships Registry or before any person authorized by law to administer oaths in the country where the declaration is made.

N.B. The Registrar has the discretion to require, if deemed necessary, additional surveys to be conducted before issuance of a Permanent Certificate of Registry.

Bareboat Charter Registration

Ownership of Cargo Vessel to be Registered

Demise/Bareboat Charter Registrations are recorded on the Cook Islands Bareboat Charter Register, a sub directory of the Cook Islands Ships Register. These are governed by the Ship Registration Act 2007; vessel ownership requirements state that a ship is or will be on a demise charter to a "qualified person." This is defined as:
a person who is resident in the Cook Islands; or
an entity which -
(i) is incorporated in the Cook Islands; or
(ii) an existing international company registered in the Cook Islands;

Both such entities are exempt from taxation in Cook Islands.

The consequence of bareboat charter registration is that Cook Islands law will govern all aspects of the ships operation, navigation and management during the period of registration, that is, the duration of the charter party. The vessel will be entitled to fly the Cook Islands Flag, and no other, during the period of the Charter Registration.

The property rights of the owner of the vessel and any mortgagees will remain registered on the underlying ship register, notwithstanding the demise charter registration on the Cook Islands Bareboat Charter Register.

Requirements for Provisional Registration
The vessel registration process is commenced by completing an 'Application for Vessel Registration, Call Sign and Official Number' available through a Deputy Registrar (specific to region), who will lead you through the process.

The Application Form is to be accompanied by:
Copy of Charter Party between owner and charterer
Copy of proof of deletion or suspension of the prior registration
Copy of consent of mortgagee to demise or bareboat charter (if applicable)
Copy of consent of owner to demise or bareboat charter
Copy of application to register a Foreign Company or incorporate a Cook Islands International Company
Copies of all vessel's present certificates issued by flag state and classification society
Copy of Power of Attorney (if applicant is an authorized officer of owner)

Subject to approval by the Registrar of Ships, and upon payment of the registration fee, a Provisional Certificate of Registry will be issued. This certificate is effective from the date of issue and valid for a period of 3 months. During this time the requirements for permanent registration are to be completed. The Registrar may extend the period of provisional registration in special circumstances.

Requirements for Permanent Registration
Original Application Form (duly executed and witnessed as specified therein)
Copy of certificate of incorporation of a new Cook Islands International company or a certificate of registration of an existing Foreign Company on the Cook Islands Companies Register
Original or duly validated copy of Charter Party
Copy of certificate from ship's P&I insurance company including crew insurance (only applicable to commercial/charter yachts)
Copy of Confirmation letter or email) from Radio Accounting Authority that they will agree to act as AA while ship under Cook Islands Flag (if applicable)
Original or duly validated copy of Power of Attorney (if applicable)
Reviewed, signed and sealed by a Justice of the Peace, a Commissioner for Oaths, Solicitor, Notary Public or the Registrar or Deputy Registrar of Ships of the Cook Islands Ships Registry or before any person authorized by law to administer oaths in the country where the declaration is made.

N.B. The Registrar has the discretion to require, if deemed necessary, additional surveys to be conducted before issuance of a Permanent Certificate of Registry.

Vessel and Yacht Eligibility & Survey Requirements

No ship over 500 GT shall be registered unless classed by one of the following:
American Bureau of Shipping
Bureau Veritas
Det Norske Veritas
Lloyd's Register of Shipping
Nippon Kaiji Kyokai
Russian Maritime Register of Shipping
Korean Register of Shipping
Registro Italiano Navale
International Naval Surveys Bureau
Polski Rejestr Statkow
The basic vessel survey requirements are those for safety construction, safety equipment, and safety radio.

Crewing

There are no nationality restrictions on officers and crew.

Mortgages

The rights of Mortgagees are well protected making it attractive for banks to support owners wishing to register their vessels in the Cook Islands. A registered Mortgage shall be preferred to any right, claim or interest in the ship by any other creditor. A Mortgagee has, in the event of default under the Mortgage, an absolute power of sale subject only to the consent of prior Mortgages or an order of the Cook Islands High Court.

If a Mortgage is registered the Registrar shall not in relation to the ship; register a transfer of ownership or any other registrable interest without the consent of the Mortgagee or cancel the registration of the ship.
The form of the Mortgage is not prescribed which means that the Mortgagee can use its standard forms and Cook Islands is not necessarily the jurisdiction for dealing with issues between the Mortgagee and the Mortgagor.

Fees

Fees can be obtained by contacting the registry.

Contact

Maritime Cook Islands
PO Box 882
1st Floor, Browne’s Building
Avarua, Rarotonga
Cook Islands
Web
http://www.transport.gov.ck

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 OA 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
INTERVENTION Protocol 73
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
OPRC/HNS 2000
BUNKERS CONVENTION 01
ANTI FOULING 01
BALLASTWATER 2004
NAIROBI WRC 2007
HONG KONG CONVENTION
HNS PROT 2010
Cape Town Agreement 2012
SUA Convention 88
SUA Protocol 88

IMO Conventions

Status of Conventions Cook Islands

IMO Convention 48 x
SOLAS Convention 74 x
SOLAS Protocol 78
SOLAS Protocol 88 x
SOLAS Agreement 96
LOAD LINES Convention 66 x
LOAD LINES Protocol 88 x
TONNAGE Convention 69 x
COLREG Convention 72 x
CSC Convention 72
CSC amendments 93
SFV Protocol 93
Cape Town Agreement 2012 x
STCW Convention 78 x
STCW-F Convention 95
SAR Convention 79 x
STP Agreement 71
Space STP Protocol 73
IMSO Convention 76 x
INMARSAT OA 76
IMSO amendments 2006
IMSO amendments 2008
FACILITATION Convention 65
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex I/II) x
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex III)
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex IV)
MARPOL 73/78 (Annex V)
MARPOL Protocol 97 (Annex VI) x
London Convention 72
London Convention Protocol 96
INTERVENTION Convention 69
INTERVENTION Protocol 73
CLC Convention 69
CLC Protocol 76
CLC Protocol 92 x
FUND Protocol 76
FUND Protocol 92 x
FUND Protocol 2003
NUCLEAR Convention 71
PAL Convention 74
PAL Protocol 76
PAL Protocol 90
PAL Protocol 02
LLMC Convention 76 x
LLMC Protocol 96 x
SUA Convention 88 x
SUA Protocol 88
SUA Convention 2005 x
SUA Protocol 2005
SALVAGE Convention 89
OPRC Convention 90
HNS Convention 96
HNS PROT 2010
OPRC/HNS 2000
BUNKERS CONVENTION 01 x
ANTI FOULING 2001 x
BALLASTWATER 2004 x
NAIROBI WRC 2007 x
HONG KONG CONVENTION

x= ratification
d=denunciation

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