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Shipowner Eligibility 

A vessel must be registered in the National Registry if the vessel is:
Owned by a German citizen domiciled in Germany
Owned by a limited or general partnership, if the majority of the personally liable partners and managing partners are German and if Germans have the majority of votes
Owned by a corporate entity if the majority of the members of the board of directors or the management are Germans
Partly owned by Germans if they hold the majority of shares

Vessels can be registered in the national registry if the vessel is:
Owned by a citizen of a member state of the EU domiciled in Germany
Partly owned by a majority of EU member state citizens or a company formed under the law of an EU member state and with a domicile, head office, or main administration in the EU if at least one person domiciled in Germany is permanently responsible for the compliance with certain standards
Owned by a community of heirs with a majority of EU member state citizens if they are solely represented by an EU member state citizen domiciled in Germany
Partly owned by at least one German

About the Flag

Located in central Europe, Germany borders the Baltic Sea and the North Sea between the Netherlands and Poland. A German-speaking federal republic, Germany has a civil law system with judicial review of legislative acts in the Federal Constitutional Court. The Head of State is the President, and the Head of Government is the Chancellor. The Capital City is Berlin.

Progress towards economic integration between Western and Eastern Germany (the previous German Democratic Republic) following reunification in October 1990 is clearly evident, but the Eastern Region will no doubt continue to depend on subsidies funded by the Western Region for many more years. Germany has a highly urbanized and skilled population and enjoys excellent living standards. It has an advanced market economy and is a world leader in exports, particularly machines and machine tools, motor vehicles, chemicals, and iron and steel products. Its major trading partners are the EC nations and the United States. The unit of currency is the EURO. Germany is a member of the EU, NATO, UN, and IMO.
The registration of seagoing ships is governed by the "Flaggenrechtsgesetz" and the "Schiffsregisterordnung." In general, the law of registration applies to vessels with a hull of over 15 meters in length but shorter ships may also be registered. War ships and ships of public authorities are excluded. There are separate official registers for seagoing vessels ("Seeschiffsregister"), for inland waterway vessels ("Binnenschiffsregister"), and for ships under construction in German shipyards as well as for floating docks ("Schiffsbauregister") governed by similar though not identical rules.

Germany also has a second, "International Register." All vessels have to be registered in the Ordinary Ship Register, and vessels "internationally registered" are additionally entered in the German International Ship Register.

The OGSR staff gratefully acknowledges the kind assistance of Reinhard Schale of Dr. Schackow & Partner with the preparation of this summary | Domehof 17, 28196 Bremen, Germany | Telephone [49] (421) 36990 | Fax: [49] (421) 3699 144 | |

Company Formation

As the German Register is not an offshore register, the foundation of companies takes both time and thorough preparation. A lawyer or a notary public should be engaged in all cases. There are no restrictions concerning the nationality of shareholders, but some company forms require a minimum capital. The joint-stock company ("Aktiengesellschaft" or "AG") may be formed by one or more natural or corporate persons with a minimum capital of €50,000. It is not recommended due to high publicity requirements. The limited company ("Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung" or "GmbH") is easier to organize as only one incorporator and a minimum capital of €25,000 is needed, of which at least €12,500 has to be paid in.

Apart from that, Limited ("Kommanditgesellschaft" or "KG") or General ("Offene Handelsgesellschaft" or "OHG") Partnerships are among the more often employed company forms. In General Partnerships all the partners are liable for all debts and liabilities of the firm, jointly and severally, which makes it highly creditworthy. The Limited Partnership is composed of at least one general partner and one or more partners whose liability is limited to the amounts they have agreed to invest in the business. The (sole) general partner of a Limited Partnership need not be a natural person, but may be a limited company (GmbH & Co. KG). A form of partnership often used in the shipping business is the "Partenreederei," which is governed by the particular rules of the maritime law. The part owners are personally liable for debts of the Partenreederei, but their liability is pro rata only, i.e. limited to the percentage of each potential claim which corresponds to the share they hold in the vessel. With the exception of the Partenreederei, all other forms of partnerships and companies must be registered in the Commercial Register which is kept by the lower district courts ("Amtsgericht"). The Partenreederei cannot be registered in the Commercial Register; it is registered only in the Ship Register.


There is a complex system of different types of taxes generated by the federal, state, and local governments consisting of personal income tax, corporate income tax, trade tax, capital tax, turnover tax, value-added tax and import duty among others. There is no central office dealing with federal taxation. Any taxation in Germany is carried out by the respective taxation office competent for the company. The competence of the taxation office follows the company's seat.

For information on which countries Germany has concluded double taxation treaties with, contact the registry.

Registration and Documentation

There is no single office registering ships in Germany. Instead, there are 20 registry offices (“Schiffsregister”) attached to the lower district courts (“Amtsgericht”) in various ports which accept applications for registration. The application for registration of a seagoing vessel must be submitted to the lower district court of the home port. If the vessel is operated from a foreign port, the owner has free choice of the register.

The registration application must contain the following information:
• Name of the vessel; type of ship; home port; year and place of construction; and name of the shipyard
• IMO ship identification number if issued, and an International Tonnage Certificate issued by the Federal Ship Survey Agency (“Bundesamt für Schiffsvermessung”) or any other foreign measurement authority if the ship has not yet been measured in Germany
• Engine power certificate
• Declaration and proof of ownership
• Declaration and proof of the right to fly the German flag
• If the ship was previously registered in a foreign register, proof of deletion from the foreign registry free from registered encumbrances, issued by the registrar of the foreign port of registry

Faxed or photocopied documents are generally not accepted.

After registration, a Certificate of Registry and an Official Extract from the Certificate of Registry will be issued, both without any time limit but, by statute, subject to annulment if the vessel loses eligibility for registration. The Official Extract must be kept onboard as proof of the right to fly the German flag. The Certificate of Registry serves as a kind of title document; no entries will be made in the register unless the Certificate of Registry is produced to the Registry Office. Therefore, if a mortgage is created on the vessel, this document will be held by the mortgagee. Provisional six month certificates for transferring ships to the German flag while in foreign ports (“Schiffsvorzertifikat”) are available from consulates and embassies. The information that needs to be given in the application for registry is generally the same as that which is required for the permanent registration plus notice of where the vessel was last registered.

Bareboat Charter Registration

Bareboat chartering in and out of the German National Register is permitted. Vessels registered abroad may be registered under the bareboat charterer’s name and thereby be awarded the right to fly the German flag with the owner’s and the foreign registry’s consent. If the vessel is leased for at least one year, the vessel will be manned according to German manning law and the charterer is:
• A German citizen or citizen of a member state of the EU domiciled in Germany
• A limited or general partnership and the majority of personally liable and managing partners is German and if Germans have the majority of votes
• A corporate entity with Germans holding the majority either in the board of directors or in the management
• A company formed under the law of one EU member state and with domicile, head office, or main administration in the EU if at least one person domiciled in Germany is permanently responsible for the compliance with certain standards

The registration application of the charterer must be made with the Federal Maritime and Hydrography Agency (“Bundesamt für Seeschiffahrt und Hydrographie”) and contain the following information/documentation:
• Information as to name of vessel; type of vessel; material of hull; place and date of construction; name, nationality and residence of applicant; basis for registration; and main particulars of the vessel including registration and IMO numbers
• Proof of ownership and consent of owner notarially attested and legalized
• Certified true copy of the charterparty
• Written consent of the country of registration legalized with sworn German translation
• Certificate showing ownership and encumbrances or transcript of registry showing all recorded liens and encumbrances legalized with sworn German translation
• Consent of holders or recorded liens and encumbrances notarially attested and legalized
• Proof that the vessel will be manned according to German rules and regulations

Upon registration, a Flag Certificate (“Flaggenrechtszertifikat”) will be issued authorizing the vessel to fly the flag of the Federal Republic of Germany for a specific period of time reserving the right of the authority to revoke the same if the vessel loses eligibility for registration. Likewise German owners of seagoing vessels may, in the discretion of the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency, be granted permission to have their vessels fly a foreign flag for up to two years and for this purpose be parallel registered abroad if the vessel is bareboat chartered to a foreigner for at least one year. During this period the vessel is not allowed to fly the German flag although she remains registered in her official registry and governed by German laws as far as property title and encumbrances are concerned.

Vessel and Yacht Eligibility & Survey Requirements

There are no age limits for German vessels. However, a Sailing Permit Certificate ("Fahrterlaubnisschein") issued by the Maritime Trade Association ("SeeBerufsgenossenschaft") must be obtained for all merchant vessels under the German flag and renewed every second year. The necessary survey will be carried out by the Maritime Trade Association but a Classification Certificate issued by the Germanischer Lloyd Classification Society or by any other member of IACS may instead be accepted.


The old “Schiffsbesetzungsverordnung” (the crewing code) has been novated by a completely new code valid as of early 1999. This novation is rather significant; while the old crewing code gave minimum requirements for the number of personnel on board the new code does not give any specific numbers. According to the new regulations the shipowner has to submit a proposal to the Maritime Trade Association (See-Berufsgenossenschaft = SeeBG) who is the competent authority for issuing the Safe Manning Certificate. The shipowner has to propose how many officers and crew he will have on board. This proposal should reflect the requirements under the STCW and German employment law. If the proposal is acceptable to the SeeBG and does comply with the requirements of all applicable laws and conventions they will issue the Safe Manning Certificate.

The captain must be a German and holder of a German certificate, in any case. Of the remaining officers and crew, (the number of which depends on the shipowner’s proposal and the SeeBG’s approval) there are minimum nationality requirements:

For vessels from 500 to 1600 GRT: One (1) deck officer (either nautical or technical) must be German or a citizen of another EU-country and a holder of a German or especially approved foreign certificate.

Such special authorization will be granted by the competent Water and Ships Directorate (‘Wasser- und Schiffahrtsdirektion”). This application will be normally handled by the shipowner. Apart from various formalities, the shipowner must guarantee that proper “linguistic communication will be ensured”.

For vessels from 1600 to 3000 GRT: One (1) deck officer (either nautical or technical) must be German or a citizen of another EU country and a holder of a German or specially approved foreign certificate, 1 crew man having passed the German training as a rating according to the “Schiffsmechaniker Ausbildungsverordnung” (ships’ mechanic training decree) the nationality of whom is irrelevant, or another fully qualified rating (“Wachbefähigter”) of either German or another EU country nationality must be on board. The latter does not apply if the vessel has less than 750 KW engine power.

For vessels from 3000 to 8000 GRT: Minimum of 1 deck officer as set out above plus 1 “Schiffsmechaniker” as set out above, plus one “Wachbefähigter” as set out above.

For vessels of more than 8000 GRT: Minimum of 2 deck officers either nautical or technical who must be Germans or citizens of another EU-country and holder of a German or specially-approved foreign certificate, plus one “Schiffsmechaniker”, plus another “Wachbefähigter” as set out above.

For vessels with more than 3000 GRT: The “Schiffsmechaniker” may be replaced by another “Wachbefähigter” being a German or a citizen of another EU-country if no “Schiffsmechaniker” is available within Germany.

Note most of the previous nationality requirements have been dropped.


In order for a mortgage to be effective, there must be a written and notarially testified consent of the owners and an entry into the register. Mortgages (securing principal amount and interest or accounts current) may be recorded in the Ship Register as soon as the ship is registered. Mortgages rank in priority according to the date of the entry. Entries will be recorded in the order of submissions to the register of the application with the respective deed, and not according to the date of the mortgage deeds themselves. Provisions can be made whereby the mortgage constitutes an immediately enforceable title. The shipowner has the right to reserve a rank for later mortgages.

Mortgages will be recorded in the currency of the mortgage deed which need not be EURO. The State Central Bank's consent is required unless the credit secured is granted by an acknowledged banking institution. There are no nationality requirements for mortgagees. A registered mortgage may be transferred to any person by agreement and entry into the register.


Initial Registration
Registration fees will be charged per the value (not the tonnage!) of the ship (irrespective of her age and type) as charted in the German Cost Rule for Court Fees and Notarial Fees and may range, for example, from €130.00 for a vessel worth €300,000 to €1,650.00 for a vessel worth €10,000,000. There will be small ancillary costs for the issuance of certificates.

There are no annual fees.

The recording of a mortgage will be charged per the nominal amount pursuant to the German Cost Rule for Court Fees and Notarial Fees at the same rate as registration fees for the vessel. Since under German Law the creation of a shipmortgage requires (at least) notarial attestation of the mortgage document and (in case the mortgage is to constitute an immediately enforceable title) a full notarial deed, pertaining notarial fees will have to be incurred in the amount of up to approx. €130 for mere notarial attestation and/or in an amount linked to the nominal value of the mortgage at the rate of 200% of the registration fee for a full notarial deed. The recording of a discharge or transfer of a mortgage will be charged on the same basis as for initial recording.


Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure
Postfach 20 01 20
Robert-Schuman-Platz 1
D-53170 - D-53175

+ 49-228-300-4600
+ 49 228-300-4602
+ 49-228-300-1465

Berufsgenossenschaft Verkehrswirtschaft, Post-Logistik, Telekommunikation
Mr. Mike Meklenburg
Ship Safety Division, PSC Coordinator
BG Verkehr, Dienststelle Schiffssicherheit
Brandstwiete 1

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 Germany

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 x
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
IMSO amendments 2006
IMSO amendments 2008 x
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 x
CLC Protocol 92 x
FUND Protocol 76 x
FUND Protocol 92 x
FUND Protocol 2003 x
NUCLEAR Convention 71 x
PAL Convention 74
PAL Protocol 76
PAL Protocol 90
PAL Protocol 02
LLMC Convention 76 d
LLMC Protocol 96 x
SUA Convention 88 x
SUA Protocol 88 x
SUA Convention 2005 x
SUA Protocol 2005 x
SALVAGE Convention 89 x
OPRC Convention 90 x
HNS Convention 96
OPRC/HNS 2000 x

x: Accession/ratification
d: Denunciation

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