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United Kingdom

Shipowner Eligibility 

Eligibility to register a ship in the UK needs to be considered at the outset.
The register is split into four parts as follows
• Part I (Merchant Ships and Pleasure Vessels/Large Yachts over 24m)
• Part II (Fishing Vessels)
• Part III (Small Ships Register for vessels under 24m)
• Part IV (Bareboat Charter)

For Parts I and IV, applications may be made by:
• British Citizens
• British Dependent Territories citizens
• British Citizens living overseas
• Citizens of an EU member state exercising their rights under articles 48 or 52 of the EU Treaty in the UK
• Companies incorporated in one of the EEA countries
• Companies incorporated in any British overseas possession which have their principal place of business in the UK or those possessions
• European Economic Interest Groupings

When none of the qualified owners are resident in the UK, a representative person must be appointed who may be either:
• An individual resident in the UK
• A company incorporated in one of the EEA countries with a place of business in the UK

About the Flag

The United Kingdom is a unitary state governed under a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system with its seat of government in the capital city of London. Its parliament has been a model for governments throughout the world.

It is a country in its own right and consists of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Associated with the UK, but not constitutionally part of it, are three Crown Dependencies and fourteen overseas territories.

The UK is a developed country and has the world's sixth largest economy by GDP. The currency is pounds sterling (GBP).

The UK has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. It is also a member of the European Union (EU), the Commonwealth of Nations, the G8, the G20, the OECD, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization and NATO.

UK shipping law is covered by the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 and the Merchant Shipping (Registration of Ships) Regulations 1993 with amendments in 1994, 1998, 1999 and 2000.

The UK Ship Register (UKSR) is part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency; the UK's Maritime Administration and is one of the oldest and most reputable ship registers in the world. The Register looks to provide a high level of service for its customers with an emphasis on quality support throughout and after registration.

The UKSR has gained a reputation for being a flag of quality and maintaining the highest standards. It is one of the best performing flags in the major Port State Control regimes, supported by its high position on the Paris and Tokyo MoU White Lists and inclusion on the United States Coastguard Qualship 21 Scheme. The UK Flag is a signatory to all the major international maritime conventions.

Working with our customers to achieve ‘Safety through Partnership', we understand that quality standards set by reputable sections of the shipping industry should not be compromised by sub-standard shipping and therefore we believe that quality is non-negotiable.

The UK Ship Register was officially launched in February 2007. All the previous units were brought together into one single cohesive unit with a new attitude, providing real customer service and care with 24-hour assistance. Since then the UK Merchant Fleet has grown by over 5 million GT.

Each company is assigned a Customer Account Manager (CAM) as a single point of contact who is responsible for all aspects of administration and assists the company in guiding them through the registration process. In addition, the CAM works alongside a Customer Service Manager (CSM), who, as a qualified surveyor, provides a single point of liaison between the UKSR and the customer to help ensure technical consistency and quality of service throughout the survey and certification process. The CAM and CSM remain the points of contact throughout the time a company has ships registered with the UKSR.

Some of the advantages of registering are;
Some of the advantages of registering are;
• The UK Flag is one of the top performing flags on the Paris MoU and Tokyo MoU 'White Lists'
• The UK is included on the US Coastguard's Qualship 21 initiative
• Dedicated customer service and focused assistance throughout and after registration
• Registration costs amongst the lowest available with no annual renewal fees
• UK Tonnage Tax incentive - alternative method of calculating corporation tax profits based on ship net tonnage
• The UK has met the Paris MOU flag criteria for low risk ships so UK ships are not targeted for Port State Control inspections
• ISPS plan approvals and verification audits at no cost to owners and operators
• An international reputation for expert advice and guidance with a proactive leading role at the IMO, EU and Quality Shipping Committees
• Worldwide security threat level information provided to UK registered ships with support for British Nationals on board from British Consuls and Royal Navy protection dependent on the availability of assets and the nature of the threat
• MCA Quality Assurance offers certification to ISO 9001(2008) and ISO 14001(2004) standards with audits being taken in harmonisation with ISM & ISPS
• Alternate Compliance Scheme - for eligible vessels, statutory surveys (except ISM, ISPS and ILO) are delegated to Classification Societies without a formal appointment

The Red Ensign Group
The Red Ensign Group is comprised of the United Kingdom, UK Crown Dependencies (Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey) and UK Overseas Territories (Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, St. Helena and the Turks & Caicos Islands) who operate shipping registers.

Any vessel registered in the UK, Crown Dependency or UK Overseas Territory, is a "British ship" and is entitled to fly the Red Ensign flag.

The 1995 Merchant Shipping Act provides for British possessions to be categorised according to the tonnage, size and type of vessel which can be registered. Under the Merchant Shipping (Categorisation of Registries of Relevant British Possessions) (Amendment) Order 2008 (Statutory Instrument 2008 No. 1243), these registers are divided into Catergory 1 and 2 flag States.

The group exists to ensure consistency of quality, establish common standards, share best practice, and represent the interests of the UK Secretary of State for Transport under whose general superintendency the registers are permitted to operate. It also exists to promote the British Red Ensign as a flag of quality to the world.

The combined British Red Ensign fleet comprises a total of 50.1 million GRT. This places the Red Ensign Group as the 7th largest combined register in the world by GRT.

Find out more about the Red Ensign Group and the different registers at the REG website,

Company Formation

Four types of companies may be formed under the UK companies legislation: a private company limited by shares, a private company limited by guarantee, a private unlimited company, and a public company. Before forming a company, one must submit a Memorandum of Association, Articles of Association, Notification of First Directors and Secretary (Form 10), and a Declaration of Compliance (Form 12), along with a standard registration fee to the Companies House. Overseas qualifying companies are obliged to submit certain additional documents.


The United Kingdom uses the Tonnage Tax, an alternative method of calculating corporation tax profits by reference to the net tonnage of the ship operated. The tonnage tax profit replaces both the tax-adjusted commercial profit/loss on a shipping trade and the chargeable gains/losses made on tonnage tax assets. Other profits of a tonnage tax company are taxable in the normal way.

To find out more about the tonnage tax, visit the HMRC website or contact:
HM Revenue & Customs
Tonnage Tax Unit
Liverpool Large Business Unit
Regian House
James Street
L75 1AE
Tel: +44 (0)151 966 1075

Registration and Documentation

For new ship registration applications a pro-forma needs to be completed. This provides us with the necessary information to check that your ship(s) qualifies for UK registration.

If your ship(s) qualifies for registration you will be assigned a Customer Account Manager (CAM) who will act as your single point of contact for policy and administration matters. A Customer Service Manager (CSM) will also be assigned to the company who will be responsible for technical matters. CSM’s, who are fully trained surveyors, are able to talk owners through the technical aspects of registration, either from new build stage or when transferring from another flag.

Both the CAM and CSM will be designated to a company for the duration of the period they have ships registered on the UK Flag.

The Registry of Shipping (RSS) can reserve ship names and help select a port of registry from over 100 UK ports with names like Southampton or London, which are renowned throughout the world.

Your completed application form can be submitted on-line together with the appropriate fee(s) paid by credit card or submitted electronically by BACS, details of which, along with our current fee structure, are available on our website. Alternatively, it can be posted along with the appropriate support documentation and fee(s) to: UK Ship Register - RSS, Anchor Court, Keen Road, Cardiff, CF24 5JW, UK.

Required Documents

The following documents are required for Part I or IV registration and can be obtained from our website or through your CAM. Once completed, they can be submitted on-line, by email, fax or post to the UK Ship Register - RSS in Cardiff.

• MSF 4740 – Application to register a ship
• MSF 4740A – Application to register a ship of over 500gt
• MSF 4727 – Declaration of Eligibility for a Merchant ship
• MSF 4705 – Bill of Sale
• MSF 4733, 4734 and 4739 – Mortgage forms (where applicable)

Supporting Documentation

• Copy of Certificate of Incorporation (If owner/charterer is a body corporate)
• Certificate of Survey for Tonnage & Measurement
• International Tonnage Certificate (ITC69)
• Builders Certificate (for new builds)

For ship(s) currently registered on another Register:

• An extract/transcript from current Register;
• A written undertaking to provide deletion certificate after registration onto UK Ship Register;
• A copy of the ship’s current Continuous Synopsis Record;
• Charter Party Agreement if the ship(s) is Bareboat Chartered

Bareboat Charter Registration

Quality ships can be bareboat chartered into the UK register from any other world registry and although there is no specific legislation allowing bareboat chartering out of UK flag, it is not prohibited. Any company or person who is eligible to be an owner can also become a charterer. As with owned ships, a representative person or a managing charterer must be appointed.

The necessary forms and documentation are required by RSS is as follows:


• MSF 4738 - Application to register a Bareboat Charter Ship
• MSF 4735 - Declaration of Eligibility for a Bareboat Charter Ship


• Copy of Certificate of Incorporation if the Charterer is a company
• Copy of the Charter Party Agreement (the contract between the parties) showing:
• The name of the ship
• The name of the charterer(s) and owner(s),
• The date of the charter-party
• The duration of the charter-party
• Copy of the Primary registration certificate
• Certificate of Survey for Tonnage and Measurement & ITC69
• A copy of the Continuous Synopsis Record (CSR) id applicable
• Appropriate fee

RSS will advise the primary register that the ship is bareboat chartered. Once the initial paperwork has been submitted, the chosen name and port will be confirmed and an official number issued. Once these details have been marked onto the ship, the certificate of registry is issued and will last for five years or the duration of the charter party agreement, whichever is shorter.

Vessel and Yacht Eligibility & Survey Requirements

Ships must generally be surveyed before registration. Five leading classification societies may be appointed to carry out this work:

• American Bureau of Shipping
• Bureau Veritas
• DNV GL Group
• Lloyd’s Register of Shipping
• Registro Italiano Navale

These requirements apply to owned and bareboat chartered ships. For registration purposes, existing Class certificates can often be accepted instead of costly re-survey work.

Alternative Compliance Scheme

Under this voluntary scheme the survey and certification process is streamlined by minimising duplication of effort with the classification societies. When a ship is registered under the Alternative Compliance Scheme (ACS) it allows the Classification Society to perform all statutory surveys required under SOLAS, MARPOL and Load Line Conventions with the exception of ISM, ISPS and ILO 178, without a formal ‘appointment’ by the UK Ship Register.

Entry into the scheme is conditional upon Port State Control and Class criteria being met.

• MSF 4753 – ACS Application Form


There is no restriction on the nationality of ratings and in the case of the officers all EEA certificates have been approved (Equivalency Agreements), and the following non-European Union countries have similar approval, namely:
• Australia
• Canada
• Croatia
• Estonia
• India
• Jamaica
• Malta
• Myanmar
• New Zealand
• Pakistan
• Poland
• Romania
• Singapore
• South Africa
• Ukraine
• United States

In the near future it is likely that Equivalency Agreements will be given to the Philippines and Taiwan. In most cases it is unlikely that a shipowner will need to change the current operation in order to go under the UK flag.

Safe Manning Document
An application for a Safe Manning Document is required for each ship joining the UK Ship Register and should be made at the time of applying for registration and no later than two weeks prior to final registration.

• MSF 4227 – Safe Manning Document

More information: MSN 1767 – Hours of Work, Safe Manning & Watchkeeping
In addition to this application form, we also need a covering letter containing your telephone, fax and email contact information; details of any sister ships on the UK Ship Register; and confirmation of the date the Safe Manning Document is required. A General Arrangement plan is required unless a sister ship is already on the UK Ship Register.

To confirm manning levels are operationally viable and that working hours and rest periods meet regulations, we also require a typical seven-day voyage plan. Software will be provided for this purpose after the initial assessment of the application. Alternatively, monthly Hours of Rest records for the whole crew can be submitted using MSN 1767 Annex B.

The appropriate fee can be paid by BACS, credit card or deducted from your rolling account.
Contact details
Tel: +44 (0)23 8032 9231
Fax: +44 (0)23 8032 9252

Crew Agreements
You are required to make arrangements for an approved UK Crew Agreement (Pre-approved (ALC 1) (BSF) 1(d) plus attachments or ALC (NFD) 1(d)) or a non-standard version approved by UK Ship Register.
There are two standard approved agreements: ‘Federated’ or ‘Non-Federated’ - both of which ensure compliance with the minimum standards as required under international conventions. These are required to be supported by a List of Crew.

As an alternative we will give consideration to other forms of crew agreement proposed by a ship owner/operator. However, any such agreement will be required to comply with UK merchant shipping and general legislation and may not contain anything which conflicts with such legislation or seeks to apply the law of any country outside the UK. If approval of a non standard agreement is required, such approval should be sought as soon as possible as it is a requirement that an approved crew agreement be in place before a UK registered vessel goes to sea.

The provisions of the Staff Handbook and any extra provisions added to the Contractual Clauses must be in compliance with UK legislation, particularly merchant shipping legislation covering seafarer’s and the employer’s rights and obligations.

To meet the Crew Agreement requirements you will need the following:

• (ALC 1) - UK Crew Agreement Outer Cover.
• (ALC 1) (BSF) 1(d) (plus attachments) - Federated Agreement for use on ships previously operating under National Maritime Board conditions or
• ALC (NFD) 1(d) - Non Federated Agreement for ships not operating under a Federated Agreement . This Agreement meets the basic requirements of ILO Convention 22 or Non-standard Contractual Clause - specifically approved by MCA
• ALC 1(a) - List of crew who are signatories to the Crew Agreement.
• ALC 1(b) - List of crew exempt from requirement to sign a Crew Agreement
• ALC 1(c) - List of Young Persons
• ALC 6 - Copy of Crew Agreement sheet
• Log 1 - UK Official Log Books (required for all ships)
• Log 2 - Supplementary Log Book (required for passenger ships)

More information on these requirements is contained in MGN 148 (M).

Crew Agreement documentation and Log books can be obtained over the counter at any MCA Marine Office MCA Marine Office in the UK or by post through our distribution agents:
EC Group, Europa Park, Magnet Road, Grays, Essex, RM20 4DN, United Kingdom.
Tel: +44 (0) 845 603 2431
Fax: +44 (0) 1375 484 556

You will need to inform EC Group of the forms required and the quantity.


A ship, or shares in a ship, can be used as security for a loan. The mortgage is in a standard one-page form and is available from the RSS. This provides additional security for the mortgagor, as the mortgage remains on the UK register until the mortgage is discharged, even if the ship changes name or is sold to new owners.

Discharge of the mortgage is simply done by the mortgagor returning the deed, with the discharge section completed. The discharge is registered and the deed returned; there is no fee for this service.


Please contact the UK Ship Register if you would like a detailed estimate of the total costs for registering your ship(s) with the UK flag. The register also offers a fee calculator which is available at the following

Cargo vessels - Find out how much it costs to register your commercial cargo vessel on the Enhanced Authorisation Scheme with the UK Ship Register.

Passenger vessels - Provides an indication of the minimum cost that you will be expected to pay over a five year period (survey period) for passenger vessels registered on Part 1 (Commercial) and Part 4 (Bareboat)

Large Yachts - We offer fixed fee packages for all survey work, travel expenses are charged at cost. With the pay as you go option, the total cost is entirely dependent on the number of hours our surveyors need to spend on the project.


Registry of Shipping and Seaman
Anchor Court, Keen Rd, Cardiff CF24 5JW, UK

Web Site:

Katy Ware, Director of UK Maritime Services

Dan Vivian, Commercial Director

Jackie Barnetson, Head of Operations

Julie Carlton, Head of Seafarer Safety and Health, UK Seafarer Services

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 United Kingdom

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= ratification

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