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BVI Ship Registration

There are, at the present time, two (2) categories of vessels that may be registered in the British Virgin Islands. These are: 

  • Vessels used for private pleasure and
  • Vessels used for commercial ial purposes, such as the carriage of passengers and freight.

A vessel used exclusively for private pleasure may be registered in the British Virgin Islands if it does not exceed 399 gross tons and is owned by any of the following:

  1. Virgin Islands citizens
  2. British citizens
  3. British Dependent Territories citizens
  4. British Overseas citizens
  5. British subjects
  6. Persons who under the Hong Kong (British Nationality) Order 1986 are British Nationals (overseas)
  7. Persons other than those referred to in paragraphs (a) to (f), who are nationals of a Member State of the European Union or European Economic Area, including the overseas territories of such member State;
  8. Bodies corporate incorporated in any Member State of the European Union or European Economic Area, including the United Kingdom, and having a place of business in any such Member State;
  9. Bodies corporate incorporated in any relevant British possession, other than the Virgin Islands, or in any verseas territory of a Member State of the European Union or the European Economic Area, and having a place of business in any such possession or overseas territory; and
  10. Bodies corporate incorporated in the Virgin Islands or incorporated in a Member State of the Caribbean Community or the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and registered in the Virgin Islands.

A vessel that is used for commercial purposes may be registered in the British Virgin Islands if it does not exceed 150 gross tons and is owned by any of the persons or bodies listed above.

A person who is not qualified under paragraphs (a) to (f) above to be an owner of a Virgin Islands ship may nevertheless be one of the owners of such a ship if a majority interest in the ship is owned by persons who are qualified to be owners of Virgin Islands ships.

It is usual in the BVI to form offshore company, called an International Business Company (IBC), and vest ownership of the vessel in that company. This device circumvents the problems of for foreign ownership. This firm can assist with the formation as well as the administration of s such a company. Forwarded herewith is information relating to the formation of the IBC.

If the vessel is registered under a foreign flag de-registration is necessary before registration can be effected in the BVI. Before steps are taken to de-register a vessel, however, application should first be made in the BVI to reserve a name for the vessel. The cost of reserving a name is $25.00 and the name is reserved for a period of 180 days. A number of alternative names should be submitted in case the first choice is not available. Names of small vessels can be approved locally. In the case of larger vessels, the application for approval will be forwarded by the local Registrar to the Registrar of Ships in Cardiff, Wales.

Where the name of a vessel has been approved, the next step is to apply for registration of the vessel under that name. The following documents must be submitted:

  • Ship Builder's Certificate (if the vessel is new) OR the Bill of Sale (if the vessel is not new); but where ownership of a vessel has frequently changed, the Registrar usually requires copies of the various Bills of Sale leading up to the present owner;
  • If the vessel is register under a foreign flag, a certified copy of the closed transcript of the Register R a Certificate of Deletion along with the Bill of Sale from the last owner on r rd to the present owner;
  • A Declaration of Ownership
  • A Certificate of Survey (usually sent by the surveyor directly to the Shipping Registr the Tonnage
  • A Certificate usually sent by the surveyor directly to the Shipping Registry)
  • a Certificate of Good Standing f if the owner of the vessel is a corporation and has been incorporated one year or more OR a copy of the Certificate of Incorporation if it is a corporation and has been incorporated for less than one year)
  • an Appointment of Authorised Officer;
  • an Appointment of Manager; and
  • A Certificate stating the purpose for which the vessel will be used
  • The documents mentioned in paragraphs (c), (f) and (h) are prepared by us. The document in paragraph (i) can also be prepared by us as long as we are supplied with the relevant information.

After registration has been approved, the local Registrar of Ships requests a Marking and Carving Note for the vessel. This is a certificate to the effect that the home port of the vessel is prominently marked on the stern of the vessel and that the name and tonnage are prominently marked on its beam. The correct name of the port in the BVI is "ROAD HARBOUR, BVI' and any paraphrase of that name will be refused.

If the vessel is already registered on a British Register, a fresh Certificate of Survey is not necessary. The Registrar will accept a formal transfer of registration to the BVI Register.

The registration fee for a vessel is $550.00. An annual fee of $100.00 is payable to maintain registration of the vessel

The legal fee is approximately $1,200.00 for a vessel but this figure is varied upwards or downwards according to the amount of time spent on a particular matter.

The Value Added Tax (VAT) payable in European countries does not apply in the BVI.


Registration of Ship $1,200.00
Transfer of Registration $1,200.00
Registration of New Owner $1,200.00
Registration of Mortgage $750.00
Discharge of Mortgage $375.00
Obtaining Transcript  $250.00
Obtaining Deregistration $500.00
Search and Preparation of Report $250.00
Change of Name of Vessel $750.00
Obtaining Radio Licence $450.00
Preparation of Deed of Covenant $1,200.00
Preparation of Bill of Sale $120.00
Preparation of Power of Attorney $300.00

* The above denote minimum fees and do not include disbursements


Last Revised: 10/13/2006

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