International Registries

There are, broadly speaking, four types of registries, the traditional or “closed” registries – these generally have more stringent criteria for ownership, i.e. only citizens and companies incorporated in the country can qualify.  Degree of “closedness” varies because foreigners can still get in by way of companies unless there are stringent criteria also for company ownership.  Examples of such registries are most of the European countries, except the “international” registries.  The original registries still belong to the traditional category. The “open” registries – established as a service to the international shipping community.  The most notable examples are Liberia and Panama. The “off-shore” or “international” registries – these registries are set up by the countries with traditional registries to stem the exodus of ships from their original registries.  These are designed to lower the operating costs of owners and some are also designed to attract foreigners.  Examples are the Norwegian, Danish and German international registers. The “dual” or “bareboat” registries – these registries allow bareboat chartered ships to be registered.  Examples of countries which allow dual registration are Germany, Australia, Liberia and the Philippines. In the past the choice of the country of Registration was easy.  The owners Registered and crewed their ships in the country where they lived and conducted their business.  This state of affairs lasted until the 1940s when American owners found that the high cost of running ships under the American flag, crew wage levels being particularly high, made it impossible for them to compete in the international shipping market.   They therefore searched for a country which: Would permit a company owned and controlled by non-nationals to operate ships under its flag (most traditional maritime countries insisted that the owning company is Registered, owned and controlled by its own nationals only). Would permit the beneficial owners to reside and operate elsewhere and to maintain all accounting/banking operations and keep all profits in a different country.