Under the 1988 Act there is no longer the ‘obligation’ to register as imposed by Section 2 of the 1894 Act.  The new concept is that of ‘entitlement‘ to register under Section 4 of the 1988 Act.  Previously, all ships owned by British persons were to be registered unless exempted.  There were no penalties, however, for non registration and consequently, owners could ‘flag out’ i.e. could register elsewhere.  Section 72 of the 1894 Act provided that such ships would not be accorded any benefits enjoyed by British ships but would be subject to any liabilities as if a British registered ship.  Entitlement to register under Section 4 of the 1988 Act gives statutory recognition to the ability of British persons to ‘flag out’.  Notwithstanding this, there are similar provisions in the 1988 Act relating to non-registered ships as in the 1894 Act.  Schedule I, paragraph 44 of the 1988 Act provides that unregistered ships will not enjoy benefits accorded to British ships.  Additionally, ships owned wholly by British persons and not registered elsewhere will be treated as British ships for the purposes of any liability or criminal sanctions. The governing legislation is today the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.  It is important to be aware of the intervening developments in order to be able to understand the policy behind the current legislation. Subsequent to the 1988 Act came the Merchant Shipping (Registration etc) Act 1993 (which came into force on 21st March 1994).  This Act arose from a report by the General Council of British Shipping and the Department of Transport Joint Working Party, entitled ‘British Shipping: Challenges and Opportunities’.