Registration

The Ship has to be registered.  As a ship will spend most of its life in international waters, trading between a large selection of countries, it cannot be said to ‘belong’ automatically to a particular country in the same way as a factory or other similar static plant.  But a ship cannot be stateless.  It has to ‘belong’ to one particular country to be subject to that country’s laws which should incorporate the various International Conventions for Ships and, in time of difficulty, to be able to claim the protection of that country.  Within that country the vessel will be registered at a particular port, the Port of Registry which is an important item of information in a ship’s details. A significant amount of influence in connection with ship registration is exercised by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) which is an arm of the United Nations with its headquarters in London.  It is responsible for regulating the use of the seas by the agreement of international conventions.  Its main activities relate to safety at sea, protection against pollution and the settlement of international law of the sea. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS) requires every ship to sail under one flag (Article 92 of UNCLOS) and also confers a right to every State, whether littoral or land-locked, to have ships flying its flag (Article 91 of UNCLOS). If a State exercises this right, it must also assume the obligation to ensure that the ships are subject to its effective jurisdiction and control (Article 94 of UNCLOS).  This means that the State may offer a conducive environment for ship operators, for instance, in the following areas: fiscal regimes (e.g. tax exemption, foreign exchange controls, fees) legal regimes (limitation of liability, mortgage laws, litigation laws) ownership requirements. Bilateral or multilateral agreements which accord special rights to its ships (e.g. cargo sharing, taxation, right of entry). Manning requirements (nationality, recognition of certificates, manning scale, wage scales).