Ship Registration

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) has always been a favourite of sailors and it is a premier Caribbean sailing destination. For this reason and many others, the BVI Shipping Registry is a natural corollary. It is an active participant at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), all major maritime conventions have been extended to the BVI Government and enacted through BVI law.

The BVI is committed at all levels to the development of our maritime industry in full compliance with international standards. Today, more than 3000 internationally-owned ships are registered by the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry (VISR) under the BVI Merchant Shipping Act 2001 and those numbers continue to rise.

The role of VISR is to implement the maritime policies of the BVI Government, principally through the BVI Merchant Shipping Act, 2001, covering, amongst other things: ship registration; plan approval; statutory surveys; ship operations; crew competence; safety; and pollution prevention.  To ensure that shipowners can have the ship name they desire, there are three ports of registration in the BVI: Road Town, White Bay and, Gorda Sound. 

The BVI registry also has a satellite office in London and a network of surveyors available around the globe which means VISR can attend to any needs on a 24 hour basis.

Advantages of BVI Ship Registration

A ship is registered to establish nationality; to secure ownership title, and to enable its use as security to obtain a ship’s mortgage, which in turn is registered.

The BVI has the distinct advantage of being a Category 1 Red Ensign jurisdiction which classifies the BVI as 1 of 10 centres worldwide where meta-yachts and super yachts of up to 3000 gross tonnage, and cargo ships of unlimited tonnage can be registered.

  • Ships flying the BVI flag are entitled to British Consular support, Royal Navy protection, and access to the resources of the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency;
  • VISR is specialised in Yacht registration and our Certificates are recognised worldwide;
  • VISR is a member of the Red Ensign Group (REG) of British Shipping Registries and can register Merchant Ships like bulk carriers and container vessels. Ships flying the Flag are entitled to British Diplomatic/Consular support and Royal Navy protection;
  • Registered ownership allowed to citizens and corporate bodies worldwide;
  • No tax on profit from the operation or management of a BVI ship;
  • Competitive registration, corporate and annual maintenance fees;
  • Concierge registry services;
  • The highest standard in technical expertise;
  • The BVI is the yachting Mecca of the Caribbean, equipped with modern state-of-the-art facilities, berths, accommodation, supplies, and services;
  • In-house expertise in nautical, marine engineering and naval architecture;
  • Backup of collective expertise of the Red Ensign Group and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency UK;
  • Simplified procedures for obtaining Seafarers’ Discharge Books and endorsements;
  • Vessels not targeted for Port State inspection in the UK; full corporate, legal, telecommunications and courier services are readily available in the BVI;VISR’s prompt, courteous and efficient service is supported by a fully computerised Fleet Management System and Database;
  • Marine mortgage is recognised and enforced worldwide;
  • No stamp duty of Mortgage Deed or ship security documents.

How to register your ship/vessel


Aircraft Registration

The BVI is a US Federal Aviation Authority Category One aircraft register.  With the introduction of the Mortgaging of Aircraft and Aircraft Engines Act and Regulations, the Territory is able to register aircraft and engines which enables operators to secure aircraft financing.

It is expected and encouraged that an aircraft be owned by a British Virgin Islands business company. Further, BVI companies do not pay any tax in the British Virgin Islands, and aircraft and their parts may be imported into the British Virgin Islands free of duty.

Another important feature is the ability to delegate aircraft inspection to a competent authority in a competent jurisdiction. This contrasts with many onshore jurisdictions which require that an inspection of an aircraft be carried out in their home territory.

The Aircraft Registry (by Robert Briant, Conyers Dill & Pearman)

The Register of Aircrafts is managed and maintained by the Governor of the British Virgin Islands. These responsibilities have been delegated to the Director of Civil Aviation in the British Virgin Islands (the “Director”) as overseen by Air Safety Support International (“ASSI”), a not-for-profit wholly owned subsidiary of the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (the “CAA”).  As such, the CAA is indirectly responsible for ensuring aircraft safety in the British Virgin Islands including with respect to such registry.

There is a four step process to register an aircraft in the British Virgin Islands. Prospective applicants are highly recommended to seek BVI legal advice before proceeding with any application.

Step One (Due Diligence):

The process to register an aircraft in the BVI starts with a written request to the Director. Upon receipt of the request, the Director will send the applicant an Aircraft Registration Application Form (BVI Form 001) which forms part of the due diligence process undertaken by the Director.

The Director will ensure the applicant is eligible to register an aircraft in the British Virgin Islands. In particular, the aircraft must be owned by certain specified types of individuals or companies. The Director encourages the applicant to incorporate a British Virgin Islands business company for the purposes of owning the aircraft.

After the Director reviews the Aircraft Registration Application Form and determines that the applicant is suitable to proceed, the Director will send to the applicant a registration package which includes all the necessary application forms and additional guidance material as applicable to the applicant’s operational and aircraft certification requirements.

Step Two (Operation of the Aircraft):

The registration package will contain information required for the applicant to comply with the operational requirements and flight crew licencing and validation requirements. The applicant will need to demonstrate compliance with overseas territory navigation requirements (“OTARs”) parts 91 and 125 for an aircraft being used for private or corporate use, and OTARs parts 119 in conjunction with OTARs parts 121 and 135, as applicable, in connection with an aircraft being used for commercial use. Further, the applicant will need to demonstrate compliance with the flight crew licencing requirements under OTARs part 61.

Step Three (Certificate of Airworthiness & Supporting Maintenance):

Once the operation of the aircraft is established, an application for a certificate of airworthiness is made on BVI Form 002. When sent to the applicant, BVI Form 002 will be accompanied by guidance material as to the documentation, manuals and minimum equipment levels which will be required. In this regard, the Director will accept type certificates from the FAA in the USA, Transport Canada, a full member state of the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) or the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for any aircraft which is the first of its type on the BVI register.

The applicant will need to submit a BVI Form 003 to have a Technical Coordinator approved by the Director. The Technical Coordinator is the person responsible for ensuring suitable arrangements have been made for continued airworthiness management.

Step Four (Continuing Requirements): The owner (applicant) has the ultimate responsibility for continuing airworthiness of the aircraft, with the Technical Coordinator being responsible on a day to day basis. Reference is made to OTARs Part 39 in this regard. The registration mark for British Virgin Islands aircraft will be prefixed with VP-L**.