New BVI Shipping Act increases attractiveness of VISR

The Government of the Virgin Islands has introduced new measures to support the continuing growth of the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry (VISR).

The Merchant Shipping (Amendment) Act, 2018 (the Act) came into force on 19 January 2019 and changes the qualifying criteria for ships that may be registered by VISR. 

VISR is only capable of registering ships owned by certain categories of persons, as set out in the Merchant Shipping Act, 2001 (Qualifying Persons). The Act expands the categories of Qualifying Persons to include the following:

  • Persons who are nationals of a Member State of the Caribbean Community or the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States; and
  • Persons who are citizens, bodies corporate or foreign companies incorporated, established or registered in a recognised jurisdiction or any overseas country, territory or dependency of such a recognised jurisdiction.

A recognised jurisdiction is one which is included in Schedule 2 to the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Code of Practice, 2008.

Prior to the introduction of the Act, a company incorporated in a Member State of the Caribbean Community or the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States had to be registered as a foreign company in the BVI under Part X of the BVI Business Companies Act, to be a Qualifying Person. There are administrative and cost implications associated with registration as a foreign company in the BVI but with the Act coming into force, the requirement for such companies to be so registered has been removed.

The Government has acknowledged that the registration of ships under construction is an issue that needs to be addressed and the Act provisions for the introduction of future regulations to govern the registration of such ships by VISR. We expect these regulations to be enacted shortly and interested parties should pay attention to legislative developments in this area.

Prior to the Act coming into force, VISR was only able to register bareboat charter ships of 1500 gross tonnage and above. Following the introduction of the Act, and provided that all other statutory requirements are met, any bareboat charter ship, regardless of its gross tonnage is able to be registered.

By extending the scope of VISR’s authority and services and by making provision for those services to be provided in a manner that is more accessible to clients, it is expected that the Act will contribute to the continuing growth of ship registration business in the BVI.

If you have questions please contact Johann Henry or your usual Harneys contact.