Developing and adopting appropriate standards of training, evaluation and certification for Virgin Islands seafarers and on-shore staff in accordance with the respective needs of international and domestic shipping and the BVI maritime industry; and providing timely, accurate and appropriate information and advice to the Government, public and private sector organizations and the general public.


1. An application must be submitted to the Registrar of Shipping for registration of all vessels. 

The name of the vessel must be officially approved using form SR101-01 (Proposed name for a British Ship). This ensures no duplication/confusion of names on the Register. The name can be reserved for a fee of US$50.00/- for 6 months from receipt of Fee payment.
There are three ports of registry
If a name is not available at one port of registry, it may be available at another.



The vessel must be surveyed and measured to obtain details of size, and other descriptive particulars necessary for the registration of British Ships under the Merchant Shipping Act. This is carried out by a Surveyor of one of the approved Classification Societies (see section 11.1 (b)), or a Surveyor appointed or authorized by the Registry. The Surveyor issues a Certificate of Survey and a Tonnage Certificate (British or International). A simplified procedure, whereby a combined Certificate of Survey/Tonnage Measurement is issued is applicable to vessels of under 24 Meters, in Load Line Length.

In the case of pleasure vessels, the owner must ensure that the vessel is equipped in accordance with the Safety Matrix. The owner or master completes relevant parts the Safety Matrix and forwards a copy to the Registry.
Additional Survey requirements for safety etc, in respect of Commercial Vessels are summarized in section 11 of this document.



Citizens of, and Bodies Corporate registered in the BVI or, any of the following countries, are qualified to own a Virgin Islands vessel:
  • United Kingdom and its Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories.
  • Nationals of and bodies corporate incorporated in;
    • Member States of the European Community (EC) or European Economic Area (EEA).
    • Overseas Territories of the Members of EC or EEA.  (Bodies corporate must have a place of business in such Member State or Overseas Territory)
  • Bodies corporate incorporated in a Member State of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) or the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) (and registered in the BVI).

A Body Corporate must submit a valid Certificate of Incorporation issued by the respective Registrar of Companies. Individuals must provide certified proof of nationality (Passport etc.)

A company incorporated for more than twelve months needs to submit a ‘Certificate of Good Standing’.



The Owner(s) must produce satisfactory evidence of title to ownership in the form of:-
  • Builder's Certificate; with descriptive details of the vessel, showing quite clearly the full name(s) and address of the person(s) or body corporate on whose account the vessel has been built and/or,
  • Document /Bill of Sale or Transfer (prior to registry) if the vessel has passed through more than one owner's hand before registry. Forms for Bill of Sale can be obtained from the Registrar of Shipping in the Virgin Islands or at any British Registry of Ships.
  • In case of vessels condemned by a competent court, a Bill of Sale given by the Admiralty Marshall or such other competent person may be accepted as foundation of title.

With the documents produced as evidence of title to ownership, every owner is required to make a Declaration of Eligibility. Such declaration can only be made after the vessel has been acquired by the applicant. Therefore, the date must not precede the date in the Builders Certificate or the Bill of Sale.



(a) “Appointment of Authorized Officer” (SR101-03) which enables naming of an Individual to sign Declaration of Eligibility etc., is required in respect of the Body Corporate.
(b) “Appointment of representative person” resident in the Virgin Islands (Individual company.
(c) “Declaration of Eligibility” confirming owner’s eligibility for registering.
(d) Pursuant to our “Know Your Customer” principles, a form entitled ‘Undertaking to Act as Representative Person’ (RP), to be completed by the RP and submitted with every application.



  1. When all required documents are provided, and found to be in order, the vessel is assigned an Official Number, by which it may be known and recognized irrespective of its name and other description.
  2. Official Number may in certain circumstances be issued upon submission of duly completed and satisfactory Certificate of Survey. This will facilitate marking of the official number on the vessel as other papers are being processed.



When the Registrar is satisfied that the vessel is eligible to be registered, a Carving and Marking Note is issued. It shows the vessel's Name, Port of Registry, Official Number and Registered Tonnage which are to be carved /marked on the vessel and contains relevant instruction for doing so.


  1. When the Carving and Marking Note is returned and the fees have been paid, the vessel is formally registered and a Certificate of British Registry issued. It contains details about the ship and its Owners.  On receipt of the certified Carving and Marking Note and all registration documents, the Certificate of British Registry will be issued within 24 hours.
  2. This Certificate only establishes the vessel's Nationality, Owner(s), Description and Tonnage. It does not prove Ownership or show mortgages, liens or any encumbrances. These may be obtained from the Registrar, in the form of a Transcript of the Register, upon payment of the prescribed fee.
  3. In circumstances where relevant documents have been received to the satisfaction of the Registrar, and a Carving and Marking Note has been issued, a ‘Provisional Certificate of British Registry’ may be issued.


10. FEES

  1. Fees for Registry services must be paid before a Certificate of British Registry or a Transcript of the Register is issued. Other services such as, issue of a Provisional Certificate of Registry, Recording of Mortgage Intent, Registration of Mortgages, Transfer or Discharge of Mortgages, Change (Transfer) of Ownerships and Change of Name are available upon request; depending on satisfactory documentation and payment of prescribed fee. The payment should accompany all applications. Cheques and Money Orders must be made payable to “Accountant General”. For guidance to payment of funds to the Accountant General, please see our VISR Payment Instructions and Schedule of Fees.
  2. All costs connected with the survey and certification of a vessel is for owners’ account.




  • (a) All commercial vessels are subject to statutory certification and must be surveyed prior to acceptance for registration, in order to ensure that they comply with the provisions of the applicable International Conventions, Codes and legislation. These surveys may be carried out by surveyors from the VISR or surveyors appointed by an authorized Classification Society. Also, surveyors from the MCA or any of the Red Ensign Group Registries may be engaged if necessary.
  • (b) The following six Classification Societies are authorized by the VISR for undertaking statutory surveys on behalf of the British Virgin Islands:
    • American Bureau of Shipping (ABS)
    • Bureau of Veritas (BV)
    • Det Norske Veritas / Germanischer Lloyds ((DNVGL)
    • Lloyds Register of Shipping (LR)
    • ClassNK (NK)
    • Registro Italiano Navale (RINA)
  • (c) Yachts under 24 metres (79 feet) in load line length, engaged in commercial use:
    • These vessels must hold a ‘Certificate of Compliance’ issued under the relevant MCA Code of Practice (Blue Code, Yellow Code or MGN 280) to operate as commercial vessels. The survey/examination necessary to issue such a certificate may be conducted by surveyors from VISR, Classification Societies or a Certifying Authority approved by the MCA. Other surveyors may be appointed by the VISR, if required, on a case by case basis. Please see our Survey Application Form.
  • (d) In order to initiate a Statutory Survey an application must be made to VISR in writing. On receiving the application, the Chief Marine Surveyor will contact the Owner or his representative to discuss the survey procedures, and make the necessary arrangements to carry out the survey and issue the required statutory certificates.
  • (e) Please see our Survey Matrix for commercial and pleasure yachts.
  • (f) For vessels with a registered length of over 24metres, the Chief Marine Surveyor will advise on the documentation required as these also depend on the gross tonnage and area of operation of the vessel.


  1. Radio Station, Radio Licence, Call Sign, MMSI Number and other Ships Radio and Telecommunication Licences / Certificates (Including INMARSAT) are regulated and issued by the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) of the BVI.
  • Contact details for TRC are:


Please see a listing of all our available forms.

Method of Applying

In Person, Email, Telephone

Turn Around Time

1 - 3 Business Days

Additional Notes


What is the difference between Category 1 and 2 Shipping Registers?

Category 1 Administrations operate large international registers and may register ships of unlimited tonnage, type and length.

Category 2 Administrations can register commercial ships of up to 150 gross tons (GRT) and pleasure vessels, that is, those not operated commercially of up to 400 GRT (pleasure vessels, by definition, refer to ships used for sport or pleasure, which are not operated commercial).

We do not register:

  • Vessels over 20 years
  • Vessels belonging to non-qualifying owners (see Who Can Register)
  • Vessels that the Registry does not consider safe or which are a risk for pollution
  • Vessels that would endanger the safety, health and welfare of officers, crew or passengers
  • Vessels that the Registry consider high risk to be used for criminal purposes
  • If Registration would be detrimental to the interests of the Virgin Islands or international shipping

Department Contact Information

Virgin Islands Shipping Registry
1st Floor Ritter House, 
Wickham's Cay II
Road Town, Tortola, VG 1110
Business Hours:

Monday - Friday  
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Email Address:

Reception/General Office:  1(284) 393-0000
Ag. Director:  1(284) 468-9499
Registrar:  1(284) 468-9648
Asst. Registrar:  1(284) 468-9501
Snr Marine Surveyor:  1(284) 468-9572
Snr Marine Officer:  1(284) 468-9180
Fax: 1(284) 468-2913