On March 20 2002 the governor of the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI) assented to the recently enacted Merchant Shipping Ordinance 2002; it is expected that the ordinance will be brought into force shortly.

The ordinance modernizes, consolidates and amends the existing law governing ship registration and related matters in the TCI, and enhances the attractions of the TCI as a domicile for yacht registration.

The ordinance introduces the term 'islands ship' to describe ships registered in the TCI. Persons qualified to be owners of islands ships now include:

  • EU and European Economic Area nationals and companies;

  • TCI companies and companies incorporated in certain other British possessions; and

  • companies from the Caribbean Community or member states of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States that are registered in the TCI.

A ship that is 24 metres or 78 feet or more in length and owned by a non-resident person or entity shall only be registered if a representative person resident in the TCI is appointed in relation to the ship. That resident person can be a TCI company. The previous limitation forbidding registration of ships of more than 150 tons remains in place.

The ordinance details the procedure for registration and introduces to the TCI the concept of 'bareboat charter registration'. Bareboat charter means the hiring of the ship for a stipulated period on terms that gives the charterer possession and control of the ship including the right to appoint the master and crew. A foreign ship chartered in this manner to persons qualified to own island ships can now be registered in the TCI.

There are detailed provisions allowing for the transfer to the TCI port of registry of ships registered in the United Kingdom or in other relevant British possessions, and similarly the transfer of TCI-registered ships to the register in the United Kingdom or another relevant British possession. An islands ship may fly the red ensign common to all British-registered vessels.

The ordinance contains detailed provisions relating to transfer of title and the mortgaging of islands ships, and contemplates the introduction by regulation of standard forms for ownership, mortgage and transfer matters.

No regulations have yet been introduced under the ordinance.

For further information on this topic please contact Owen Foley or Heather Allen at Misick & Stanbrook by telephone (+1 649 946 4732) or by fax (+1 649 946 4734) or by email ([email protected] or [email protected]).