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Which ships are eligible for registration in the national shipping register(s) and which parties may register ships?

Registration of seagoing vessels in Belgium The following vessels must be registered in Belgium:

  • vessels under construction in Belgium; and
  • vessels owned by a company incorporated under Belgian law, except commercial companies.

Vessels can be voluntarily registered in Belgium when the owner or operator is:

  • a physical person who is a citizen of an EU member state;
  • a physical person whose domicile or principal residence is in Belgium; or
  • a company whose registered office is in an EU member state.

In the above cases, the ship must be exploited from Belgium.


What are the procedural and documentary requirements for registration?

The registration of a seagoing vessel can be requested by the vessel owner or operator. In the latter case, the shipowner must provide its authorisation.

The following details must be submitted to register a seagoing vessel in Belgium:

  • vessel particulars, such as:
    • its name and call sign;
    • its port of registry;
    • its International Maritime Organisation number;
    • the year and place in which it was built and the shipyard number;
    • its ship type and designation;
    • its gross register tonnage and net register tonnage;
    • its overall breadth and length; and
    • details of its propulsion (eg, the number, builder, nature, year of build and power in kilowatts); and
  • company particulars, such as:
    • the company name;
    • its registered office and real place of business;
    • its date and place of incorporation;
    • the law under which it was incorporated;
    • the name, nationality and domicile or principal place of residence of each jointly liable director, registered shareholder and company for which the shareholders are jointly liable; and
    • its value added tax number.

The following documents must also be submitted:

  • a copy of each ship-owning company’s bylaws;
  • a declaration of a Belgian notary stating the names, domicile and nationality of the directors and proof of identity for each physical person;  
  • deeds vesting, transferring or acknowledging property or mortgage rights in the vessel, if these are private deeds;
  • a certificate from a Belgian notary confirming that the applicant meets the legal conditions for registering a vessel under the Belgian flag;
  • certificates concerning authorisations (where there are several shipowners or the operator of the vessel has requested it, the shipowner(s) must authorise the registration);
  • a copy of the company’s registration in the Company Register;
  • an original and two copies of the tonnage certificate (one copy must be saved at the registrar’s office and the other must be used to obtain the certificate of registry (or sea letter));
  • if the vessel was previously registered in another country, a declaration from that country’s government regarding the mortgage rights vested in the ship and indicating the previous owner; and
  • a sworn translation for every certificate or document written in a language other than a national language (ie, Dutch, French or German).

For vessels under construction, special documents must be filed.

Grounds for refusal

On what grounds may a registration application be refused?

Refusal to enter vessel in registers All vessels whose keel was laid down more than 15 years before the request for registration must fulfil the technical conditions of the Royal Decree of July 20 1973 to be registered in the Vessel Register or the Bareboat Register.

Refusal to allow Belgian vessel to be bareboat chartered elsewhere A vessel registered in the Belgian Vessel Register can be registered in a foreign bareboat register only if it receives government authorisation and certain conditions are met.


Are there any particular advantages of flying your jurisdiction’s flag?

A maritime policy applies, which aims to reduce tax and social security burdens and provides for:

  • a tonnage tax;
  • the non-payment by seafarers of withholding tax on their earned income; and
  • reduced social security contributions for seafarers.

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