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

Sub-seabed mining platforms, high sea tugs, merchant and passenger vessels, fishing vessels and ancillaries, vessels at the port's service, recreational private and charter crafts, state ships and construction vessels are all eligible for registration through a list system, the Double Administrative Registry and the Registry of Movable Goods.

The Registry of Ships establishes as an eligibility requirement that the registrant be a natural or legal person which is residing or domiciled in Spain or another European Economic Area member state, provided that, in this case, it assigns a legal representative in Spain. For recreational or sports crafts or those with merchandising purposes, residency is not required; assignment of a legal representative in Spain is adequate. It is also accepted that Spanish civil crafts may provisionally fly the Spanish flag abroad, as well as foreign craft in Spain.


What are the procedural and documentary requirements for registration?

The registration procedure begins by filing a registration request with the Department of Merchant Marine accompanied by:

  • the title deed or rental contract;
  • the drop registration certificate from the country of origin; and
  • proof of payment of the corresponding taxes.

Ships under construction must first be registered in the list of ships under construction. Once they have been inspected, the launch will be authorised and the ship will be assigned a call sign and included in the final list. After the ship’s official trial, the roll certificates and clearance certificates will be delivered.

Grounds for refusal

On what grounds may a registration application be refused?

An application may be refused if the required documentation is not delivered. Further, registration may be refused for a Spanish vessel subject to inspection by the ruling state at port if a preliminary administrative investigation shows that:

  • the vessel has three firm detentions within the past 36 months; or
  • the vessel is 18 years old or more and has two firm detentions within the past 36 months.

The same requirements apply to denying permission to fly the Spanish flag to ships from other registries.


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

Spain operates the Special Registry for Ships and Naval Companies, headquartered in the Canary Islands. The registry establishes beneficial social and tax incentives, and holds the registrations of more than 90% of the Spanish merchant fleet. Access to this registry is limited to civil merchant vessels of more than 100 gross tonnage excluding fishing vessels.

The main advantage of the registry is that it forms a white list under the Paris Memorandum of Understanding, a fact that is extremely relevant in terms of finance. The tax lease system for acquiring ships is considered to be legal, and the registry system provides a significant level of safety for judgment creditors, which can register their mortgages in the Registry of Movable Goods.

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