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Belize: Offshore Business Sectors

Ship Management and Maritime Operations

This page was last updated on 15 April 2021.

See Offshore Business Review - Shipping for a more general treatment of offshore shipping registries.

In 2010, the new Merchant Ships (Registration) Act was enacted. This repealed the previous Registration of Merchant Ships Act 1989. Sanctioned by the Governor General of Belize, the Act was enacted into law on 1st November 2010. 

The new Act alters provisions regarding mortgages, salvage, limitation of liability of ship owners and maritime rights of possession. Highlights of the new Act include easier to arrange statutory mortgages.  The concepts of security agent and trustee are defined, as is the feature of mortgagee priority. Mortgages taken out for vessels under construction have been further regulated.

The priority order of maritime liens has also been changed: a Belizean mortgage now ranks fourth after court costs, salvage and crew pay. The much-liked International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize (IMMARBE) characteristic of allowing both provisional and permanent ship registration and mortgages will continue to facilitate ship purchase-sales and financing. The Registry's worldwide network of surveyors provides ship-owners with ease of access in obtaining the technical certification necessary for compliance with the legislation.

The new Act also makes general non-statutory English maritime law apply to Belize, thus reinforcing Belize’s common law background and maritime tradition. It puts Belize near the front of open registries with respect to maritime legislation. This innovation, together with current modern statutes now in force concerning Belize’s fishing fleet and its code of enhanced standards for yachts, will increase the appeal that IMMARBE has.

The Registration of Merchant Ships Act stipulates that every vessel registered in IMMARBE must have a shipping agent in Belize. IMMARBE normally grants provisional registration to vessels for a period of six months. Applicants may then apply immediately for permanent registration (valid for five years). A normal range of documentation is required for registration.

The legislation also allows for dual registration of vessels that need to comply with terms of charter contracts; IMMARBE issues a special navigation and radio licence to the vessel for an initial period of two years. Title, deed, mortgage or other documents relating to the vessel need to be registered only at the vessel's mother registry during this time period. Note that from 11 June 2013, the Belizean Government has taken direct control of IMMARBE.

See Offshore Legal and Tax Regimes for details of fees payable on provisional registration, and fees payable annually thereafter. See Law of Offshore for details of the registration process.

Belize has been included in the IMO White List and the Registry has attained ISO 9002 certification.



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