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Belize: Law of Offshore

Shipping Law

This page was last updated on 15 April 2021.

Registration of Merchant Ships Act, 1989 established the International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize (IMMARBE). IMMARBE's worldwide network of surveyors provides shipowners with ease of access in obtaining the technical certification necessary for compliance with the legislation.

The Act stipulates that every vessel registered in IMMARBE must have a shipping agent in Belize. In addition, based on the type of ship, vessels seeking registration are expected to have the following certificates on board at all times:

  • International Loadline Ship Safety Radiotelephony;
  • Ship Safety Equipment Ship Safety Radiotelegraphy;
  • Ship Safety Construction International Oil Pollution Prevention;
  • International Tonnage Passenger Ship Safety;
  • Annual General Inspection Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan.

IMMARBE normally grants provisional registration to vessels for a period of six months (extensible to one year). Applicants may then apply immediately for permanent registration (valid for five years).

All formal applications need to be signed by both the shipping agent of the vessel and the shipowner or his duly authorised representative.

For provisional registration, the following documents are required in addition to the application form and fee:

  • a duly notarised power of attorney in favour of the shipping agent of the vessel;
  • a copy of a tonnage certificate issued by a classification society or technical company or a copy of the last patent from the last registry;
  • request for confirmation of availability of vessel’s name;
  • application for registration of ships form duly completed and signed by the applicant. One application for each vessel is required. This application includes the necessary information for the issue of a provisional ship station licence;
  • proof of ownership, in the form of a bill of sale, auction document or builder’s certificate;
  • valid cargo ship safety radio certificate in compliance with the GMDSS Code (where applicable);
  • international tonnage certificate (where applicable);
  • proof of compliance with ISM code-copy of document of compliance and safety management certificate (where applicable);
  • application for minimum safe manning certificate;
  • letter of confirmation from an authorized radio accounting entity undertaking the payment of vessel’s radio accounts;
  • letter of undertaking from ship owner that the applications for the endorsements of licenscs for officers will be submitted. 

    In order to facilitate same day registrations, the above documents may be sent by fax.

For permanent registration, the following documentation (where applicable) need to be submitted:

  • a duly notarised bill of sale, or a duly notarised builder's certificate, if the vessel is newly built;
  • an original deletion certificate or a certified copy of the extract of registry from the previous flag administration;
  • a duly notarised power of attorney in favour of the shipping agent of the vessel;
  • in the case of a vessel which is over twenty years old, an inspection report prepared by an authorised Government Safety Inspection (GIS) Surveyor stating that the vessel has passed an inspection to determine seaworthiness;
  • an original or a certified true copy of a tonnage certificate issued by a survey company authorised by IMMARBE.
  • copies of all valid statutory certificates issued by a Recognized Organization on behalf of the Government of Belize, including the ITC, DOC, SMC, ILLC, CSSRC, etc.,
  • application form for Maritime Ship Station License duly completed;
  • copies of Document of Compliance and Safety Management Certificate issued by a recognized organization on behalf of the Government of Belize (where applicable).

All documents submitted must be in English or, if they are in a foreign language, they must be accompanied by an official translation.

IMMARBE also accepts vessels to be registered for a short period under special circumstances such as one delivery voyage for scrap. Procedures for special registration allow for documents to be issued with a validity of three months and automatic expiration when this period elapses.

Dual Registration

A vessel's status with IMMARBE will not be affected if a second registration in another country is obtained in order to comply with the terms of a charter contract. The applicant is responsible for obtaining the necessary approval in the country in which the second registration is being sought.

A formal application to IMMARBE is required, and it is to be submitted along with the following documentation:

  • full details of the contract, including the name and address of the charterer, and the date of expiration of said contract;
  • a notarised letter of consent from the mortgagee is also needed, if the vessel has a mortgage recorded on it.

Vessels may initially be granted dual registration for two years, during which they must continue to make all relevant annual payments and other dues to IMMARBE. A vessel's title, mortgage or other documents also need to be registered exclusively at IMMARBE's Head Office during this time period.

Registration of Foreign vessels

IMMARBE permits the registration of foreign vessels which are under the terms of a charter contract, as long as such dual registration is allowed by the vessel's mother country. The following documentation need to be submitted along with the completed application form and the prescribed fees:

  • notarised copy of the charter contract;
  • certificate of freedom from registered encumbrances or a registered lienholder's letter of consent.

After all the formalities have been met, IMMARBE will then issue a special navigation and radio licence to the vessel for an initial period of two years. Title, deed, mortgage or other documents relating to such vessel need to be registered only at the vessel's mother registry during this time period.

Registration of Particulars

Both preliminary and permanent registrations are available for titles, mortgages, assignments and other documents relating to vessels governed by the Belize Registration of Merchant Ships Act, 1989. A preliminary registration (valid for six months) has "the same legal effect as a permanent registration, provided that permanent registration is effected within the six months period of validity".

The documents that need to be submitted must be in duplicate and duly authenticated by a notary public or a Deputy Registrar of IMMARBE in the place where such documents were issued. If a document is not written in the English language, it must be translated to English by a competent and qualified translator in order for it to be registered.

See Offshore Legal and Tax Regime for details of fees and taxes payable in respect of ship registration.



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