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British Virgin Islands: Offshore Business Sectors

Ship Management and Maritime Operations

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

The British Virgin Islands operates a Shipping Register, and Road Harbour is a Port of British Registry. The BVI have developed a very strong business in yachts, to the exclusion of most other types of shipping. Large numbers of private yachts are registered in the BVI, and many of them take part in the highly successful yacht chartering business which forms a major part of the BVI's appeal to visitors.

Yachts already under British registration elsewhere can transfer their Port of Registry to Road Harbour; foreign-registered yachts need to provide evidence of the prior registration and its cancellation; new yachts need the Builder's Certificate and the Bill of Sale made out to the registrant. The registration process involves a fair amount of documentation; the Registrar of Shipping issues the Blue Registration Book which includes the Certificate of British Registration.

Chartering operations will probably take place through a company: if the chartering is to take place out of the BVI, then a Companies Act (Cap. 285) company is necessary (see above and see Domestic Corporate Taxation for details of the tax regime).

There is a substantial network of professionals in the BVI to advise on and manage yacht chartering operations.

2006 saw the relaunch of the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry (VISR), which fulfilled of the conditions for Category One membership of the UK's Red Ensign registry group, enabling the registration of larger vessels. The Virgin Islands Shipping Registry was created through a merger of the Shipping Registry Division of the BVI Financial Services Commission and the Marine Unit of the Ministry of Communications and Works.

In essence, the upgrade from BVI's current status as a Category Two registry has meant the implementation of and strict compliance with international maritime conventions dealing with ship safety, the health and welfare of seafarers, environmental protection and international and domestic maritime security. It is believed that these obligations will be compensated for through spin-off benefits to both the public and private sector in the areas of legal, company registration, asset management and other corporate services in the jurisdiction.

The Red Ensign Group is a British-based network of registries regulated under the auspices of the UK government's Maritime and Coastguard Agency.



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