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Isle of Man: Offshore Business Sectors

Ship Management and Maritime Operations

This page was last updated on 20 January 2020.

The Isle of Man passed the Merchant Shipping (Registration) Act 1984 to encourage ships to register on the island. There is a zero-tax regime for ship management companies based on the Isle of Man.
A Quality Registry

In August, 2006, the Isle of Man reached the white list of the Paris MOU and continues to be ranked in the top third for port state control. Annually over 18,000 inspections take place on board foreign ships in the Paris MOU ports, ensuring that these ships meet international safety, security and environmental standards, and that crew members have adequate living and working conditions.

The Isle of Man’s ship register was named one of the best registers in the world after emerging with no potential negative performance indicators in the 2018-19 shipping industry flag state performance tables. Registers are measured annually on their performance on 19 criteria including convention ratifications, designated recognized organizations and Qualship 21 status. Only 13 other registers were rated so highly: Belgium, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Denmark, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Japan, the Marshall Islands, the Netherlands, Singapore and South Korea.

Qualship 21 status, awarded by the USA Coast Guard (USCG), is a system of extending recognition to ‘foreign’ ships, which fly the flag of a state which has demonstrated a good safety and pollution prevention record with respect to its ships. Ships in the Qualship 21 system are required to undergo significantly less port state control inspections while in US waters.

More than 1,000 Ships on Registry

The Isle of Man Ship Register has been in operation since 1786, serving the needs of local craft and operators, and it is to this maritime tradition on the island that the modern register, created in 1984, owes its success.

In February 2009, the Registry announced that the total number of Isle of Man registered vessels had reached 1,000 for the first time ever. Since then, the number has remained over 1,000 and currently stands at 1,041, breaking down as follows:

  • 404 merchant vessels
  • 356 pleasure yachts
  • 121 small ships
  • 64 commercial yachts
  • 74 fishing vessels
  • 22 demise merchant vessels

Each vessel carries the identity of the Isle of Man and the register provides economic benefit for the local professional services which administer many of the vessels.

At the end of 2017, the gross registered tonnage (GRT) of ships registered in the Isle of Man reached 17 million tons.

Registration Process Simplified

In August 2009, the Isle of Man Ship Registry made three important changes to its operating practices to enhance its registration process and make it more attractive and simpler for its clients.

First, the Registry has removed some of the barriers for clients wishing to register. This made registration easier to arrange and more cost effective. The changes included:

  • No pre-registration survey requirements – ship visits and inspections are no longer mandatory. The Registry automatically accepts vessels less than ten years of age if they satisfy the Registry’s vetting processes. This will include new ships, many of which are built in the Far East. This has sped up the registration process and dramatically reduced its initial cost.
  • Accepted ship types – The Registry welcomes previously excluded ship types such as passenger vessels. According to the Registry, this is a natural progression as super yachts become larger and move towards full SOLAS compliance for greater ‘guest numbers.’
  • Age limits –Previously set at 15 years, the age limit of ships was extended to 20 years – and even further for vessels which are technically managed from the Isle of Man.

Furthermore, in 2007 the Registry extended the number of countries accepted for ownership of Manx vessels. The list of accepted countries now includes Australia, the Bahamas, Canada, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Panama, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and the United States. This allows ownership structures of vessels using companies registered in those countries to remain unchanged when vessels transfer registration to the Isle of Man and hence provides a smoother transition.

Finally, the Registry bolstered its affiliation with law firm Stephenson Harwood. In lieu of British consular services in London, Stephenson Harwood have acted on behalf of the Isle of Man in receiving title documents (e.g. bill of sale, registration of mortgages) on behalf of the registrar of ships. This service has now been extended to include Stephenson Harwood’s offices in Piraeus, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Shanghai, thus covering many of the world’s major shipping centres.

Registration Fee Introduced

In March 2009, the Isle of Man Ship Registry introduced an annual registration fee for the first time in its 25-year history. There are currently both annual and registration fees.

The fee was originally set at GB£730 per merchant vessel. The fee for a passenger ship is now £2,040 per annum. Fees for merchant ships are dependent on the ships tonnage, as shown in the table below:

0 - 3,000 £3,850
3,001 - 10,000 £4,400
10,001 - 50,000 £4,950
50,001 - 100,000 £5,550
Over 100,000 £6,050


The Registry grants a 50% for multi-vessel owners registering with the Manx flag. The Registry has also cut the costs of other fees for services and certification as a result of the introduction of the annual fee.
Aviation Register

In 2006, the government introduced an aircraft register. Unlike most other registries, where both private and commercially operated aircraft are accepted, the Isle of Man’s register is focused purely on high quality private and corporate aircraft. This is supported by the island’s well established banking sector experienced in financing aircraft, lawyers familiar with aviation law, insurance companies which can provide cover without the addition of an insurance premium tax, and corporate service providers experienced in structuring companies to take advantage of the island’s beneficial tax regime. The Isle of Man has become widely regarded as a one-stop shop for worldwide aviation business.

In 2007 worldwide annual sales of new private and corporate business jets exceeded 1,000 for the first time. Corporate aviation is provides business people with a cost effective and time-saving alternative to commercial travel with its reputation for delayed flights and security queues.

The Aircraft Registry’s target aircraft are professionally-flown new corporate jets for international blue-chip companies. Unlike some other registers, M prefix registrations can be transferred between aircraft.
The Isle of Man Aircraft Registry has registered more than 1,000 aircraft and has more than 400 currently on its register. This makes it the second largest private business register for jets in Europe and the sixth largest in the world.

The Registry noted that it had achieved continuous expansion, noting that the pace of the registry's growth had exceeded its expectations. It is currently the fastest-growing offshore aircraft register in the world.



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