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Vanuatu: Offshore Business Sectors

Ship Management and Maritime Operations

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

An open shipping registry was established in Vanuatu in 1981 under the Vanuatu Maritime Act Cap 131, which is modelled on Liberian legislation. Administration is provided by Vanuatu Maritime Services Ltd, which has an office in Port Vila, but maintains the registry in New York.

In order to register a vessel in the Vanuatu registry, it must be owned by a Vanuatu national or a Vanuatu corporation, it must be no more than 20 years old, and it must be in a safe and seaworthy condition at the time of registration. Eight recognised classification societies include Bureau Veritas, Det Norske Veritas and the American Bureau of Shipping.

In 2003, Vanuatu announced a reduction in the initial registration fees for larger tonnage vessels. The reduction was announced by Vanuatu Maritime Services Limited's Executive Vice President, Donald J. Sheetz, after approval by the Vanuatu Maritime Authority.

At the time of writing, registration fees are USD200 plus a maximum tonnage-based fee of USD1.05 per ton for vessels under 5000 tons, falling to USD0.435 on tonnage up to 25,000, and USD0.35 on tonnage over 25,000. Annual tonnage fees are USD0.25 per net ton. There are annual marine inspection and investigation fees. Transfer from another registry costs USD1,250.

In October 2006, Vanuatu's shipping registry announced that for the fourth year in a row, Vanuatu’s low detention rate in the United States made Vanuatu vessels eligible for the US Coast Guard’s QUALSHIP 21 program. The QUALSHIP 21 eligibility continued in 2006 with only 1 detention, and a three year rolling average detention rate of 0.61%, more than three times better than the all ships/all flags rate of 2.00%.

Vanuatu Maritime Services Ltd (VMSL), which runs the registry for Vanuatu, stated at the time that it was disappointed to note that Vanuatu remained on the Paris MOU's ‘grey list’ of countries, with just 1 detention in 2005 (but 3 from 2003 and 2004 combined). These detentions resulted in a one year detention rate of 2.17% versus the all ships/all flags rate of 4.67%, and a three year rolling average rate for Vanuatu of 3.05% versus the all ships/all flags rate of 5.83%. During the 45th meeting of the Paris MOU committee in May 2012, the 2011 inspection results were approved and new performance lists for flag states and recognized organisations were adopted. Vanuatu, along with three other flags, was moved to the 'white list'.

The Tokyo MOU on Asia/Pacific Port State Control statistics was more than satisfactory, placing Vanuatu on the A/P ‘white list’ of countries, with only 2 detentions recorded in 2005. The Vanuatu one year detention rate of 2.50% was less than half the all ships/all flags detention rate of 5.21%. The three year rolling average detention rate for Vanuatu was 3.62% versus the all ships/all flags rate of 6.71%.

VMSL is a privately held Vanuatu company operating under contract to the Vanuatu government as the Maritime Administrator. VMSL operates the central registry office and handles all details of vessel registration, mortgage recordation, crew documentation, and all matters relating to safety and proper vessel inspection and documentation. There are more than 600 ships on the Vanuatu register.



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