How to Register your Vessel with the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry

Registering a vessel in the British Virgin Islands with O’Neal Webster is easy as 1, 2, 3…set sail! With an admiralty practice that spans over 25 years, we can have you swiftly sailing the high seas with a recognized certificate of registration from the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry (VISR). The VISR is a member of the Red Ensign Group of British Registries, where the British Virgin Islands is listed as a category 1 country authorized to register ships of unlimited tonnage, size, and type. As a member of the Red Ensign Group, VISR registered ships are “British ships” and are entitled to British Diplomatic support and Royal Navy protection.

Step 1:

You qualify to register a vessel in the BVI if:

  1. you are a citizen of the United Kingdom or Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, or a national or body corporate of Member States of the European Community (EC) or the European Economic Area (EEA); Overseas Territories of Members of EC or EEA (Bodies corporate must have a place of business in such Member State or Overseas Territory);
  2. you are a citizen, body corporate, or foreign company incorporated, established, or registered in a recognized jurisdiction or any overseas country, territory, or dependency of such a recognized jurisdiction;
  3. your BVI company will be the vessel’s registrant. 

We would be happy to make the necessary arrangements, should you wish to incorporate a BVI company.

As of January 2019, citizens of 89 countries, including the United States, Canada, Switzerland and Hong Kong, are eligible to register vessels in the BVI. Feel free to contact us to see if you qualify.

Step 2: 

To complete registration with the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry, you must provide:

  • The proposed name of the vessel. 
  • The Certificate of Survey and Tonnage from an authorized organisation for survey and tonnage measurements which verifies the particulars and specifications of the vessel. The VISR will accept a survey from any one of the following classification societies:
  • Lloyds Register of Shipping (LR)
  • Bureau Veritas (BV)
  • Det Norsake Veritas (DNV)
  • Germanisher Lloyd (GL)
  • American Bureau of Shipping (ABS)
  • Registro Italiano Naval (RINA).
  • The vessel’s Bill of Sale as proof of the individual’s or company’s ownership. Note that if the vessel is new and is being sold to you or your company directly without any intervening owner, a Bill of Sale is unnecessary. Instead, a Builder’s Certificate from the builder is required as proof of the vessel’s ownership.
  • The Deletion Certificate, obtained from the vessel’s last homeport or registry, is required as proof that it is no longer registered there. A deletion certificate is not necessary for new vessels that hold no previous registry.
  • Other relevant information for registration forms, which we will complete and submit on your behalf to VISR.

Step 3

Once the registration application is submitted in good order, the VISR shipping registrar will issue the vessel’s certificate of registration, or “Blue Book.” The entire process may be completed within two to three weeks from the date of the initial submission of the application for registration.

A representative person must be appointed for all vessels registered in the BVI to serve as a liasion with VISR. We provide this service and can expedite processes, together with handling the administration of annual registration, maintenance fees, and related matters.

In addition to vessel registration, O’Neal Webster advises on all matters relating to the acquisition, financing, operation, and transfer of vessels in the BVI. Also, as a full service law firm, our litigation department has a significant admiralty component, advising and acting for international clientele in matters concerning the arrest and bail of vessels, claims for and against vessels, and limitation of liability for maritime claims.

For further information, please contact: 

Paul B. Dennis, K.C., Senior Partner and Head of the Admiralty & Shipping and Litigation Departments –

Asha Johnson Willins, Senior Associate –  



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