Quality, not quantity, is the watchword of the Gibraltar Ship Registry. The past few years have seen a really significant increase in the number of ships flying the Gibraltar flag – but the Gibraltar Maritime Administration emphasises: “The key priority in our portfolio is ensuring quality. We will not register just any vessel. A matrix system is in place where we check the inspections done on a vessel, check it is compliant with all the relevant conventions as well as the required safety standards. If we could not confirm all of this, we would refuse the vessel. We are looking for ship owners and operators with the same philosophy.”
More than 320 merchant ships totalling 3,224,586 gt and with an average age of 11.6 years fly the Gibraltar flag, and there are more than 830 pleasure yachts on the Gibraltar Yacht Registry. The expansion of the Gibraltar-flagged fleet has been underpinned by a number of very specific factors; foremost among these is the fact that Gibraltar is a Category 1 member of the Red Ensign Group, which means that any vessel registered is regarded as a British vessel.
“For owners and mortgagees, having a British flag equates to having a very prestigious and reliable register,” says Maritime Administrator Richard Montado. “That is one of the main advantages of being part of the Red Ensign Group.” Gibraltar’s status outside the VAT regime is also an important attraction for registering ships under its flag. So too is the fact that Gibraltar’s legal system is based on English common law and broadly follows UK maritime legislation, giving ship owners and mortgage lenders confidence in contracts and legal processes. There are a number of lawyers in Gibraltar who specialise in maritime law and can offer clients a seamless service, allowing them to register vessels. Gibraltar’s status as an EU Member States register also provides distinct advantages for owners choosing the Gibraltar flag, most notably where there are cabotage restrictions within Europe.
The ship register is run by the Gibraltar Maritime Administration, which has a small but dedicated team of experienced surveyors and administrative staff working from its headquarters in Watergate House, in the centre of town. The combination of high quality and personal service is one that ship owners value. Gibraltar has ‘White List’ status under the Paris MoU on Port State Control, and also has prestigious ‘Qualship 21’ recognition by the US Coast Guard. Furthermore, in mid-2014 the Gibraltar flag was once again on the Paris MoU’s updated list of Flags of Low Risk. This is based on White List status and an International Maritime Organisation (IMO)audit – flags listed are less likely to be targeted for inspection by Port State Control inspectors in other countries. The Gibraltar Maritime Administration has the ISO 9001:2008 quality accreditation.
The Gibraltar Ship Registry offers three types of registration, full registration, bareboat registration and registration under construction. The team is proud of its ‘hands-on’ approach. Every vessel is visited at least once every 30 months by a Gibraltar flag surveyor. As with most ship registers, much of the statutory work is delegated to well-respected classification societies, but Gibraltar retains direct control over key Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), ISM and ISPS inspections, to ensure that its surveyors have an excellent insight into the overall running of every ship.
The Gibraltar Maritime Administration took over responsibility for the Gibraltar Yacht Registry three years ago and since then the registry has gone from strength to strength. There are now 830 yachts on the registry, and the numbers continue to grow significantly. As well as integrating the yacht register into its quality management system, the administration has opened registration to a wider range of yachts.
“Previously, vessels could be registered on the yacht register up to any size provided they were recreational. If a vessel was commercially operated and over 24 metres, it had to enter the commercial ship register,” says the Registrar of Yachts, Diana Soussi Avellano. “We modified the rules to allow these vessels to enter the yacht register and, because other Red Ensign registers allow that, we can now do transfers very easily, if required.”
Recently the yacht register has also introduced the registration of yachts under construction. Among the unique benefits to yacht registration in Gibraltar is the compact size of the Rock itself and the growing supply of high-quality moorings. Owners can fly in and be on their yacht within minutes, after a short walk from airport to marina. Port State Control The Gibraltar Maritime Administration has responsibility for Port State Control. As such, its surveyors routinely inspect foreign vessels calling at Gibraltar, from cargo to cruise ships, to regulate compliance with international conventions. This is an important part of the global drive to eliminate substandard shipping.
The administration also has responsibility for the annual survey inspection and certification of locally operated vessels in accordance with national legislation, incorporating international standards and requirements where relevant. Vessels based in the Port of Gibraltar range from small boats operating as harbour craft to larger vessels operating as bunker tankers and fuel storage vessels.
Further information about registering ships under the Gibraltar flag can be found on the Gibraltar Maritime Administration website.