The rock of Gibraltar has now set up its new British Category I Status Merchant Shipping Register. This came into force on 19th March 1996 as a result of a recent Order by the Privy Council which added Gibraltar to the list of United Kingdom Registers under the 1988 Merchant Shipping Act.

A Maritime Administrator will have primary responsibility for the Register which will have Category I status with unrestricted registration, except for nuclear powered vessels and fishing vessels. A survey has been concluded between the UK and Gibraltar and is designed to enforce uniformity of standards. Initially the Maritime Safety Agency will provide assistance to the Gibraltar Maritime Administrator who will soon have its own independent staffing and register, and become completely self-sufficient.

Lloyd's Register, American Bureau of Shipping, Germanischer Lloyd, Bureay Veritas and Det Norske Veritas will be operating as Classification Societies although the Maritime Administrator can use surveyors of other classification societies so long as he can appoint them himself and accepts responsibility for them.

One special feature of the Gibraltar Register will be the strict security for mortgagees since no ship will be de-registered without the mortgage being discharged first or without the mortgagees' consent.

The legislation state that in addition to British citizens (including Dependent Territory citizens and overseas citizens), nationals of the European Union countries and citizens of other relevant countries shall be qualified to register ships in Gibraltar as individuals.

Corporate bodies established under the very favourable Company Tax laws of Gibraltar, or the laws of a member state of the EU, or a state to which the Agreement on the European Economic Area applies, will also be qualified to own Gibraltar ships.

The legislation also includes facilities for provisional registration, bareboat registration for renewable two year periods and also gives the Government wide powers to make regulations and grant exemptions. Manning regulations will generally follow international conventions.

Gibraltar is also a competitive and popular bunkering port, for crew changes etc. The port is fast and trouble free. Gibraltar's Kvaerner managed ship repair yard is developing well and Ship Managers are also looking to relocate to Gibraltar.

The applicability of English Admiralty Law and Practice makes Gibraltar a popular jurisdiction in which to enforce maritime claims. The procedure from arrest to sale can be completed within as little as eight weeks.

The Merchant Shipping Register, which will complement the existing Yacht Register, will be attractive for owners because it will be a Red Ensign Register and be located within the EU, while at the same time offering very low levels of taxation and simple registration procedures. The Government Tax on a ship owning company will be flat o240 annually, with highly favourable Tonnage Taxes.

This article is intended as a general guide to the offshore services available in Gibraltar, and should not replace individual professional advice. One should always ensure that professional advice is taken both in Gibraltar and in any other country affected by the offshore structure.