Friday, October 06, 2006

Launching BVI Shipping Registry

On September 27, 2006, the BVI Shipping Registry was officially launched. Governor David Pearey shared his expectations to see prestigious vessels docking at BVI harbour and having Road Town as their home port. Pearey commented upon the pluses the Shipping Registry would give to the British Virgin Islands. This will improve operations as well as ensure regulating and inspecting all BVI ships well.

The Virgin Islands Shipping Registry, formed through a merger of the Shipping Registry Division of the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission and the Marine Unit of the Ministry of Communications and Works and working under the authority of the Chief Minister’s Office, is a branch of one of the oldest and most prestigious registries in the world – the UK General Registry of British Ships, traditionally known as the Red Ensign Group. By the way, in 1996 the BVI hosted the Annual Red Ensign Group Conference and used the occasion to raise the question of upgrading the Registry to Category One.

The Shipping Registry is a new department within the Office of the Chief Minister headed by Captain Baboucar Sallah. This newest Government department will provide ship registration and survey service for local as well as foreign boat owners in accordance with the merchant shipping legislation.

Sallah confirmed that moving further in the right direction Category One may be formally granted to the BVI in January 2007. As was discussed in April, BVI Chief Minister Honourable Dr. D. Orlando Smith has emphasized the importance to move toward Category One status quickly. For the British Virgin Islands this is an significant step to placing the country at the pinnacle of the Maritime world.

The Maritime Coast Guard Association (MCGA) has agreed to field a Category One Monitoring Mission beginning on October 16. So, if having passed the muster, Category One will be granted to the BVI.

The new registry will not only meet the needs of seafarers, but also become a source of revenue to the BVI. Dr. D. Orlando Smith suggests that upgrading to Category One in the shipping industry, the revenue earned by the BVI would be allocated to improve social services including the modernisation of healthcare services, schools and roads. When speaking at the launch, the Chief Minister emphasized the long-term connection of the sea and the people of the BVI. The Registry hopes to capitalise on the BVI’s advantage of becoming the sailing capital of the world to attract vessels from all over the world to register, so that the BVI flag would ply the seas. At present, the Registry certify only pleasure vessels of up to 400 GRT (gross registered tonnage), 150 GRT retained for commercial vessels.

The Registry’s mandates are as follows:

  • implementing and enforcing the regulations applicable to all Virgin Island vessels on domestic and international routes, and those navigating in the waters of the Virgin Islands;
  • implementing the Maritime policies of the Government that cover shipping operations, safety of life at sea, securing and the prevention pollution from ships as well as response to pollution;
  • developing and adopting appropriate standards of training elevation and certification for Virgin Island seafarers and on-shore staff in accordance with the needs of the international and domestic shipping and the BVI maritime industry;
  • provide timely and appropriate information and advice to the Government, public and private organisations and to the public.

The advantages of the BVI Shipping Registry are as follows:

  • the BVI Registry is a member of the Red Ensign Group, so ships flying the BVI flag are entitled to British Diplomatic/Consular support and the protection of the Royal Navy;
  • access to the technical expertise of the British Maritime and Coast Guard Agency;
  • low Initial Registration and Annual Maintenance Fees;
  • the facilities provide secure registration of yachts, mortgages and discharge of mortgages;
  • the change or transfer of ownership or title to the vessel is easily verified with the Registry;
  • a fully computerised Fleet Management System and Database.

It is worth mentioning that the launch of the Shipping Registry coincides with the observation of World Maritime Week observed under the theme "Technical co-operation: IMO’s response to the 2005 World Summit." World Maritime Week is focused on the importance of maritime security, shipping safety and the marine environment.

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