Friday, June 22, 2007

BVI Shipping Registry to be Upgraded to Category 1 Red Ensign Group

The British Virgin Islands will be able to welcome megayachts to its shores for the first time since the country has started the launch of its tourism industry sector. At the Red Ensign Group (REG) Conference held in Guernsey it was announced that the Secretary of State for Transport has agreed to upgrade the British Virgin Islands Shipping Register (VISR) to Category One status limited to general cargo ships.

The decision was preceded by consultations between the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), VISR and with the BVI Governor and his staff. The BVI has recently completed a 3 year programme to meet REG Category 1 standards.

The monitoring visit to the BVI was carried out by the MCA in October 2006, and the VISR was found to have met the technical requirements to become a REG Category One Register limited to general cargo ships including large commercial yachts.

The VISR upgrade to Category 1 status will be implemented by an order made under Section 18 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.

Red Ensign Group (REG), in addition to the United Kingdom, includes shipping registries of Anguilla, Bermuda, tne BVI, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey, St. Helena, the Isle of Man, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos Islands.

Annually, the REG meets in a member country to exchange views on policies and technical issues involving regulation, marine safety, etc. The decision to upgrade the BVI was made after consultation with the UK's Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, VISR and other BVI government officials.

The BVI Shipping Registry was officially launched in September 2006, and operated as a Category Two Red Ensign British Registry, which can register ships of up to 150 gross tons, and pleasure vessels of up to 400 gross tons.

Concerning the current upgrade, BVI Chief Minister Orlando Smith said, “This announcement is of great significance, as it will position the BVI to attract large cargo vessels of unlimited tonnage and megayachts of up to 3,000 gross tons."

Smith also said that the upgrade will create opportunities for new sources of government revenue from ship registration fees as well as positive prospects in a number of areas for private businesses. He also said that once the legal process is finalized, the decision will be approved formally by the Privy Council.

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