Yacht Registration in the British Red Ensign group: A guide
Written by Simon Osborne
Last updated: 31/01/2019
The British Red Ensign jurisdictions are a popular flag choice for superyachts around the world, but what are the advantages and why is it so popular?
The 13 offshore jurisdictions of the British Red Ensign include the United Kingdom, Crown Dependencies (Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey) as well as UK Overseas Territories which contain: Bermuda, Gibraltar, Turks and Caicos, British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands.
Any vessel registered in these locations, is therefore considered a British vessel and is entitled to fly the Red Ensign flag.
The Red Ensign Group is divided into two categories of territories:
These can register yachts of unlimited tonnage, type and length:
- United Kingdom
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Isle of Man
These can register yachts of up to 150 gross tonnage (GRT) and vessels that are not operated commercially, of up to 400 GRT:
- Falkland Islands
- St Helena
- Turks & Caicos Islands
Worldwide reputation and political stability
According to expert yacht registration company, Monoeci Management, the political stability and reputation associated with British Red Ensign jurisdictions make them a popular choice. They have a reputation for efficient management and administration, as well as benefitting from British Consular support, which can be useful in relation to crewing matters. It also allows the ability to seek assistance from any British Embassy or Consulate in the world.
Dick Welsh, the director of the Isle of Man Registry recently told Superyacht Owners’ Guide, “While open registries have their advantages, the security offered by well-established closed or National (British) registries in registering their title in a secure and stable jurisdiction is more suited to owners and the ownership structures of superyachts.
“It is no surprise that the Red Ensign group has the lion’s share of the world’s registered superyachts. It is the advantage of the established large yacht and passenger yacht codes which set us apart in practical terms, as well as the comfort and stability of registering in a British jurisdiction.”
Two sets of jurisdictions
Registerayacht.com explained how the Red Ensign Group comprises almost two sets of jurisdictions. The first set is the jurisdictions within the EU, that are outside the EU VAT area, such as Gibraltar, with the second set as the non-EU jurisdictions which fall inside the EU VAT area such as the Isle of Man. There will therefore be significant tax and crew employment advantages, depending on the jurisdiction chosen.
Well-known by captains and crew
British law is well-known to a wide range of industry professionals including captains, brokers, finance companies, builders, classification societies and generally to service providers within the yachting industry, for being an accustomed, common and practical system.
However, there are differences within the Red Ensign jurisdictions, such as changes in registration fees and with some imposing more onerous manning constrictions than others, or requiring vessels to be within a certain age range to be eligible for registration. Owners or consultants would therefore still need to compare each jurisdiction to see what benefits them the most.
The Red Ensign Group also offers a good advantage in the fact that laws enable a registration to be transferred from one port to another without any additional requirements, which could have substantial advantages should the vessel’s tax status change. For example a Gibraltar flagged vessel could be transferred onto the Cayman Islands register by simply filing an application with the respective ship registries.