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Registry of British Ships

Registry of British Ships

Registry of British Ships


In this section you will find guidance notes regarding the registration of vessels at the Port of Guernsey: full British Registration under Part I, as a commercial fishing vessel, or on the small ship register.

A brief history

Guernsey has a long and rich maritime history and throughout has held on firmly to its British identity.

Whilst there has been a British Customs & Excise presence in Guernsey since the late seventeenth century, (further information available in the book 'A People of the Sea' by Jamieson) the precise date of the commencement of recognition and operation of Guernsey as a port of British Registry is unclear. Certainly, since the 1894 UK Merchant Shipping Act, the Registry has enjoyed a most active role in providing this valuable service to commercial and private vessel owners.

In 1973 the UK Government withdrew its Customs presence in Guernsey. The Registry had been operated under the auspices of UK Customs and the responsibility then passed to the States of Guernsey's Customs and Excise Department from the 1st November 1973.

In 1993 the UK Government decided that Ship registration did not fall within the Customs operational parameters and subsequently transferred the operation from 15 registration offices throughout the UK to the Registrar of Shipping and Seamen in Cardiff from the 21st March 1994.

Guernsey and Jersey, however, are not part of the UK and continued to operate their Registry operations as separate British territories, with the UK still providing control over certain operational areas.

In 2000 the States of Guernsey's Board of Administration, which was responsible for both Customs and Harbour departments, agreed that the Registry should transfer from Customs to the Harbour Authority to create a new 'one stop shop'. This created a single point of access for Port Control registration, (which had always been administered by the Harbour Authority) and bringing the full British Register (Part I), Fishing Vessel Register and Small Ships Register all under the same roof, from 1 January, 2001.

The Registry is administered under the provisions of the Merchant Shipping (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2002. From 1 February, 2009 new regulations were introduced governing registration and tonnage.

Copies of the main 2002 law, (which is based on the UK 1995 Merchant shipping Act), the Merchant Shipping (Registration of Ships) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Regulations 2009 and the Merchant Shipping (Tonnage) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Regulations, 2009 can be obtained from:

Guernsey Legal Resources