Who regulates the registration of ships?
The autonomy of the Hong Kong shipping register is enshrined in the Basic Law. It provides the constitutional right and legal basis for Hong Kong to continue to maintain a Shipping Register and to issue related certificates under its legislation under the name ”Hong Kong, China. The register is run by the Marine Department of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and is separate from the Chinese Register.
The Merchant Shipping (Registration) Ordinance governs vessel registration. One unique feature of the Hong Kong Register is the requirement to hoist two flags at the stern of a Hong Kong ship. One flag is for the nation of the Peoples’ Republic of China, and the other is the regional flag of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Application for Registration
An application for registration of a ship shall be made by the person or persons applying to be registered as the owner, as follows-
- By one or more persons or by an agent, in the case of individual ownership or charterer, or
- By an authorized individual in the case of a corporate.
The application for registration of a ship shall be made by both the demise charterer and the owner.
The authority of an agent acting on behalf of an owner or demise charterer shall be testified in writing. If the agent is acting on behalf of a corporate not possessing a common seal, then the agent shall include a declaration that the body concerned does not possess a common seal. He/she shall also include written consent to be an agent.
Refusal of Registration
If the requirements are not made as per the laws of registering a ship, the Registrar may serve the applicant or the agent with a notice informing him/her of such information necessary for determining whether the ship is registrable. Upon lack of clarification within 30 days since the date of the notice, the Registrar may refuse registration.
A ship that has met the requirements for registration may still not be registered if:
- The ship’s condition for safety and risk of pollution are not met, or
- It does not meet the safety health and welfare of persons employed or engaged in any capacity onboard the ship
- The nature of the use of the ship is deemed inappropriate to Hong Kong or Hong Kong’s laws
- There is difficulty in providing supervision and control of that ship or that class/type of chip in Hong Kong.
Upon successful registration, the Registrar shall grant a certificate of registry, in the specified form, containing the particulars relating to the ship registered.
A ship is registered if –
- A majority interest in the ship is owned by one or more qualified persons; or
- The ship is operated under a demise charter by a body corporate being a qualified person (whether or not a majority interest in the ship is owned by one or more qualifies persons).
A registered ship ceases to be registrable if –
- A majority of interest in the ship ceases to be owned by one or more qualified persons;
- The ship ceases to be operated under a demise charter by a qualified person. Note that,
- The ship or any share in or part of the ship is transferred or transmitted; or
- The rights of the demise charterer under the demise charter are assigned under a sub-demise charter;
- The ship is taken in war or hostilities, as a result of which the owner or demise charterer has lost control over the operation of the ship;
- The ship is broken up, or is an actual or constructive total loss such that it is no longer capable of being used in navigation;
- The ship at the time of registration remains registered in a place outside Hong Kong;
- The ship subsequently becomes registered in a place outside Hong Kong; or
- A representative person ceases to be appointed in relation to the ship.