The recently published Merchant Shipping (Amendment) Act, 2018 ("MSA") became law on 18 January 2019 and includes some salient and welcome maritime developments in the British Virgin Islands ("BVI").

Eligibility to Register Vessels

In a response to customer demand, the MSA significantly expands the number of persons who are eligible to own a vessel registered in the BVI, reducing administrative requirements and associated costs.

A citizen of the United States of America ("USA") and over 50 other countries is now eligible to own a BVI-registered vessel directly in his or her name. The expanded list is welcome news for such individuals who hitherto would have been obliged to own such a vessel through a BVI company.

At the same time, a requirement for companies incorporated in various Caribbean jurisdictions to also be re-registered in the BVI in order to own a BVI vessel has been repealed.

Vessels Under Construction

Another key development is that the registration of vessels under construction is now allowed and the drafting of regulations is expected to begin shortly. This development is anticipated to be particularly welcome in shipping and yacht finance transactions as it will facilitate the financing of, and grant of registered security over, BVI-registered vessels well ahead of a vessel's delivery date.

Deputy Registrar(s)

The MSA also introduced the ability for Deputy Registrars to be appointed. In a recent circular from the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry, it was announced that this particular amendment is intended to eventually allow Deputy Registrars to be deployed to manage satellite registries in certain strategic locations such as London (where the BVI Government already has an office) and Ft Lauderdale in the USA; key client bases for the BVI shipping product.

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