The Cayman Islands Shipping Registry

Cayman Maritime, the parent organisation of the Cayman Islands Shipping Registry, reported record numbers for vessel registrations in 2010. It was the best year ever for the historic register, established in 1903, in terms of both the total number of vessels registered and the combined gross registered tonnage, Cayman Maritime said in a press statement.

At the end of 2010, a total of 1,870 vessels were listed on the register, up from 1,815 in 2009. Gross registered tonnage also showed an increase, going from 3.7 million in 2009, to 3.9 million at the end of 2010. A total of 254 new vessel registrations in 2010 meant that it was the second best year ever in terms of new units registered.

Cayman is a Category 1 Red Ensign Registry, meaning it can register a vessel of any age, type and size, providing it meets the requisite international standards, as well as those of the Cayman Registry itself.
As the world leader in the registration of superyachts, Cayman also has supertankers and cargo carriers among its fleet. Some 85 per cent of the vessels are private yachts, with the remaining 15 percent falling into the commercial category.

The Registry maintains representatives in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore in addition to its Grand Cayman headquarters, and offices in Southampton, Ft. Lauderdale, London, Monaco, Italy and Greece.

The tax-free nature of the Cayman Islands makes it an attractive choice for registering and operating ships.
The main international maritime Conventions to which the UK is party have been extended to Cayman and therefore apply to CISR. These include the Conventions on Tonnage, SOLAS, Collision Regulations, MARPOL, Load Lines, STCW and several ILO Maritime Conventions.

Vessel registration

The registration of a vessel in the Cayman Islands involves a number of steps depending on the type of registration sought.

Qualifying vessel

First it is necessary to establish whether a vessel qualifies for registration in the Cayman Islands.

Existing commercial vessels are assessed for their operating condition according to a Merchant Ship Flag-in Matrix, consisting of criteria such as the vessel’s type, age, classification society, PSC record and previous flag.

If the vessel is over 15 years old or if it obtains a high score (100+) on the Flag-in Matrix, Cayman may also require a “pre-registration” survey. This is a general inspection carried out by a Cayman surveyor of a vessel’s structure, machinery, accommodation, cargo and ballast areas as well as its documentation history, in addition to the required convention and statutory surveys and audits.

For pleasure yachts in private use and not engaged in trade there are minimum convention and statutory certification requirements. These requirements include the appropriate sections of MARPOL 73/78 (such as IOPP and IAPP for vessels 400 gross tonnes or more), COLREGS etc, depending on the vessel’s size.
However, pleasure yachts in private use not engaged in trade may opt to voluntarily comply with the Large Yacht Code and in these cases, the vessel will be surveyed for compliance at the time of registration.

Vessel name

The name or proposed name of a vessel must be available. Names may be requested/reserved by an owner, authorised person, representative person or other parties such as shipyards, particularly in the case of new-build yachts.

Qualifying ownership

The CISR will determine whether the owner has legal title and qualifies to own a Cayman-flagged vessel. It will also verify that there are no conditions prohibiting the vessel from being registered in the Cayman Islands.
Cayman allows companies/entities that are in the process of being incorporated to apply for vessel registration to enable the simultaneous registration of owning entity and vessel.

The company/entity is, however, expected to produce a Certificate of Good Standing before the vessel’s Certificate of Registry is issued.

It is
not a requirement for a Cayman Islands flagged vessel to be owned by a Cayman
Islands individual or entity. There is in fact a wide range of persons and
entities that qualify to own Cayman Islands flagged vessels, including, but
necessarily not limited to, the following:

  • British citizens
  • citizens of member states of the European Union and entities incorporated, established or registered in and having a place of business in the United Kingdom or any of its overseas territories or Crown dependencies, a member state of the European Union or EEA;
  • a country included in the Third Schedule to the Money Laundering Regulations of the Cayman Islands, which have similar anti-money laundering legislation as the Cayman Islands.


If the owner of the vessel (individual/joint-owners or company/entity) is not resident or incorporated in the Cayman Islands, then a representative person resident on the Islands must be appointed to represent the owning party for the purposes of serving documents and issuing instructions under Cayman law, as and when necessary. 

This appointment must be made before submitting the vessel registration application to Cayman but does not interfere with the owner’s right to deal directly with the Registry in the interim initial stages. There are several Cayman maritime services providers that offer this service.

Any “individual or joint-owners” or “company” or “shipping entity” that applies to register a vessel in Cayman may deal directly with the Shipping Registry in the interim initial stages, whilst retaining the option to use a maritime services provider, as and when needed.

If preferred the owner (or joint-owners) may appoint an authorised representative (known as an authorised person) to act on their behalf.


The actual registration forms and supporting documentation required to be submitted and the fees paid will vary, depending upon the particular transaction being carried-out.

Carving and marking

All vessels registered under Cayman are required to be marked with its port of registry, official number and net tonnage (for vessels 24 metres and over) or register tonnage (for vessels under 24 metres) within 21 days of the issue date of the vessel’s certificate of registry.

Once Cayman has received all forms, supporting documentation, IMO number if applicable, relevant fees, and the survey and audit requirements are met, Cayman then assigns an official number to the ship and issues to the owner (or their authorized or representative person) a carving and marking note and assigns the signal letters for the ship’s radio station call sign.

For more information contact: 

Cayman Islands Shipping Registry   

T:    949 8831   

E:    [email protected]