Merchant Ships

“Merchant Ships” covers the whole range of vessels trading internationally that can be registered in Antigua and Barbuda.

Merchant ships fall within the scope of the international conventions governing international shipping standards and they must comply with the accepted international safety standards.   Antigua and Barbuda has agreements in place with ten members of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) appointing them as “Recognised Organisations”  to conduct surveys and issue certificates including ISM certificates and Company Documents of Compliance in accordance with the ISM Code on behalf of Antigua and Barbuda.   The ten “recognised organisations”  are all also appointed as “Recognised Security Organisations” in accordance with the ISPS Code and as Recognised Organisations in accordance with the Maritime Labour Convention. As of 12 September 2013 DNV and GL merged to form DNV GL AS and currently operate under the terms of the agreement with DNV, further details of this arrangement can be found in Information Notice 2014-005;

They are:

  • American Bureau of Shipping,  (ABS)
  • Bureau Veritas,  (BV).
  • China Classification Society, (CCS)
  • ClassNK, (NK)
  • Korean Register of Shipping, (KR)
  • Lloyds Register, (LR)
  • RINA Services SpA.,  (RINA)
  • Russian Register of Shipping, (RS)
  • Indian Register of Shipping (IRS)


Registry requires the submission of a set of straightforward documents which are intended to demonstrate:

  • Proof of ownership, which may be a Bill of Sale or a Builder’s Certificate in the case of a newbuilding.
  • That the ship is not registered elsewhere at the same time and this is usually with a Certificate of Deletion from  the previous registry if there is one,
  • Proof of eligibility to own an Antigua and Barbuda ship  which may be a copy of a passport for CARICOM nationals, or a copy of the certificate of Incorporation for corporate entities.
  • That the owning Company is in good standing in the case of corporate entities over 1 year old.

The list of documents to be submitted  for registry is set out in the application form for registry and is as follows:

  • Notarised copy of the Bill of Sale or the Builder’s Certificate,
  • Resolutions of the Directors of the present and the new owning company.
  • Where necessary a copy of the Power of Attorney from the present and the new owning company in favour of the persons acting on its behalf.
  • Notarised copy of the closed transcript of register, or a certificate of deletion  from the present foreign register evidencing deletion of the ship from the foreign register free of encumbrances.
  • Notarised copy of the Mortgage Deed and Deeds of Covenants (if applicable).

As well as the necessary legal documents for registry, the application for registry will need to be accompanied by the ship’s current statutory certificates  including:

  • Load line certificate,
  • Tonnage certificate,
  • SAFCON certificate,
  • Safety Equipment certificate,
  • Radio certificate,
  • IOPPP certificate,
  • IAPP certificate,
  • Other MARPOL Annex certificates as appropriate,

Every international trading  ship of more then 500 GT is required  to comply with the ISM Code and the ISPS Code  and to have a manager who has been issued with a Document of Compliance for ISM (DOC).  As part of the submission of documents for registry the following require to be included;

  • Letter from the owner appointing the ISM manager (if one is appointed),
  • The DOC for the company or person responsible for operating the ship.

It is also a requirement that the registered owner and manager must each have an IMO number which is shown on the ship’s Continuous Synopsis Record (CSR).  This is very easy to obtain from:

The option exists to reserve names in advance if required.  To do this applicants merely need to contact the registrar.  Where documents are submitted by post they need to be notarised copies but where the registry is transacted in person at the Antigua and Barbuda registry offices in either Antigua or in Germany we will make copies of original documents.

An inspection at registry by an Antigua and Barbuda inspector is required for ships over 12 months old.

The registry is available 24 hours/day/365 days/year as necessary to complete registries when it is necessary to work between time zones and meet the expectations of builders, managers, financiers and owners.


Antigua and Barbuda is a signatory to all the major international IMO Conventions and Antigua and Barbuda ships are required to comply with the standards in the conventions.

There are no age bars for ships registering in Antigua and Barbuda, however for older ships, more than 12 months old,  it is a requirement that the ship is inspected by a flag state inspector prior to acceptance for registry.

A number of certificates are issued by the administration and can be issued on receipt of an appropriate application, these include:

  • Bunker liability certificate.
  • Minimum safe manning document  (an application form for this can be found in the section for forms on this website)
  • LRIT conformance test certificate.
  • Radio license

To complement the surveys undertaken by the recognised organisations the administration arranges annual flag state inspections of each ship from its Bremerhaven office.  These are undertaken by members of a large team of appointed flag state inspectors based in locations world-wide.   A system is being created which will allow ships that have few defects at inspection and which continue to have a good Port State Control record to increase the period between flag state inspections.

As well as ships trading internationally, the Antigua and Barbuda administration registers ships of under 500 GT trading in the Caribbean area and issued with either:

  • Caribbean cargo ship certification under the CCSS Code. or
  • Small commercial vessel certification under the SCV Code

Certificates for these vessels are issued by the administration from its St. John’s office.

The administration publishes Circulars from time to time which set out the Antigua and Barbuda interpretations of various international and national requirements and which highlight new requirements arising from changes to conventions and other regulations.  The Circulars are available on this website and form a statement of Antigua and Barbuda policy on various areas.