Mar 22, 2016

In international law, each State (Country) is permitted to set down the requirements by which a vessel is permitted to hoist its flag or enter its registry. This principle is long standing and was recognized by the Hague Court as far back as 1905 in Muscat Dhow’s case. The 1982 United Nation Convention on Laws of the Sea states that:

Article 91: Nationality of ships
1. Every State shall fix the conditions for the grant of its nationality to ships, for the registration of ships in its territory, and for the right to fly its flag. Ships have the nationality of the State whose flag they are entitled to fly. There must exist a genuine link between the State and the ship.

2. Every State shall issue to ships to which it has granted the right to fly its flag documents to that effect”.

The registration of vessels under the Nigerian flag is governed by the Merchant Shipping Act 2007. The Act is supplemented by regulations dealing with such matters as crew competency, safety rules, load line rules, collision etc. The MSA 2007 is modelled after the English Merchant Shipping Act of 1894.

The Section 18 Merchant Shipping Act 2007 provides that the following are persons eligible to register Nigerian Ships:

a. Nigerian citizens

b. Bodies corporate established under and subject to Nigerian laws, having their principal place of business in Nigeria

c. Such other persons as the Minister of Transport may by regulations prescribe.
Application procedure

Applications for the Registration of Nigerian Ships are made to the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency. It is pertinent to state that Nigeria does not operate an open registry and therefore a Nigerian Consul is not permitted to accept registration documents and cannot issue certificates.
The owner of the ship or his agent will submit a formal letter of application for registration of the ship inclusive of the following information and supporting documents:

1. Application form for registration
2. Company’s Particulars:

• Copy of certificate of Incorporation

• CTC of Memorandum and Articles of Association

• CTC of Form CAC7 (Particulars of Directors)

• CTC of Form CAC2 (Allotment of Shares) note that company’s share
capital should not be less than N25,000,000 (Twenty Five Million Naira Naira Only).

• Company’s current tax clearance certificate

• Company’s Bank statement or reference letter

• Declaration of ownership form (to be issued by the Ship Registry)

Pursuant to Section 22 of MSA 2007, the ship-owner is expected to concurrently submit an application for survey and issuance of certificate of tonnage measurement to facilitate the flag survey of the vessel.

3. Vessel Particulars:

• Name of ship

• Time and place of purchase

• Name of Master

• Best particulars in respect of the tonnage, build and description of the ship

• Bill of sale or Builders certificate (evidence of title)

• Condition survey report and tonnage measurement certificate as approved by the Minister

• Certificate of carving and marking note of the ship

• Call sign Certificate

• Loadline Certificate

• Report of pre-purchase survey

• Deletion certificate (if vessel is flagging in from a foreign flag, this is to avoid dual registration in line with Article 93(2) of UNCLOS 1982).

• Certificate of approved plan issued by NIMASA for a newly built vessel in Nigeria only

• Applicant should liaise with NIMASA survey unit for flag state condition survey and issuance of Certificate of Tonnage Measurement

• Vessel Class Certificate (for conventional vessel only)

• Payment of registration fees

• Evidence of insurance/P & I coverage
4. Owners Particulars

• Full names, addresses and occupations of the purchaser of the ship.

• Evidence of ability or experience of the purchasers to operate and maintain ship.

• Log book of the ship to be inspected by the Registrar of ships

• In the case of second hand tonnage, a bill of sale with warranty against liens and encumbrances from the sellers

• Evidence of financial resources sufficient for operation and maintenance of the ship
In accordance with Section 30 of the MSA 2007, the Registrar shall upon completion of the registration of a ship, issue a Certificate of Registration in such form as may be approved by the Agency.
This Article was produced by ‘Damilola Osinuga. LL.B, LL.M, ACIArb. A Legal Practitioner and expert in the areas of Maritime, Insurance, International Trade and Ship Brokerage.
 Editor's note: This article was originally posted by the author on on 21st March, 2016.



  1. Those are some interesting rules and regulations to register your ship. It's really amazing, as I've never heard about most of them ever before.


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