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International Law

Registering Ships with the International Shipping Register of Madeira

by Carlos de Sousa e Brito


There is a major sea change ahead for the registration of vessels, as some European legislation is being prepared to convince ship owners to register their vessels in the European Union (EU). Germany, for example, is currently preparing a law to prevent ship owners from registering their ships outside of the EU.

Per this proposed law, ship owners would have to register at least 60 per cent of their tonnage in the EU in order to avoid losing several relevant tax benefits. Considering that the major ship owners presently register their ships in non-EU countries such as Panama, Hong Kong, and Sierra Leone, among others, this change could have a strong impact on those local economies and prompt response from ship owners. A final version of the legislation is not yet available.

There are three major EU International Shipping Registers: Malta International Ship Register, Gibraltar Ship Register and the International Shipping Register of Madeira.

This analysis considers the International Shipping Register of Madeira (MAR), which offers ship owners and the shipping community low operational costs, yet maintains the quality and safety of an EU register service.

It is important to know that all entities undertaking the maritime transportation of persons and goods, operating from Madeira or any other jurisdiction, may register vessels with the MAR using the Portuguese flag. This provides them full access to continental and domestic cabotage, as well as access to a competitive tax regime applicable to both vessels and shipping companies.

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Carlos de Sousa e Brito is founder and senior partner of Carlos de Sousa e Brito & Associados. He oversees the firm's practice of maritime, business, foreign investment, European Community, competition, banking, intellectual property, telecommunications, and oil law, as well as international tax planning for project financing. Mr. de Sousa e Brito was formerly Portugal's Secretary of State for Social Communication and a member of the negotiation committee for the International Convention on the Seas.