Antigua’s rich maritime history plays an integral part in the daily life and culture of Antigua, Alice Roberts highlights Antigua as a world class location for shipping registries.
The twin island state of Antigua and Barbuda, a former British colony which gained its independence from Britain in 1981, is located in the north-eastern Caribbean chain of islands.
It is a politically stable and democratic country with a long established legal system based on English common law. It is a member of CARICOM (Caribbean Community), OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and OAS (Organisation of American States). As well as its 365 beaches, the country has many other attractive features, including convenient location and time zone, modern telecommunication services, well developed modern banking system, exchange rate fixed to the US$, English as official language, an international airport with direct flights to London, Miami, New York and Toronto, and well trained technicians and professionals.
Antigua and Barbuda has a long maritime history and sailing continues to play an integral part in its life and culture. In addition to the main port of entry located in the capital of St John’s, there are several other ports of entry, including the historic English Harbour, home to the famous Nelson’s Dockyard. The main port in St John’s can accommodate container ships as well as cruise ships. The country has for many years hosted several world class sailing events including the Annual Sailing Week and the Antigua Charter Yacht Show, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
The Antigua & Barbuda Shipping Registry was established in 1986 and is now a world class Registry backed by sound modern legislation – the Antigua and Barbuda Merchant Shipping Act. The legislation and related regulations are continually updated to ensure that they are current with the best practices.
The Registry is administered by the Antigua and Barbuda Department of Marine Services & Merchant Shipping (ADOMS) from its head office in St John’s, Antigua and two satellite offices in Germany (Oldenburg and Bremerhaven). ADOMS is seeking to expand its global presence and it is envisaged that additional satellite offices will be established in the near future.
ADOMS is staffed by a qualified, experienced, diverse and multilingual team and provides 24-hour support services. After a comprehensive audit of all its offices, including both processes and knowledge of maritime rules and regulations, it recently received ISO 9001 Certification by GL Systems Certification. They are very proud of this certification which indicates that they have a quality management system in place.
The Registry has developed a very good reputation and is well recognised internationally by ship owners and ship financing banks as well as other Port States and Flag States. It is a long standing member of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and is listed on the ‘White List’ of the Paris Memorandum on Port State Control. The government of Antigua and Barbuda has ratified a number of international maritime conventions including the SOLAS Convention 1974, 1978 and 1988 Protocols, STCW Convention 1978 and 1995, Maritime Labour Convention 2006 and OPRC Convention 1990. In addition Antigua and Barbuda has authorised several major classification societies as Recognised Organisations to act on behalf of ADOMS in the issuance of certification for ships registered under the flag of Antigua and Barbuda, for example, the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), Bureau Veritas (BV), Germanischer Lloyd (GL), Lloyds Register (LR). Attractive tariffs and flexible crewing requirements are also appealing.
ADOMS maintains a Register of Ships which is divided into three parts:
In each of these parts the registration can be provisional, permanent, bareboat charter or ship under construction. The Registry is open to commercial as well as pleasure vessels. In terms of the yacht register, a distinction is made between privately operated yachts and commercially operated yachts.
In order for a vessel to be registered under the Antigua and Barbuda flag it must satisfy the ownership nationality requirements. For international clients, the ownership requirement for registration is satisfied if the vessel is owned by either:
(a) A company incorporated under the International Business Corporations Act, Cap. 222 of Antigua and Barbuda (ie an IBC). Such companies are tax exempt for 50 years from date of incorporation but can only engage in international shipping activities.
(b) A foreign company or partnership registered as an external company under the Companies Act 1995. Such companies are also tax exempt if they maintain the registration of their vessels in Antigua and Barbuda and only engage in international shipping activities.
Apart from the registration of vessels, ADOMS offers related services such as registration, deletion and transmission of mortgages; change of ownership; change of name of vessel; deletion of vessels; crew certification; and surveys and inspections.
In Antigua and Barbuda there is a cadre of well trained lawyers and corporate management service providers who can assist international ship owners and their agents with the incorporation of an international business corporation or registration of an external company to own their vessels. They can also assist with the registration of the vessels and related services.
Today the Antigua and Barbuda Shipping Registry boasts some 1400 vessels. In terms of merchant shipping the Registry is ranked No. 2 in the Caribbean, and worldwide it is ranked in the top 20 with respect to gross tonnage and in the top 10 with respect to the number of ships registered. Although the Registry is currently made up mainly of merchant ships, a special Yacht Register has now been created for yachts of all sizes, both for private use or for charter. ADOMS is therefore now actively promoting its yacht registry and is looking particularly at the mega yacht market.
Antigua and Barbuda and ADOMS is committed to maintaining a world class shipping registry and to diversifying its fleet and expanding into new markets.
Alice N Roberts, Managing Director of CMT Corporate Services Limited, Antigua