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This content is taken from the Law Society of Scotland, Addleshaw Goddard & UK Chamber of Shipping's online course, Maritime Law: an Introduction to Shipping Transactions. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 14 secondsAny casual observer of a ship, whether it is from the merchant fleet or a mega-yacht, will notice that both the given name of the vessel and a place name are displayed. Where are these far-flung and quite random places? Why are they shown in this way? Who does this benefit? A flag is an ancient symbol of loyalty, affiliation and belonging. In the modern day, different Flag States compete with each other to receive such loyalty and the reasons why shipowners may choose between them. The flag which may be flown on board the ship may not be immediately recognised by such a casual observer but the attribution of a place name is unequivocal.

Skip to 1 minute and 12 secondsIn the twenty-first century, that such an arguably archaic and inward-looking approach – the need to demonstrate so publicly where one comes from – should continue, and for good reasons, is worthy of investigation in itself. What we find is a historical and a local practice, developing into a multi-national and near-universal system of identity as the basis for mutual recognition of vessels from every corner of the globe. In England, the registration system goes back to the seventeenth-century Navigation Acts, beginning with a statute in 1660.

Skip to 2 minutes and 1 secondHere one sees for the first time the compulsory requirement to notify to a government official the characteristics of a vessel, its owners, where it was built – “and that upon such Oath, he or they shall receive a Certificate… whereby such Ship or Vessel may for the future pass and be deemed as a Ship belonging to that Port”. That is, a Certificate of Registration. This week, we will explore from these historic beginnings to the present day, including investigation and discussion of the benefits of registration, flags of convenience, documentary requirements and international practice.

Welcome to the week

You might notice when you see a ship - be it from a merchant fleet, a mega-yacht or a ferry - that alongside the name of the vessell a place name is displayed. Where are these far-flung and quite random places? Why are do so many ships registered have the names of the Marshall Islands, Panama, and Liberia emblazoned on them?

Ship registration is the biggest topic we’ll cover over the four weeks so there are more activities - not too many, just to let you know!

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This video is from the free online course:

Maritime Law: an Introduction to Shipping Transactions

Law Society of Scotland