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Register of Shipping Searches – An Ellis & Ellis Explainer

What are Register of Shipping Searches?

A division of the Department of Transport and operating under the Irish Maritime Administration (IMA), the Marine Survey Office (MSO) is responsible for port/ flag state (i.e. the jurisdiction under whose laws the vessel is registered or licensed) regulatory control in Ireland. 

These duties and responsibilities as the maritime transport regulator include ‘…the safety, security, environmental protection and living and working conditions for vessels and ports in Ireland and Irish ships abroad’.

However, one of the other functions of MSO Administration is the issuing of Vessel Certificates. As such, and as a function of meeting these regulatory obligations, the MSO also maintains a General Register of Ships.

It is against these registers that we conduct shipping searches.

Why should the purchasing solicitor/ conveyancer search the Register of Shipping when investigating title in a property/ right/ interest in a registered vessel purchase?

With regards to acquiring a property, right, or interest in real (immovable) property, i.e. land, buildings or permanent fixtures, ownership is generally recorded by formal transfer by deed.

However, with tangible personal property (moveable property personal to the owner, e.g. chattels or personalty such as furniture, clothing, jewellery, art, writings, household goods, livestock and/ or farm machinery) these assets are typically not ‘titled’ (i.e., registered with legally recognised ‘ownership’ of a property in an owner’s name).

While in certain instances formal title documents may exist to demonstrate the ownership and transfer rights of chattel property, such ‘title transfers’ documents are a legal requirement with the sale of registered motor vehicles, boats, and similar such moveable assets.

As such, when these ‘titled’ tangible personal property classes (registered motor vessels and boats) are bought and sold it is usually a under a specific type of ‘bill of sale’ (as per the Merchant Shipping (Registration of Ships) Act 2014) which is the recognised medium of recorded transfer *.

Naturally, as part of title investigation in a property/ right/ interest purchase, there is an onus on the purchasing solicitor/ conveyancer to establish for their client the ownership of the property/ right/ interest being transferred or re-assigned.

Secondly, the purchasing solicitor/ conveyancer must identify for their client whether there are any impediments or obstacles to obtaining ‘clean title,’ such as marine mortgages (loan secured against the vessel), burdens, liens or judgments, etc. 

Naturally if the purchasers require funding from a lending institution, the purchaser’s Solicitor are obliged by their undertaking to furnish good and marketable title for the lender. 

How to request a search on Register of Shipping register?

At minimum we require the name of the vessel, along with its official number. In an ideal scenario we would also like to be provided with its current port of registry. Alternatively, any two of the three metrics should be enough to establish the correct registrar maintaining the register for the vessel in question.

What details are recorded on a ‘Transcript of Register’ for a vessel?

Registered details include (but are not limited to) name and numbering, ship type, dimensions, hull construction, engine size, tonnage (carrying capacity of a ship measured in tons), mortgages , ownership, and the shareholding.

As an aside and drawing comparison to the transfer of real estate, a purchasing solicitor/ conveyancer would usually request an Architect’s Certificate of Compliance confirming adherence to all conditions (on granted permissions) and verifying whether the lands and buildings being sold correspond accurately to the provided sale description and particulars. 

With shipping sales, should the value of the boat to be sold warrant it, a Marine Engineer can perform a similar function, i.e. ultimately is the vessel sea worthy, but also do the registered details match the actuality at the dock. Normally, where a marine mortgage is to be granted, an out-of-water survey and valuation (other than for brand new boats) is a requirement.

Ultimately, physical inspection aside, much of the solicitor’s inquiries can be resolved by examining a copy of the transcript of the shipping register for the vessel.

Note: As well as other generalised searches, Ellis &Ellis also offer searches for Freezer Vessels Approved under Regulation (EC) No 853 / 2004, Ireland. Searches against shipping registers outside of the republic of Ireland are available upon request.

* Under the act (Section 49.4) , ‘Every bill of sale for the transfer of a registered ship or of a share therein, when executed, shall be produced to the Minister, with the declaration of transfer, and the Minister shall enter the name of the transferee as owner of the ship or share on the Register, and shall endorse on the bill of sale that entry, with the day and hour.

† With shipping and/ or fishing vessels, there can be a further requirement to establish if there are any impactful matters around licensing requirements, BIM grants, etc. 

‡ The registrar will not change the record as to who the owner of the sea fishing vessel until such time as such the mortgage has been discharged.

Use a trusted Law Search provider

Given the grave implications of either not conducting a register of shipping search at all, or worse, conducting an insufficient or flawed shipping search; it is imperative that purchasing solicitors/ conveyancers use a reliable law search provider such as Ellis & Ellis.

With our combination of a fast and easy-to-use ordering platform at www.ellis.ie , over 130 years of expert know-how, and a superb after-sales experience, we present clients with a superior searching service. 

For additional peace of mind Ellis & Ellis provide Professional Indemnity Cover of €10 million.

Why not join the 1000’s of users who trust Ellis & Ellis to deliver them a competitive edge?

Did you find the above information to be of interest? Why not check out one of our other Ellis & Ellis explainers for some related searches below; – 


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