How To Register A Shipping Vessel

June, 2024

Shipping registration plays an important function in achieving safety and security of maritime transport and significantly contributes towards the protection and preservation of the maritime environment.

By international shipping law, every ship is required to be registered to a State and this establishes a ship’s nationality for purposes of regulation. Registration also allows the State the right to protect the ship against piracy and other threats.

The need for ships to freely sail across the seas as they transport goods has to be balanced with the need to avoid disorder at sea and it is for this reason and others that international law has provided a framework for the regulation of international shipping.

Each State has its own rules and regulations for grant of nationality to ships, registration in its territory, and the right to fly its flag.

Having registered a ship, the State must effectively exercise its jurisdiction and control over the ship. The Flag State exercises regulatory control, certify the ship’s crew and equipment and issues safety and pollution prevention documents. They are responsible for ensuring ships are seaworthy and operate in accordance with regulations on safety, security, and marine environmental protection.

There are a number of benefits attached to registering a shipping vessel. It allows the owner of the ship to avoid taxes and duties at the country’s ports and obtain better financing and insurance options. Depending on the nation of the Flag State, registration enhances the vessel’s value. Furthermore, it guarantees protection against piracy and other criminal activities at sea, ensures the safety of the crew and vessel, allow for access to global shipping markets, as well as ensuring convenience and organisation when docking at ports.

The registration of ships in the wrong Flag State may lead to some disadvantages, such as detention of ships at ports, where that country is in some level of conflict with the Flag State, including higher fines or penalties, as well as certain Flag States not offering adequate protection of their vessels at sea, or the safety and security of the vessel and the crew.

In Ghana, registration of a vessel is subject to the following conditions.


The applicant must be a citizen of Ghana, or a body corporate established under the laws of Ghana, or a foreign individual or company in a registered joint venture with a Ghanaian or Ghanaian company.


  1. Applicant must first obtain a permit for the incorporation of vessels from the Ministry of Transport for all ships except fishing vessels, and from the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development for shipping vessels.
  1. An applicant shall officially write to the Director-General of the GMA for a permit with the following documents attached:
  • Copies of Certificate of Incorporation of the Company
  • Certificate to commence business
  • Company objectives on ‘Form 3’
  • Bill of sale, for old vessels, or a Builders’ certificate, for new vessels.
  1. Upon satisfactory assessment of the documents, approval will be given for the purchase of the following forms from the Ghana Maritime Authority:
  • Application to register a ship
  • Declaration of ownership
  • Notice of name proposed for a Ghanaian Ship
  • Allotment of signal letters
  • Survey Application form
  1. Upon receipt of the documents, the applicant is issued with the appropriate fee which is payable via a Payment Order.
  1. The Applicant pays into the designated account as per the Payment Order.
  1. The Applicant presents the bank pay-in-slip to the GMA Accounts Department for a Payment Receipt to be issued.
  1. A surveyor is appointed to conduct an initial survey on the vessel
  1. After the initial survey, the application is approved by the Director-General it it means the set requirements
  1. The Registrar of Ships then issues an official number and Ship’s Carving and Markings Notes
  1. The Ship’s survey Certificate and Carving and Marking Notes are duly endorsed by the Surveyor and submit same to the Registrar of Ships

The Ship’s Certificate of Registry will then be issued within 5 working days

  • Application form for ship registration
  • Proof of ownership, such as Bill of Sale (for old vessels), or a Builder’s Certificate (for new vessels)
  • Proof of nationality of the owner
  • International Tonnage Certificate (ITC) issued by an authorised Classification Society
  • Permits from the Ministry of Transport (except for fishing vessels) and from the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (for fishing vessels)
  • If the application is made through a legal representative, a power of attorney
  • Any relevant documents required from the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA).
  • The ship may require surveys and inspections to ensure compliance with safety and environmental standards set by the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA).
  • Ghana is closely aligned with MARPOL regulations. Furthermore, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), empowered by the EPA Act 1994, is tasked with monitoring and enforcing the environmental regulations within the maritime industry.
  • The applicant is required to pay a prescribed registration fee which varies depending on the size and tonnage of the subject matter vessel.




  • When the application form and supporting documents have been completed and signed, the owner of the vessel should submit them to the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA).
  • If the GMA is satisfied that the completed forms meet all the requirements, a certificate of registration is issued by the Director General within 5 days. The certificate of registration serves as proof of registration of the Vessel in Ghana.
  • Following issuance of the Certificate by GMA, the vessel is marked with its unique registration number amongst others. These are the Ship’s Carving and Marking Notes.
  • The registration is valid for a specified period and at the expiration of the period, it must be renewed.
  • Renewals maintain the vessel’s legal registration in Ghana.

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