In 1970 Barbados became a member of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).  The IMO was established by Convention in Geneva in 1948.  Its “main task has been to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping and its remit today includes safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping.”

The Barbados Maritime Ships’ Registry

Barbados Maritime Ship Registry (BMSR) is amongst the world’s best ship registries and has been designated a “whitelist” flag by the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control and is part of the US Coast Guard’s QUALSHIP 21 Programme designed to identify quality controlled vessels visiting US ports.  Several internationally owned vessels fly the Barbados flag including tankers, bulk carriers, containerships and yachts. The BMSR offers competitive initial registration and annual fees and low cost annual Flag State inspections. The BMSR also operates a 24/7 support facility for ship operators.

Forms of shipping entities and advantages

Vehicles for investors who want to use Barbadian entities to own and operate ships are as follows:

  • A shipping company that owns and operates ships, or acts as a holding entity for such a company. According to section 330 of the Shipping Corporations Act, such companies (and non-resident directors and officers of such companies) are not subject to the Income Tax Act, Stamp Duty Act or Exchange Control Act. 
  • Being declared an approved shipping company under the Shipping Incentives Act, in order to obtain the concessions granted to such a company that engages in the prescribed activities. An approved shipping company can enjoy the following concessions for 15 years: 
    • Income tax concessions in respect of profits or gains 
    • Dividends paid to residents are exempt from income tax and when paid to non residents are free of tax in excess of the rate paid in their country of residence.
    • With the Minister’s consent, importation of ships and articles used in the business free of customs duty.

Number of registered vessels

As at June 15, 2020 the Barbados Maritime Ships Registry recorded a total of:

i. 15 yachts

ii. 153 ships