Registration means the entering of a matter in the public records. Registration
View More Registration of ships in shipping, maritime law and law of the sea
is generally—but not always—not only a precondition for, but also the test of, a
vessel’s nationality. This is the public law function of registration, as opposed to its
private law function.
A vessel may be considered as possessing the nationality of a State even though she
View More About Nationality of ships
is unregistered, possesses no documents evidencing that nationality, nor even flies
the flag of that State. Historically, a vessel’s nationality was determined by reference
to so-called connecting factors: as we have seen, the Navigation Acts required
every British ship to be of British build; the French Acte de Navigation of 1793 contained
similar provisions in respect of French ships. In much the same way as the
Jones Act in the United States, the purpose of these laws was protectionist. The UK
Merchant Shipping Act 1894, prior to its amendment by the Merchant Shipping
Act 1988, defined a British ship purely in terms of ownership, regardless of whether
or not she had been registered as the Act required.