Ship register

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The ship register is used to rem allocation of ships . The shipping register law is a special law similar to the land register within the framework of the register law . Ships are treated like immovable property in terms of property law in Germany and Switzerland . The regulations on movable objects ( Fahrnis ) are therefore not applicable to these or only to a limited extent.

Historical basis

A shipping register was first introduced in the United Kingdom with the Merchant Shipping Act in 1854 and adopted by other European countries. Ship registers are basically based on the land register and have only gradually developed independently. The first shipping registers since the North German Confederation were introduced in Germany.

The development goes back to the famous book" Mare liberum "(1616) permeated by Hugo Grotius . Under international law , the statelessness of the sea was recognized, or rather the membership of the sea to all states. This resulted in the control of all states with regard to the navigation of the sea. This culminated in the demand for proof of the nationality of a ship, which had to be guided through a number of ship's papers . The increasing traffic forced a better overview and a simplification of the proof. This is how they came to be registered in a ship register and their notarization in a ship certificate . The facility was later also adopted for inland waterway vessels . "

Ship registration law

Like the land register , ship registration law can be divided into formal and substantive ship registration law.

Substantive shipping register law includes the right to the registered ships and the shipbuilding works (for example about the acquisition and loss of property, ship mortgages, usufruct of ships, the right to shipbuilding works etc.).

Formal ship register law includes the right to keep and set up the ship register (for example, about types of ship registers, registration authority, requirements and subjects of entry and registration procedures, inspection of the ship register, etc.).

The register of ships serves the publicity which the legislature considers necessary in terms of property law .


Ship Register Ordinance of December 19, 1940

In the German ship registers are seagoing vessels and inland waterway vessels registered who are entitled or obliged the German federal flag lead. The registers for seagoing vessels and inland vessels are kept separately. The district court as the register court ( § 1 Ship Register Ordinance - SchRegO), in whose register district the home port or the home town of the ship is located, is responsible for factual and geographically . If there is no home port or if shipping is to be operated from a foreign location, the choice of the shipping register is optional. The register of ships is public and provides information about ownership and legal relationships with the registered ships. Ship register matters are matters of voluntary jurisdiction ( Section 23a Paragraph 2 No. 10 GVG ).

According to Art. 91 of the Convention on the Law of the Sea , ships are a national of the state whose flag they are entitled to fly. This means that the legal system of the flag state applies on these ships. They are under the exclusive jurisdiction of this state on the high seas, but do not form part of its national territory .

The federal flag is used by seagoing vessels whose owners are German citizens and have their place of residence in Germany (in the case of legal entities , if Germans have a majority on the board of directors or in the management ). The German owner of a seagoing ship is obliged to have the ship entered in the shipping register if the hull length of the ship exceeds 15 m. In the case of inland vessels, there is an obligation to register if the vessel has a carrying capacity of over 20 tonnes or a water displacement of more than 10 m³. Shorter or smaller vessels can be registered if the owner so wishes. As confirmation of the entry, the owner of a seagoing vessel receives the ship 's certificate , the owner of an inland vessel receives the ship's letter .

The entry in the shipping register serves as proof of who the owner is. Furthermore, a ship, like a piece of land, can be encumbered by a ship mortgage . For the security of the creditors , the charges are entered in the shipping register. The prerequisite for registration is the official surveying of the ship by the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency . The ship mortgage is to be distinguished from the maritime lien . The latter arises from a separate law and is effective regardless of an entry in a register.

In 1989, Germany introduced an international shipping register (second register), which allows the German flag to be flown, but still employing the crew outside of German labor and tariff law. In October 2016, 339 ships sailed under the German flag and 2,343 ships under foreign flags.

Corresponding ship registers, all of which enjoy public faith , are also kept in other countries . For cost reasons in particular, German shipowners often use the option of having their own ships sailed under a foreign flag by entering them in a foreign ship register. Countries such as Greece , Liberia and Panama , but also some Caribbean states, are known for such flagging out .

A distinction must be made between official registers and classification societies such as B. Bureau Veritas , Lloyd's Register of Shipping , DNV GL , as well as American Bureau of Shipping or Registro Italiano Navale . Classification societies are technical testing organizations that monitor compliance with standards and norms as well as official requirements in the construction and operation of ships.


Switzerland maintains a special shipping register for inland waterway and seaworthy ships.

According to Swiss law, large barges and ships suitable for sea are immovable as long as they are entered in the shipping register. Switzerland follows the principle of nationality when registering ships. Only Swiss citizens and dual citizens, regardless of their actual place of residence, can register a ship in the Swiss shipping register.

In this legal view of ships as immovable property and the entry in the ship register, Swiss law largely corresponds to German law and German legal theory. Only Swiss seagoing vessels may be entered in the Swiss register of seagoing vessels.

Switzerland has three different guidelines for yachts and small boats. For boats that are used on Swiss inland waters (including the border waters of Lake Constance , Lake Geneva , Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano ), the Ordinance on Navigation on Swiss Waters and the Lake Constance Shipping Regulations apply . These stipulate that all ships with a total length of more than 2.5 meters must be marked. This is issued by the cantonal shipping authorities. It resembles the contracts awarded in Switzerland car numbers and consists of the canton abbreviation and a 1 to 5-digit number. The cantonal shipping offices keep the register of the ships stationed in their canton and regularly check their seaworthiness and equipment. Owners of ocean-going yachts can apply for a flag license from the Swiss Maritime Administration . This internationally valid paper is only issued after formal proof of the suitability of the ship for ocean voyages, which means for newer boats at least that they must comply with categories A or B of the CE recreational craft directive. The Maritime Shipping Office ensures that the registered ship name is unique for Switzerland. A flag confirmation can be requested for a ship that does not and cannot meet these requirements. However, this is only valid on foreign inland areas and up to a maximum of 5 nautical miles from the coastline.

The only home port for all ships sailing under the Swiss flag is Basel . This means that the people on board a Swiss ship are subject to Basel city law and jurisdiction.


Liechtenstein does not keep a register of ships for inland navigation vessels and seaworthy vessels. The Liechtenstein government therefore can not issue a flag license, which is fundamentally required for the proper operation of a ship in international waters. Boat owners with Liechtenstein citizenship must therefore register seaworthy ships in third countries and fly their flag.

There are no regulations in Liechtenstein with regard to inland waterways and seaworthy ships, so that these, if any, are to be classified as movable objects (Fahrnis) and are subject to "normal" property law. In Liechtenstein itself there are no navigable waters either.


  • Julius von Gierke : Civil law. Property Law (=  Encyclopedia of Law and Political Science . Volume 10 ). 3rd, revised edition. Springer, Berlin a. a. 1948.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Julius von Gierke: Civil law. Property law. 3rd, revised edition. Springer, Berlin a. a. 1948, § 1 (Introduction), Zif V, S 9: “ The right of ships is the special right for registered ships. It is modeled on real estate law , since the German view of the large ships as "floating buildings". "
  2. ^ Ship registration and Custom House records , Merchant Shipping Act 1894 .
  3. Quotation from Julius von Gierke: Civil law. Property law. 3rd, revised edition. Springer, Berlin a. a. 1948, § 64 (The Law of Ships), Zif 3, p. 220.
  4. Christoph Drösser: Shipping: Does a ship in international waters belong to the territory of its flag state? . In: Die Zeit , March 31, 2016. 
  5. ^ Sicco Rah: Asylum seekers and migrants at sea state rights and obligations from an international law perspective . Springer, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-540-92930-7 .
  6. Felix Selzer: German navigators - asked or not? In: Hansa , issue 12/2016, pp. 42/43
  7. Art. 2 para. 1 of the Federal Law on Maritime Shipping under the Swiss Flag (Maritime Law) of 23 September 1953, SR 747.30.
  8. ^ Art. 2 para. 1 of the Federal Law on Maritime Shipping under the Swiss Flag (Maritime Law) of 23 September 1953, SR 747.30.
  9. Art 16 Ordinance on Shipping on Swiss Waters SR 747.201.1
  10. Yacht Ordinance, SR 747.321.7
  11. Art 12, Yacht Ordinance, SR 747.321.7
  12. Leaflet for issuing a flag confirmation for small boats (PDF)
  13. There is no obligation for a ship to fly a flag under international law. However, most coastal states require this when a ship enters their waters
  14. According to the " Small Inquiry " in the Landtag session of March 21, 2012, a ship register was and will not be set up for "cost reasons".
  15. ^ Antonius Opilio : Working commentary on Liechtenstein property law . Volume 2: Art. 265 to Art. 571. Edition Europa, Dornbirn 2010, ISBN 978-3-901924-25-5 , Art. 171 SR, margin no.4.