British Red Ensign

The Red Ensign Group is comprised of the United Kingdom, Crown Dependencies (Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey) and UK Overseas Territories (Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Gibraltar, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Montserrat, St Helena and the Turks & Caicos Islands) which operate shipping registries.

Any vessel registered in the UK, a Crown Dependency or UK Overseas Territory, is a British vessel and is entitled to fly the British Red Ensign flag.

These registers are divided into two categories:

CATEGORY 1. Those which register vessels of unlimited tonnage and type which includes Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Isle of Man and the United Kingdom.

CATEGORY 2. Those which register commercial vessels of up to 150 gross registered tonnage (GRT); and vessels which are not operated commercially of up to 400 GRT – Anguilla, Falkland Islands, Guernsey, Jersey, Montserrat, St. Helena and the Turks & Caicos Islands.


The Red Ensign Group includes both jurisdictions within the EU but outside the EU VAT area such as Gibraltar as well as non-EU jurisdictions which fall inside the EU VAT area such as the Isle of Man. There will be significant tax and crew employment advantages, depending on the jurisdiction chosen.

The allocation of a vessel to a specific state will have an effect on safety regulations, crewing or discipline on board; the right to diplomatic protection and consular assistance, naval protection by the flag state or the right to fly the national flag. Other private law considerations are crucial for the protection of the title of the registered owner and preserving priorities between persons holding security interests over the vessel at sea.

British law has led the enactment of legislation specific to yachting and is a familiar, popular and workable system of law, well-known to practitioners, captains, brokers, bankers, builders, classification societies and generally to service providers within the yachting industry.

It is also worth mentioning that the Red Ensign Group enables a British yacht registration to be transferred from one port to another without any additional requirements other than those satisfied when the vessel was first British registered. So a Gibraltar flagged vessel could be transferred onto the Cayman Islands register by simply filing an application with the respective ship registries. This can have significant advantages should the tax status of the vessel change.

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