Red Ensign Group


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Red Ensign?

The Red Ensign (or "Red Duster" as it is occasionally known) is a flag that originated in the early 17th century as a British ensign flown by the Royal Navy and was later adopted specifically by British merchantmen to be flown as the civil ensign of the British merchant fleet.

What is the Red Ensign Group?

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

Any vessel registered in the UK, a Crown Dependency (CD) or an Overseas Territory (OT), is a "British ship" and is entitled to fly the British Merchant Shipping flag the 'Red Ensign' (or a version of it defaced with the appropriate national colour).

The 1995 Merchant Shipping Act (section 8, Part II) provides for the central register of British ships on the UK Ships Register, as it is currently known. Section 18 of Part II of the 1995 Act, allows by Order in Council, British possessions (both CDs and OTs) to establish different categories of register with restrictions on vessels according to the tonnage, size and type. Presently under the Merchant Shipping (Categorisation of Registries of Relevant British Possessions) Order 2008 (Statutory Instrument 2008 No. 1243), these registers are divided into the following categories:

Category 1 Registers

Category 2 Registers

British Virgin Islands
Cayman Islands
Isle of Man
United Kingdom

Falkland Islands
St. Helena
Turks & Caicos Islands

What is the difference between Category 1 and 2 registers?

Category 1 administrations operate large international registers and may register ships of unlimited tonnage, type and length.

Category 2 administrations can register commercial ships of up to 150 gross tons (GT) and pleasure vessels, that is, those not operated commercially of up to 400 GT (pleasure vessels, by definition, refer to ships used for sport or pleasure, which are not operated commercially).

Which register is right for me?

The Red Ensign Group of ship registers has long been associated with quality within the maritime sector, and remains the flag of choice for many owners seeking high standards to ensure the safe running of their ships. Through this website you find information about the Group and individual links to the member's websites which will provide details on the benefits and advantages of British registration.

How much does it cost to register?

Individual REG members are responsible for setting their own registration fees, and this can be either found through the member's individual website or through contacting the local registry. Contact details are available on each member's page.

Can I fly a local defaced version of the Red Ensign on my vessel?

This depends on the requirements of the individual Red Ensign registry with which your vessel is registered, and updated advice should be sought directly from the registrar.

For information, section 3(b) of the UK Merchant Shipping Act 1995 allows the use of both the Red Ensign flag or a version of it defaced with the appropriate national colour, on vessels registered with a Crown Dependency or UK Overseas Territory provided they have either a Royal Warrant or an Order in Council:

"(3) The following are also proper national colours, that is to say-

            (b) in the case of British ships registered in a relevant British possession, any colours consisting of the red ensign defaced or modified whose adoption for ships registered in that possession is authorised by Her Majesty by Order in Council"

What is the size of the British fleet?

The total combined size of the British commercial fleet stands at 3,959 vessels of 46,561,241gross tonnage (based on statistics from May 2011) placing the British Fleet 6th in size of the World's largest registers.   

Survey, Certification and Manning Enquiries

Specific questions on the standards to be applied to your vessel can either be found through the individual member's website or answered directly by the individual REG registry. Contact details are available on each member's pages.

What is the REG Conference?

An REG conference is held each year offering the geographically widespread membership of the REG the opportunity for detailed face-to-face discussion of a wide variety of matters of shared interest. The conferences offer the opportunity to share best practice and to discuss ways to optimise performance of the British register in the international arena, both in terms of commercial success and in setting exemplary standards in meeting our international maritime obligations.

The conference is supported by a REG Technical Forum group which provides a forum to assist with ensuring consistent application of technical policy across the British fleet by working closely with REG colleagues through exchange of knowledge and experiences. The forum is also responsible for the development of new technical standards for the maritime industry, including the Large Yacht Code and Passenger Yacht Code, both of which are now recognised as industry best practice standards.

What is the constitutional relationship between the UK and the shipping registries operated by the Crown Dependencies and UK Overseas Territories?

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and under international law, all ships registered within the Crown Dependencies and UK Overseas Territories are British Ships. In exercise of its powers, the United Kingdom as the Flag State under international law for these ships has devolved to the Crown Dependencies and UK Overseas Territories:

(a)  the authority and power to deal with all IMO flag-state matters; and

(b)  the implementation of the duties, obligations and responsibilities of a flag state under international conventions that have been extended to individual Crown Dependencies and UK Overseas Territories, relating to the performance and safety of ships registered within these administrations, including Port State Control. These functions are devolved within the structure of the government of the flag-state.

Under the Merchant Shipping (Categorisation of Registries of Relevant British Possessions) Order 2003, the ship registers of Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man have been given Category 1 status, permitting them to register international trading fleets unlimited tonnage, type and length, because the UK's ratification of certain international conventions has been extended to these jurisdictions. In each case, the UK is the State Party to these conventions and remains ultimately responsible as a matter of international law for the discharge of treaty obligations by relevant REG members.

The same Order makes provision for Category 2 registers for Anguilla, Falkland Islands, Guernsey, Jersey, Montserrat, St Helena and the Turks and Caicos Islands to operate a Category 2 register prevents the registration of passenger ships or of other ships of more than 150 tons.  However, there is an exemption which allows the registration of domestic passenger ships, pleasure vessels between 150 and 400 tons and ships of special local importance, provided that arrangements are in force for such ships to be surveyed and inspected by reference to the standards set out in UK safety and pollution regulations.

Both Category 1 and Category 2 shipping registers operate with significant autonomy. Each register is responsible for the registration and adherence to international safety and environmental standards of their individual fleets.  Additionally five of the Category 1 registers have now undergone individual audits under the IMO Voluntary Member State Audit Scheme (VIMSAS) (Res. A.974(24)). The Code (annexed to Res. A.973(24)) sets out Member States' main responsibilities as flag, port and coastal States.










Site sponsored by PDMS Ltd. Site designed and developed by Digital Design.