Registration pursuant to the Dutch flag – the registration process in Covid times

By Lotte Schat of RMSC member AKD

At AKD in Rotterdam, we assist and advice on a daily basis on the construction, sale and purchase and financing of vessels and yachts. The (de)registration of the vessel, the possibility to go bareboat in or out, transfer of title and security (mortgage) on the vessel are important aspects in these matters on which we advise and lead the process. The practical approach of ILT together with the specialized knowledge and experience of our notary and lawyers help towards a smooth process.

Ship-owners benefit from an easy and smooth vessel registration process in the Netherlands as was put forward during the worthwhile webinar “Flying the Dutch flag”.

Two governmental organizations are involved for ships registration in the Netherlands being the Land Registry (Kadaster) and the Human Environment and transport Inspectorate part of Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management also referred to as ILT (Inspectie Leefomgeving en Transport) or Netherlands Shipping Inspectorate (NSI). Experience learns that practical difficulties may arise also related to Covid restrictions but they can usually be quickly tackled, applying the typical Dutch pragmatic approach.

The title to the vessel can be registered with the Dutch Land Registry provided that the vessel is qualified as “Dutch Vessel” or if the vessel is under construction in the Netherlands. It is not the Dutch Land Registry who decides whether the vessel qualifies as being Dutch but ILT. ILT will also decide whether the vessel is entitled to fly the Dutch flag when registered with the Dutch Land Registry and if yes, issue a certificate of registration pursuant to the flag (but not necessarily title) (zeebrief).

The requirements to be met for the vessel to qualify as “Dutch” as laid down in statutory law (art. 311 Wetboek van Koophandel) are summarized in English on the website of NL Flag.

The application for registration with the Land Registry and application for the Declaration of nationality and certificate of registration to be issued by ILT go hand in hand. The sequence, comparable to foreign registers, is as follows and it goes without saying that the practical and technical aspects of reflagging or change of registration shall be managed simultaneously:

1. Obtaining declaration of nationality with ILT and provisional certificate of registration (zeebrief)

The Land Registry requires the original Declaration of Nationality issued by ILT. Due to Covid restrictions in the Netherlands, the issuance and receiving of the original Declaration of Nationality can be delayed. It is therefore of importance that the nationality declaration is applied for in time. If a notary is involved, the notary can upon receipt of the original declaration testify that it has seen the original which declaration can (in scan) be provided to the Land Registry with the deed of transfer and is accepted as sufficient proof.

2. Registration with the Land Registry

Amongst others, title to the vessel shall be proven to the registry. Pursuant to Dutch law, title to a vessel can only be transferred trough a deed of transfer by a notary if the vessel is registered at the moment (just before) the transfer of title.

3. Obtaining certificate of registration with ILT

Usually within 6 months, the definitive certificate of registration needs to be obtained from the ILT with evidence that the vessel has been registered with the Land Registry.

The Dutch bareboat registry is with ILT in which case title will have been registered in a foreign register and the Land Registry is not involved. When the vessel is registered with the Dutch Land Registry but it is opted to go bareboat out, the necessary certificate to go “bareboat out” is obtained through ILT.

Both ILT as well as the Land Registry offer explanatory notes on their websites in English and with ILT the application forms are available in English. At AKD, we are happy to advice, assist, guide and execute the process in the Netherlands and internationally.