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Advice on ship registration

Ship registration


Which ships need to be registered?
  • Seagoing vessels at least 12 meters of length and flying the flag of Estonia
  • Inland vessels at least 12 meters of length and whose owner is an Estonian resident who is a natural person or a legal person situated in Estonia 
  • As an exception, the minimum total length of sailing yachts and launches is 24 meters
How is compliance to the registration obligation guaranteed?
  • If the ship owner does not present the documents and data required by law, including the ship registration application or presents incorrect data, to the court maintaining the Ship Register, then the court will impose a fine of up to 3200 to the ship owner. 
  • In case the owner is a legal person, each person with right of representation (Member of Board) will be fined separately.
  • Fines are repeated for as long as the ship owner has complied with the legal obligation.
  • In case of intentional presentation of false information to the court or notary, a punishment by criminal procedure will be imposed.
For which ships the registration is voluntary?
  • Ships flying the flag of Estonia with a total length of less than 12 meters (sail yachts and launches under 24 meters
  • Non-propelled vessels (floating crane, floating dock, etc.) situated in Estonia
  • Ships under construction in Estonia marked permanently with a name or number and whose keel has been laid.
Why is ship registration beneficial?
  • The Ship Register is a register with strong conclusive force since the transactions with a registered ship will come into force only when entered into the Ship Register. The buyer of a ship and the creditor who is the mortgage holder can completely trust the information in the register and their risk is minimal. 
  • A mortgage can be established for a registered ship as a security; an usufruct can also be established.
  • Value added tax incentives apply on a registered ship (see Value-Added Tax Act).
Who needs to be contacted to register a ship?
  • The Ship Register is maintained at the Land Registry Department of Tartu County Court
  • Other ships flying the flag of Estonia (chartered ships without crews, small crafts, ships performing state administrative duties) are registered by the Maritime Administration. In contrast to the Ship Register maintained by the court, the registers of the Maritime Administration have no meaning in rem, and are only technical databases.
  • Ship Register applications and documents can be presented electronically to the e-mail address of the Land Registry Department or via notary or the Maritime Administration.
Who issues the paper of nationality?
  • The paper of nationality is issued by the notary or Maritime Administration.
  • The application must also contain information about how or via whom the paper of nationality is to be received.
  • After an entry has been made into the Ship Register, the Land Registry Department will send a notification to the ship owner and the issuer of the paper of nationality after which the paper of nationality can be issued.
What is the role of the notary in the registration of a ship?
  • The notary will confirm the signature of the ship owner in the first registration application.
  • The notary authenticates the agreement to transfer the registered ship as well as the agreement to establish a mortgage and usufruct.
  • If the court is presented a copy instead of the original document, this must be certified by a notary.
  • Documents in foreign languages shall be presented together with a translation by a sworn translator.
  • Upon request by the ship owner, the notary will send the application or agreement and the accompanying documents authenticated/certified by them to the court maintaining the Ship Register.
  • Issues the paper of nationality upon request by ship owner.
How is the state fee paid and how much is it?

The state fee is:

  • upon the ship’s first registration of, entry of new (co-)owner, establishing a mortgage for a seagoing vessel and non-propelled floating vessel 130 euros and for inland vessel 32 euros
  • upon amending, deleting information and making a notation for a seagoing vessel or non-propelled floating vessel, 64 euros and for inland vessel 16 euros 
  • upon amending the ship’s name or information, making notations pertaining to the Law of Ship Flag and upon making other entries and notations 16 euros
  • upon appeal against court ruling 50 euros
  • The state fee is transferred to an account of the Ministry of Finance: 

SEB   EE891010220034796011  (BIC/SWIFT: EEUHEE2X)
Swedbank  EE932200221023778606  (BIC/SWIFT: HABAEE2X)
LHV EE777700771003813400 (BIC/SWIFT: LHVBEE22)
Luminor Bank  EE701700017001577198  (BIC/SWIFT: NDEAEE2X)

In paying the state fee, the person on behalf of whom the fee was paid (ship owner) together with the name of the respective procedure (entry of OÜ Eesti Reeder’s  ship Kihnu Jonn into the Ship Register). The reference number 2900072738 must also be provided. 

Which documents must be presented upon first registration of a seagoing or inland vessel?

For first registration, the Land Registry Department of Tartu County Court is presented an application with digital signature of signature certified by a notary. The application or document proving ownership shall include information about the owner (name, residence or location, personal identification code or registry code).

The application must include:

  1. proof of payment of state fee;
  2. document showing ownership (purchase agreement, etc.) which may be unattested and based on foreign legislation;
  3. documents which prove the right to fly the flag of Estonia (e.g. copies of passports of Members of Board of the shipping company);
  4. if the ship has been registered previously in a foreign county, a proof that it has been deleted from the previous register must be provided.
  5. documents which include technical information to be entered into the ship register (see section 42 of the Law of Ship Flag and Ship Registers Act in case of seagoing vessel and section 43 in case of an inland vessel). The Minister for Economic Affairs and Communications has specified this documentation with the following list:
  • tonnage certificate for a seagoing vessel
  • form of the Maritime Administration (if the ship has not been previously registered in Estonia)
  • proof of re-registration of the Maritime Administration (if the ship has been previously registered in Estonia)
  • proof of the Maritime Administration on approval of name (if the ship has not been previously registered in Estonia or changes name with the re-registration)
  • proof of the Maritime Administration on obtaining the external marking (for fishing vessels not previously registered in Estonia)
  • watercraft radio license issued by the Communications Board if the ship has RF equipment.

Exceptions applicable for documents presented for first registration of non-propelled floating vessel and ship under construction: see section 44 and 45 of the Law of Ship Flag and Ship Registers Act and regulation No. 8 of the Minister of Transport and Communications of 11 February 1999 (RTL 1999, 30, 381). Documents justifying flying the flag of Estonia shall not be presented.

Papers of nationality (certificate of sea-going vessel and certificate of nationality for sea-going vessel, certificate of inland vessel for inland vessel) are issued by the notary or Maritime Administration to the ship owner after the ship has been registered.

  • The paper of nationality shall be in both Estonian and English, on a special form and bear the signature and seal of the official who issued the paper of nationality.
  • If the ship’s information are amended, the old paper of nationality shall be handed in. The issuer of the paper of nationality shall provide a paper of nationality with updated information in return.
  • If a ship is deleted from the Ship Register, the paper of nationality shall be handed in, and the issuer of the paper of nationality shall provide a proof of deletion in return.
  • Al these documents are issued upon registration of the ship and making new entries without a state fee (the fee has already been paid for a respective entry).
  • The state fee must be paid, however, if the issued paper of nationality has become unfit for use or is missing. If the ship owner has proved to the notary or Maritime Administration that the paper of nationality is unfit for use or missing, then the same paper of nationality will be issued upon payment of state fee (repeated issuing of a seagoing and inland vessel certification 13 euros and repeated issuing of paper of nationality 8 euros).
  • Withdrawal of a seagoing vessel certification is voluntary and requires a state fee of 8 euros.
Which documents shall be presented to change owner?
  • According to section 1 and 9 of the Law of Maritime Property Act, the transfer of ownership has two conditions: a respective agreement and entry in the Ship Register.
  • The content of the agreement shall be the transfer of ownership from one person to another. The agreement shall be notarially authenticated and signed by both parties. The internationally used Bill of Sale is not sufficient if not signed by both parties or only the authenticity of the signature is certified.
  • The agreement may not include conditions under the law of obligations (purchase amount, earnest money, due dates, transfer of ownership, examination of vessel, etc.). These may be included in a separate agreement which can be without a notarial authentication and certification (e.g. as part of the internationally used Memorandum of Agreement ).
  • To change the owner of a registered ship, as well as enter a new co-owner, a notarially authenticated agreement and receipt of state fee shall be presented. Documents which prove that the new owner has the right to fly the flag of Estonia shall be added.
How does transfer to a foreigner take place?
  • If a ship is transferred a foreigner without the right to fly the flag of Estonia, then the transfer of ownership agreement is unattested. To delete the ship from the Ship Register, the previous owner presents an application with full notarial authentication. The application shall be accompanied by documents which show that the new owner may not fly the flag of Estonia. 
  • If mortgages or usufruct have been established for the vessel, then the application shall be accompanied by approvals with signatures of mortgage holders and the usufructuary which are notarially certified. If this approval cannot be obtained then a respective notation is entered into the Ship Register that the vessel has lost the right to fly the flag of Estonia. The notation is equivalent to the deletion of the vessel, but the mortgages and usufruct will remain in place.
What is a maritime mortgage and what documents shall be presented for an entry?
  • Mortgage arises when a vessel is enter into the Ship Register and ends when it is deleted.
  • To establish a mortgage for a ship, a notarial agreement between the ship owner and mortgage holder and proof of payment of state fee is presented. The agreement shall include information about the mortgage holder (name, residence and location, personal identification code or registry code), monetary value of mortgage, interest rate (if applicable), collateral claims and the monetary value thereof (if applicable) and whether it is a combined mortgage. 
  • In presenting information about the mortgage, it shall be remembered that these must unambiguously show the monetary value of the mortgage.
  • Estonian maritime mortgage does not require a securable claim. In other words: the mortgage is not a proof of debt but ensures for the mortgage holder that their claim is recovered in the amount of the mortgage upon the bankruptcy of and execution proceeding against the ship owner before other creditors. 
  • This way the ship owner may get a new loan from the same mortgage holder after the repayment of the previous loan and does not have to enter a new mortgage and delete the old mortgage as a guarantee. The ship owner may also establish the mortgage to secure an obligation of a third person.
  • The amount of the mortgage depends on its ranking. Mortgages with higher ranking have priority over those with lower ranking. However, it shall be taken into account that claims secured with maritime lien are recovered before claims secured with mortgages (see part 4 of the Maritime Property Act).
  • Mortgages may be established for parts owned by co-owners.
  • Mortgages may be established simultaneously for multiple vessels (combined mortgage) as well as for parts of multiple co-owners.
  • The mortgage holder may divide their mortgages (into partial mortgages) and give these to new mortgage holders.
  • To secure an action, courts may enter a judicial mortgage into the Ship Register.
Why and based on what notations are entered into the Ship Register?

Notations are entered into the Ship Register by the same procedure as with the Land Register. The basis for notations is the Land Register Act (section 27, 341, see for analogy section 63 of Civil Code). There are several types of notations:

  • objection against an entry in the Ship Register (this ensures that, as a result of a court action, the Ship Register may be restored to the state before the objection);
  • pre-notation on an entry to be made in the future (this can book in advance a favourable rating for a future mortgage);
  • notation concerning prohibition on the basis of a court ruling (this “locks” the Ship Register). However, the person on behalf of whom the notation concerning prohibition was made shall take into account that if they lose the court action, they may be obligated to pay for the damages caused by the notation concerning prohibition).

To make a notation, an application with digital signature or signature certified by a notary and proof of payment of state fee shall be presented (if the notation is made on the basis of a court ruling, then the copy thereof. In cases listed in the Land Register Act, approvals certified with signatures of concerned persons shall also be presented.

The information in the Ship Register is available free of charge via the e-Ship Register.


Last updated: 17 July 2020