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The Registrar may refuse to register a ship on instruction from a Principal Officer if he or she is satisfied that

  • It would be inappropriate for the ship to be registered having regard-
    • To the relevant requirements of the Shipping Acts in respect of –
      • The condition of the ship in respect of its safety or any risk of pollution; and
      • The safety, health and welfare of persons employed or engaged on the ship; or
    • To the interests of the Republic or international merchant shipping
  • The registration requirements that have not been complied with; or
  • Where the registrar has refused registration he or she is to notify the applicant of the refusal in writing.

It is a requirement under the Ship Registration Act that prior to a vessel coming onto the South African Ships Register it must have undergone a pre-registration survey.
The purpose of the pre-registration survey is

  • To ensure that the vessel actually exists
  • Ensure that the vessel to be registered is in a reputable condition.
  • To prevent owners purchasing a vessel that could never be made compliant with our statutory requirements.

The pre-registration survey will cover

  • The condition of the ship in respect of safety and pollution prevention
  • The welfare of her crew in terms of their accommodation

It is SAMSA policy that this survey is carried out by a SAMSA surveyor where ever the vessel may be.  If the vessel is not at a South African port then all transport and subsistence costs will be to the owners account.

Herewith the list of items that the SAMSA surveyor will look during the pre-registration survey.

Ownership of vessels other than fishing vessels    must be by a

  • South African National or a South African Resident
  • Group of South African National or South African Residents

South African National is defined as-

  • A South African Citizen
  • A South African body corporate established in terms of a law of the Republic with a place of business in the Republic
  • A South African Trust in which
    • A majority of the beneficial interests are held by such South African nationals
    • The majority of trustees having the controlling power at any given time are South Africa  nationals, and
  • The Government of the Republic.

South African Resident is defined as

  • A natural person whose permanent place of abode is in the Republic
  • A natural person whose domicile is in the Republic
  • A body corporate, wherever incorporated, that has its principal place of business in the Republic (external registered company)
  • A trust which
    • The majority of trustees having the controlling power at any given time are South African residents, and
    • A majority of the beneficial interests are held by such South African residents.

NB.  A natural person is any human being as opposed to a legal or juristic person such as companies, closed corporations, statutory bodies etc.

To register a fishing vessel the vessel must be wholly owned and controlled, by:

  • One or more South African persons
  • The State
  • Anybody corporate, society or other association of persons incorporated or established under the laws of the Republic and in which the majority of the shares and the voting rights are held and controlled by South African persons.
  • By an Organisation established under South African Law
  • A Body corporate designated as an authorised body corporate by the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism

Fishing vessels cannot be registered if they are owned by

  • External registered companies
  • South African registered companies or Trusts where the majority shareholders or Trustees are not South African.

Click here to be linked to the fees schedule

The IMO Ship identification number is a numbering scheme introduced to enhance maritime safety and pollution prevention and to facilitate the prevention of maritime fraud.
This scheme applies to seagoing ships of over 100 gross tonnage with the exception of the following

  • Vessels engaged solely in fishing
  • Ships without mechanical means of propulsion;
  • Pleasure yachts
  • Ships engaged on special service;
  • Hopper barges
  • Hydrofoils & hovercraft;
  • Floating docks and structures classified in a similar manner;
  • Ships of war and troop ships; and
  • Wooden ships in general;

It is a unique number issued to a ship and a number that will remain with the vessel until the vessel is permanently withdrawn from service.

The home ports are
Cape Town
Mossel Bay
Port Elizabeth
East London
Richards Bay

Vessels over 25 gross tons.
The markings on a ship with consist of

  • Name
  • Port of registry
  • Official number
  • Gross and if applicable the net tonnage.


Issued by ICASA.  Contact details are as follows:

Tel: 021 4319800

Conditions for a vessel to be registered as a bareboat charter are
That the:-

  • Charterer must be one or more South African Nationals
  • Vessel must be registered in terms of the law of another state
  • Charter contract must be for 2 years or more
  • Vessel cannot be a fishing vessel
  • Vessel must be propelled by mechanical means
  • Vessel must be 500 gross tonnage or more
  • Consent to register under the SA Flag must be given by the State of primary registration
  • Ship owner must give consent.

The registration of a vessel on bareboat charter is valid for the period of the charter agreement, unless terminated earlier under the Act or these regulations.


Maritime Emergency Number: 021-938-3300