Roman Abramovich's luxury yacht Eclipse. *File photo
Roman Abramovich's luxury yacht Eclipse. *File photo

Bermuda’s shipping supremo yesterday welcomed news that extra staff could help boost the number of major ships and yachts registered on the island.

And an overseas office to cut costs involved with surveyors travelling to check out ships based overseas could make the island’s flag even more attractive to owners.

Registrar of Shipping Edward Robinson said: “There is room for us to grow and increase the revenue and that’s what the Registry intends.

“It’s also very good for public relations — we have yachts all over the world. The Registry is definitely open for business and we can expand.”

Mr Robinson was speaking after Economic Development Minister Grant Gibbons signalled extra resources for the Department of Marine Administration (DMA), which operates the Registry of Ships.

He said during the Budget debate that revenue from the Register was likely to be $4.15 million in the current financial year.

Dr Gibbons said that Bermuda had four full-time surveyors, based in Hamilton, while other countries which also provide UK Red Ensign registries, like the Isle of Man, had 17 surveyors, based in Douglas.

The Cayman Islands has a total of 10 full-time surveyors, with six in the UK and one in Greece, while Gibraltar has 10 full-time surveyors based in Mediterranean UK territory.

Bermuda has 170 ships in the registry, including cruise ships, tankers and container ships, as well as 255 yachts — including the luxury Eclipse, the world’s largest private yacht owned by Russian tycoon and Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, which recently visited the island.

Dr Gibbons told MPs that auditors from the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) had identified a need in February to double the number of surveyors to keep up with the workload.

He said: “Other larger Category 1 REG (Red Ensign Group) shipping registers, particularly Cayman, have a marked advantage over Bermuda by having their offices either in the UK or within Europe and being able to provide ship inspection services at a lower rate.

“The way forward is to open a DMA satellite office in the UK.

“In addition to survey and certification functions of ships, having a DMA satellite office in the UK will help promote the shipping registry and the Bermuda brand in the UK, Europe, as well as the Middle and Far East regions where the critical mass of shipping has now shifted.”

He added that the DMA had worked with the Government’s London office on the feasibility of a UK arm of the Registry.

Dr Gibbons said: “This study has indicated that opening of the proposed DMA office could be achieved without difficulty once the financial arrangements and relevant approvals have been granted.”

And Dr Gibbons said: “We believe the DMA has the potential for significant growth in the future, but it will be unable to do so without the required human resources to properly carry out its responsibilities.

“The Ministry will work with the DMA to address the additional resources required to achieve this.”