Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Registration of yachts, cruisers and fishing boats


If you are planning the purchase of a fishing boat, yacht or large motor cruiser, one of the most important things you should consider is registration.

The Australian Register of Ships

The Australian Register of Ships is maintained by the Shipping Registration Office of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. The register contains the following information about registered vessels:

  • physical details of the vessel;
  • name and address of the registered owner(s);
  • name and address of any caveator(s); and
  • a history of ownership since registration.

Why register a yacht, cruiser or fishing boat?

Although such vessels are not required by law to be registered, the following safeguards and benefits are available through registration:

Registration of title in the vessel

  • Your ownership is recorded in the Register.
  • Registration gives 'good title' to the vessel which cannot be overturned by the holder of an earlier interest unless you had notice of that interest when you purchased it.
  • Registration of ownership is similar in many respects to having ownership of your house registered at the Land Titles Office.

Australian nationality for the vessel

  • A vessel on the high seas is, under international law, required to have nationality.
  • Registration is the process by which a vessel will be accorded Australian protection on the high seas and in foreign ports.

Use of the vessel as security for a mortgage

  • Many financial institutions, such as banks and finance companies, require a vessel to be registered before they will lend money using the vessel as security.

Ability to sail overseas

  • It is an offence for an Australian-owned vessel to sail for a foreign port unless it is registered in the Australian Register of Ships.
  • Please note: Vessels purchased overseas by Australians are also required to be registered before they sail for Australia or another foreign country.

Increased value of the vessel

  • Registration will make re-sale easier and add value to your vessel because the purchaser can be assured of 'good title'.

Buying a registered vessel

  • If the following steps are carried out, transfer of ownership will be efficiently achieved with minimal risk.
    Apply to the Shipping Registration Office for details of the current registered ownership and caveats.
  • Check that the person selling the vessel is the registered owner. If not:
    • ensure that the seller is entitled to be registered as the owner, and
    • request the seller provide documents and fees necessary to have the ownership, and that of any previous unregistered owners, entered on the Register. The Register contains a chronological history of the ownership of the vessel - a chain of title - and your ownership cannot be registered without the specific documents sufficient to complete this chronology.
  • Ensure that the seller completes and provides you with the Bill of Sale.
  • Ensure that the seller provides you with the original registration certificate for the vessel.
  • Complete all forms in accordance with the instructions and forward them together with the Registration Certificate, the appropriate fee and documents and fees relating to any other unregistered changes of ownership, to the Shipping Registration Office.

Ship's mortgages

Please note: the Shipping Registration Office no longer registers or discharges ship’s mortgages.

For a ship mortgage you should contact the Personal Properties Securities Register (PPSR)
Website: or Phone: 1300 007 777 (1300 00PPSR).

Buying an unregistered vessel

If you are considering buying an unregistered vessel, make sure that the seller is entitled to transfer ownership.

If you intend to have the vessel registered, ensure that all the information and documents concerning building and changes of ownership that are needed for registration are obtained from the seller.

Alternatively, you could request the seller to have the vessel registered before the sale is transacted.

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