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Registration of yachts, cruisers, and fishing boats

Consider registering your fishing boat, yacht, or large motor cruiser.

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 general shipping register

The Australian general shipping register is maintained by our Shipping Registration Office. The register contains information about registered vessels, including:

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

Why register a yacht, cruiser or fishing boat?

Although these vessels are not required by law to be registered—unless they are proceeding on an international voyage—there are safeguards and benefits available to you if you register including:

Registration of title in the vessel

  • Your ownership is recorded in the register
  • You will have a record of '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.

Australian nationality for the vessel

  • A vessel on the high seas is, under international law, required to have nationality. Registering your vessel gives it 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

If you intend to take an Australian owned vessel overseas, then it must be Australian registered. It is an offence for an Australian-owned vessel to sail to a foreign port unless it is registered on the Australian general shipping register.

The only exception is if you are competing in an overseas yacht race, you must either:

If you purchase a vessel overseas, it is required to be registered before you sail or transport it to Australia.

We can advise you of the most efficient way to complete the application process, particularly when you are doing this from outside of Australia.

Buying a registered vessel

When you purchase an Australian registered vessel, first check that the person listed as the registered owner is the individual you are purchasing the vessel from. The vessels registration cannot be transferred if the person signing the bill of sale is not the registered owner.

Read step-by-step instructions on how to transfer ownership of a vessel.

It is advisable to:

  • Apply to our Shipping Registration Office for a title extract which will provide details of the current registered ownership and any 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
    • 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 original bill of sale.
    • provides you with the original registration certificate for the vessel.

Ships mortgages

We no longer register or discharge ships mortgages.

For a ship mortgage, contact the Personal Properties Securities Register, 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 to you.

If you intend to have the vessel registered, you will need all the information and documents concerning the building of the vessel and all changes of ownership from the seller. A record of the ownership history is also important if you intend to register the vessel at a later date.

Alternatively, you could request that the seller registers the vessel before the sale is transacted.

Read step-by-step instructions on how to register a vessel.

Last updated: 15 February 2018
Last reviewed: 15 February 2018