Annual Conference Round Table Discussions – Boat Registration

At the Annual Conference and AGM, Pip Patterson (Multihull Centre)  hosted the round table discussion on Boat Registration

Main Discussion Points

  • Compulsory or Voluntary? Advantages/ Disadvantages
  • Current system – Part 1 or Part 3 (SSR) also for sail boats RYA number.
  • Registration Agency – Who? Currently MCA, (DVLA), RYA and HPI
  • CIN/HIN Number recording – Why not as matter of course?
  • Mortgages/Loans/Liens – Currently only mortgages on Part 1
  • VAT records – Currently no record of whether vat has been paid other than original invoice.
  • Costs and Consequences – Likely to be higher than currently and gives government a system to be able to tax boat owners via a potential licence scheme.

A lively discussion by representatives from marinas, surveyors, brokers, boat repairers, solicitors and boat alarm system suppliers.

The main points were;

The current system is not working effectively. SSR is simple and cheap to use but of no effective use other than to provide a piece of paper to satisfy foreign government officials as anyone can register any vessel, even an imaginary one, on the SSR online.

Part 1 is confusing because the measurement that has to be made is a measurement of how much cargo a vessel can carry to enable port dues to be calculated and most vessels are leisure not commercial and do not pay port dues. The general public think that the tonnage registered is displacement. Also the official number no longer gets carved into the boat but is usually on a plate that can be easily removed and it is placed inside the vessel rather than on the exterior where it would be of more use for verification and identification.

RYA application by a sailing boat will give a GBR sail number but nothing else.

Boatmark was administered by HPI but system was not taken up by industry or customers and so failed to deliver though it has worked for caravans and previously for motor vehicles.

The CIN/HIN is marked on all craft but is not recorded on any registration document (no provision on form) unless the applicant adds the number somewhere on the form.

This should be recorded as a matter of course as it is unique to each vessel and gives company who built vessel and date of manufacture. It is effectively the same as a VIN on a motor vehicle.

Current problems highlighted include the difficulty of finding out if a boat has a mortgage or loan on it other than an official mortgage registered on Part 1.

Marine finance is drying up mainly as a result of the current economic climate.

This is especially problematic for smaller loans and vessels, with loan values of under £25,000 where banks consider these to be too high a risk at present and a better way of being able to prove title and register loans would be helpful.

It was noted that most other countries have a registration scheme that is now compulsory and it seems to work without huge costs. Examples of English speaking countries are United States and Australia.

It was suggested that either an enhanced SSR scheme with a surveyor/broker check on the vessel to be registered or a reduced Part 1 registration scheme ( change tonnage survey to a boat identification check ) could be a very good starting point for a voluntary scheme that may become compulsory over time as it grows momentum.

It was suggested that the HIN/CIN is always recorded on the bill of sale and on the SSR and Part 1 registration ( there appears to be no reason why the official number on Part 1 registration could not be the HIN/CIN ).

VAT status could be noted/verified on first registration which would help brokers and retailers. If vat was claimed back on vessel then register could be notified by HMRC and the vat status changed on register.


It was concluded that a better voluntary scheme is desirable but unlikely to be comprehensive and that a compulsory scheme will be the only way to achieve a fully functioning registration system that can be used to prove title on all craft in the UK.

February 15, 2012