Boat Registration in Malaysia

Updated on Tuesday 27th December 2022

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Boats and ships sailing in the Malaysian waters are registered with the appropriate authorities. Ships can be registered as local ones or as an international ship. The latter is an option for shipping companies that engage in international trade and under this registration scheme, investors are allowed 100% ownership. 

Malaysia is a tourist destination and also a location that offers great accessibility to investors who are planning on opening a trade business in Asia. Boat registration in Malaysia is useful both for tour operators and for import and export companies.

The experts at our law firm in Malaysia can give you a step-by-step guide on the registration requirements and also on the Maritime Law.


What ships are subject to registration in Malaysia?

Many types of ships are subject to registration in Malaysia, however, there are three categories that are exempted from this rule. These are the following:

- Ships with a tonnage below 15 tons.
- Licensed boats and
- Local fishing vessels operating within Malaysian waters (not exceeding 500 gross tons).

One of our attorneys in Malaysia can provide more details on the requirements for the ships that are exempt from registration as well as answer questions that concern the other categories of vessels.


What is the general process for ship registration in Malaysia?

The Marine Department in Malaysia receives applications for ship registration and also those for ship name registration. The name of the boat or ship must be proposed to and approved by the Registrar of General Ships. The name application must be submitted three days in advance before the one to register the ship. If the name is compliant with the current regulations, the Registrar of Ships issues a Certificate of Approval for Use of the Ship Name.

Vessels in Malaysia are registered with the Registrar of Ships for a minimum of six months and no more than one year. applicants must submit a number of documents, among which:

  • the application for ship registration;

  • the declaration of ship ownership;

  • the company documents, if the owner is a company in Malaysia;

  • the Bill of Sale;

  • the Builder Certificate;

  • a certification from the Customs Department;

  • other documents such as an International Tonnage Certificate (when the ship is of a certain size).


Any changes to already registered ships are also submitted to the Registrar. These can include ownership changes or those that refer to the company’s particulars.  When the owner of the ship is changed, relevant documents are submitted to the port of the registry office. These include a copy of the individual’s ID card, the declaration of ownership, the original bill of sale, and the original certificate of registration. Should the new owner be a corporation, the Memorandum and the Article of Association are also provided, as well as several other documents that refer to the company’s registration status and its shareholding structure. One of our attorneys in Malaysia can further explain corporate ownership requirements.

Any changes in the vessel’s particularities, other than ownership, are also notified with the registry office. These can refer to tonnage particulars as well as engine particulars. The vessel’s Certificate of Survey, as well as a copy of the Certificate of Registration, are submitted in this case, along with other relevant documents that prove the engine or tonnage changes.

Our lawyers in Malaysia can help you with more information about the approved ship names and the forms that must be filled in and submitted for registration.

The re-registration of a ship takes place in the following cases:
  • termination by sale: when the initial registration is terminated because the ship was sold to a foreigner;

  • abandonment: a ship that has been abandoned as a wreck and was subsequently repaired and salvaged needs to be re-registered. 

  • void ship: a ship that has been declared void by a competent court needs to be re-registered.

  • other: when a ship is sold to another Malaysia and title registration is required once more. 

When purchasing an already registered ship, it is recommended to determine the history of ownership as well as any mortgages or charges that may have existed in the past. Obtaining the relevant documents for registration from the seller (such as the Bill of Sale, the Registration Certificate and others) is mandatory. It is also recommended to perform due diligence on the seaworthiness of the vessel (by enlisting the services of a mechanic and other specialists, as needed, to perform a thorough checkup of the vessel before purchase). When buying an unregistered yacht or another type of vessel, one must make sure that the seller is allowed to transfer the ownership.

How can international ships be registered in Malaysia?

Ships in Malaysia can be registered as international ones with the Malaysia International Ship Registry. This is possible if the ship is owned by a company incorporated in Malaysia and that has its registered office in the country. The vessel must meet certain requirements, including that is must have at least 1,600 gross tons and it must in service for no more than 15 years.

A number of fees are applicable for the registration of ships in Malaysia and one of the experts at our law firm in Malaysia can provide updated information.

When registering ships under corporate ownership, one advantage is that the name of the owner does not appear on the registration documents. This can ensure a certain level of anonymity for those owners who are interested in this. Moreover, a foreign yacht or another type of vessel registered in Malaysia will have the same rights as one owned by a locally registered company. One issue to take into consideration when registering a vessel under corporate ownership is the fact that it will no longer be subject to transmission (after the death of the owner) as it will be owned by the company and not by the individual who writes up the will.
Failure to observe the requirements for registered vessels may result in the termination of registration. This is why owners must pay attention to the annual tax and renewal fees. One of our lawyers in Malaysia can provide more details on the grounds for registration termination.

We mention that our lawyers can take care of the formalities related to citizenship in Malaysia. There are a number of documents that must be prepared, and among them, the standard forms with personal information. It is good to know that candidates must prove that they have lived in Malaysia for at least 10 years in order to apply for the desired citizenship. Feel free to benefit from free case evaluation.

Ship registration statistics in Malaysia

According to data released by the Marine Department, there were 70 registered ships in 2018 (between the months of January and October). Other relevant data refer to:

  • the gross tonnage value of the registered ships in 2018 was of 268,721.31 tons;

  • the number of boats that were licensed in 2018 was 2,553, and they had a total gross tonnage value of 125,041.46;

  • 202 of the requests were submitted in the Port of Sibu, Sarawak;

  • the Port of Kuching, Sarawak was the one to receive the second most boat registry requests, 194.

Sarawak is a Malaysian state along the northwest coast that has many beaches on the South China Sea.

The team of experts at our law firm in Malaysia can answer all other questions you might have on boat and ship registration and the related laws.