About Madeira

MAR - International Shipping Register

MAR – Madeira International Shipping Register

The International Shipping Register of Madeira (“MAR” meaning “Sea”) is the second, but most important, ship and yacht register in Portugal and one of the top three EU registers, both in number of vessels and registered tonnage.

The International Shipping Register of Madeira (“MAR” meaning “Sea”) is the second, but most important, ship and yacht register in Portugal and one of the top three EU registers, both in number of vessels and registered tonnage.

MAR was created within the MIBC as a credible alternative to other international registers, at the same time providing the high technical discipline and safety which characterises conventional shipping registers. It is not and never has been considered as a “flag of convenience”.

All vessels registered under MAR fly the Portuguese flag and all international conventions ratified by Portugal are applicable to and complied with by MAR, contributing to the inclusion of MAR on the Paris MOU White list.

Because MAR registered ships fly the Portuguese flag, they can be used for cabotage (coastal shipping, navigation, trade or transport) in EU countries.

Under the MIBC Legislation, most type of commercial vessels, including cargo ships, passenger ships, barges, tugboats and other assistance providing vessel, platforms and rigs, whether these are stationary or floating, as well as pleasure yachts and commercial yachts can be registered with MAR. Only fishing boats are expressly excluded.

MAR is integrated within the scope of the MIBC, and has a Technical Commission, as well as benefiting from the services of the Private Commercial Registry and Private Notarial Office. This assures a speedier process of registration. Vessels can also be temporarily registered at Portuguese Consulates abroad.

It is possible to register a vessel with MAR that is owned by a non resident entity. In this case, it is compulsory to appoint a local legal representative of the foreign owner and here at MMCL we are able to act in this capacity, as required by law.

It is however also possible to set up a Madeira IBC Shipping company, transferring the ownership of the vessel to this entity. In this case, the wide range of tax and financial incentives available to shipping companies duly incorporated and licensed to operate within the legal framework of the MIBC, will apply on income obtained from the activities of the vessel operating outside Portuguese territorial waters.

Further information is provided in the links below:


Advantages of registering ships with MAR

  • MAR is a credible and secure EU Registry, with full access to EU cabotage;
  • All International Conventions to which Portugal is a signatory are applicable;
  • No nationality limitations regarding ownership of vessels registered with MAR;
  • Salaries of the crew of vessels registered with MAR are exempt of taxation;
  • Flexible crew composition requirements, demanding that only 30% of the safe manning of the vessel have to be EU nationals or from official Portuguese Speaking countries (PALOPs, which include Portugal, Brazil, S. Tomé and Principe, Guinea-Bissau, and east Timor);
  • Vessels owned by Spanish entities have a similar authorisation with regards to official Spanish speaking countries. Exceptions can be made in duly justified circumstances;
  • Non Portuguese crew members and their employers are not obliged to contribute to the Portuguese social security regime, as long as they are covered by an alternative, public or private system. Portuguese crew are subject to a reduced contribution rate;
  • Mortgages can be governed by the laws of a different country other than Portugal;
  • A new digital system allowing for the issuing of electronic certificates for crew and vessels registered with MAR has been introduced and is now fully operational.

Additional advantages of registering yachts with MAR

  • EU Registry, hence full access to sailing in EU waters;
  • VAT exemption on acquisition or importation should the yacht have a commercial activity at high sea, as well as on the purchase of fuel and maintenance or repair operations;
  • No limitations on the nationality of crew on commercial yachts registered with MAR;
  • Flexible social security system.

Advantages applied to a Madeira Shipping company

Shipping companies licensed to operate under the MIBC regime benefit from an attractive and highly competitive special tax regime, namely:

  • A reduced corporate income tax rate of 5%, guaranteed until 2027;
  • Exemption of withholding tax on dividends paid to shareholders, as long as these are not resident in a black listed jurisdiction;
  • Salaries of the crew of vessels registered with MAR are exempt of taxation.

In assessing crew composition and minimum crew requirements the objective of the Registry’s Technical Commission is to guarantee safety and the preservation of the quality of life aboard and at sea. The captain and 30% of the crew must be nationals of Europe or of PALOP countries (an organisation of Portuguese Speaking countries). Spanish owned vessels are also authorised to have crew from official Spanish-speaking countries. Crew composition requirements do not apply to yachts.

Any income received by the crew of ships registered in MAR is exempt from any form of taxation in Portugal.

Crew members and their respective employers of ships registered in MAR may adopt a voluntary insurance or social security system. They are not obliged to pay social security taxes within the normal Portuguese system.

Mortgage Law

The mortgagor and the mortgagee by written agreement may choose the legal system of a particular country that shall govern the terms of the mortgage. Should such agreement not be reached, then the Portuguese law shall apply.

Recent legislation has now introduced traditional common law features in the civil law mortgage rules related to MAR, moving to increase MAR’s international competitivity. The law now allows the mortgage contract to confer to the mortgagee the right to dispose of the disposition of the vessel in case of non-compliance, with clear control of possession rules, as well as allowing the parties to agree that the sale or encumbrance of the mortgaged vessel is dependent on the prior consent of the mortgagee. 

How to proceed

We would welcome the opportunity to assist you with more information:

Contact us for a FREE consultation if you would like to discuss your requirements with one of our consultants in person.
For professional intermediaries and repeat orders, download the relevant Application Form and return by fax or email.