Philippine Boat Registration
1. Is registering a boat mandatory in the Philippines?
Yes, it always has been, although very few (~ 10%) leisure/ non-commercial boats have
historically complied. Under the current regulation, if your boat meets ALL of the
following conditions, registration is optional:
1. Length Over All x Beam or Breadth in meters is less than or equal to 12.
2. Dry weight of the boat is 5 metric tons or less.
3. The boat is not “High Speed”, which means:
a) It cannot exceed 16 knots, or twice Hull Speed, whichever is slower.
b) Hull Speed is defined as square root of Length Water Line x 1.34.
c) Planing sailboats, boats with foils etc. need only report Hull Speed.
d) It does not have more than 25hp (SAE) of motor power per meter of LOA
2. What types of registration are there?
There are two types of registration: local (Philippine Registry) and foreign.
Local registration used to be done on the same basis as large commercial ships. It
required complex documentation, and could be very expensive, often approaching or
exceeding the value of the boat itself. Furthermore, registration of an imported boat also
required proof of importation (duties and taxes paid). This is no longer the case. After
four years of lobbying, The Federation of Philippine Marine Industries (FPMI) was able
to get the MARINA to accept a greatly simplified registration scheme. This was
formalized in a Memorandum Circular, which is attached.
Foreign registration, if valid and current, must be accepted by the authorities, under
international law. A foreign registration says that the boat is legal property in that
jurisdiction. However, the MARINA has never released any explicit rules about how
long any foreign boats for private use are allowed to stay in the country. The only
explicit rule is that foreign-registered boats may not operate commercially in the
3. Why should I choose Philippine Registry?
The main reason: it’s the law. Plus, it’s inexpensive and more convenient than
registering a car— no appearance or emissions test. Registration is every 5 years.
If the boat is in the Philippines, and is of a size that it cannot reasonably travel to
another country, putting it under the Philippine flag formalizes its existence, provides
legal proof of your ownership, thus making it your property, and makes it possible to
insure it, mortgage it, sell it, and license it for commercial use (it has to be majority
Filipino-owned for this).
If your boat can and does travel to another country, the Philippine registry is
international, and must be recognized by that country.
Whether or not you are a Filipino, mass local registration of boats helps the industry,
not least demonstrating that the industry exists, and providing a basis for regulation.
FPMI was able to get a lot of reform in the regulations. Previously, there were no
specific regulations for leisure boats, so they were treated in exactly the same way as
commercial vessels. This led to legal absurdities, for example requiring a complete set of
drawings by a licensed Filipino naval architect, an IMO Tonnage Certificate done by a
licensed Filipino marine engineer, and a a crew consisting of a licensed Captain and
Marine Diesel Mechanic for even the smallest vessel, like a jetski or Hobie Cat.
Under the current regulations, there are no unrealistic requirements for small leisure
vessels for private non-commercial use. Those for commercial use are, we believe,
reasonable and economically viable.
4. Can I just keep my foreign registration?
Sure, but from the FPMI’s point of view, there are several risks to this course of action.
The biggest risk is that the rules are undefined.
Very recently, the Bureau of Customs slapped a Show Cause order on every single boat
without a Philippine flag they could find in Tambobo Bay/ Port Bonbonon, near
Dumaguete, compelling them to explain why they have not paid duties and taxes
despite having been in the country for so long. The BoC, and the Bureau Of Internal
Revenue, could have done this at any time, even before the local registration rules were
FPMI believes that if boats are locally registered, BoC and BIR will not harass them, or
at least will prioritize unregistered and foreign-registered boats first. Nevertheless, most
of the larger boats (super- and megayachts) have opted to keep their foreign
registrations, mostly because these are needed to maintain classification.
The risk is up to you.
5. If I register my boat locally, will I have to formally import it, and pay duties and
The Memorandum Circular does not ask for proof of importation or payment of duties
and taxes. It speaks of an “amnesty period”, which is still in force. That amnesty is for
boats that are unregistered, in other words, it condones their failure to register or renew
registration, nothing to do with importation, duties, and taxes. So, in short, the
MARINA will register a boat without the owner paying these.
However, the reality is that if the BoC and BIR can compel you to import a boat, they
will. This has always been the case. If the boat has no registration, is small and not
capable of offshore operation/ going to another country, then it may be impossible to
argue that it should not be imported. However, if the boat is registered in another
country, and is capable of going to another country, and in fact arrived here on its own
power from another country, then you could argue that a foreign registration remains
valid, as long as there is no explicit rule that limits the boat’s stay in this country.
5. What are the requirements for registration?
Please read the attached Memorandum Circular, but here is a very simplified practical
list for unregistered used boats:
a) The revised application form.
b) Proof that the applicant/s own the vessel. This can be a notarized affidavit of
c) Proof of identity of the applicants, best if citizenship is shown.
d) Four pictures of the vessel, from bow, stern, starboard and port.
e) A sketch of the vessel, showing the basic dimensions
f) Payment. Upon submission of the previous requirement, the MARINA will
reply with a form called an “ATAP” (Authority To Accept Payment), which
shows how much you have to pay.
If your boat is new, make the manufacturer or dealer do it. God knows you paid
6. Practical notes on local registration
You cannot register anywhere else except the MARINA Central Office in Manila at this
time. The MARINA has failed to disseminate the Memorandum Circular and the
procedures to any of its Regional Offices, and they have absolutely no idea what you
are talking about. Worse, some regional offices have tried to impose the previous
registration procedures, which are applicable to vessels such as 50,000 ton tankers, and
cost about as much.
The good part is, You do not need to appear, nor does your boat need to appear. In fact,
your boat does not even need to be at its home port, or even in the water, come to that.
It just needs to be in the Philippines. However, if the MARINA has cause to doubt the
information you put in the application form, they may require an inspection. In this
case, your boat will have to “appear”, and the inspection will be at your expense.
All of a) to e) fits in 6-8 pages. Previously, under the commercial rules, the stack of
documents was minimum 8-9 inches high.
The application form requires measurements. If your boat is a production boat, you can
generally obtain the official measurements from the original documentation, even the
sales brochure, or by research on the internet. Otherwise, the best course of action is to
have an expert, like a marine engineer or surveyor, measure the boat. The MARINA
does not require precision to the millimeter, but it’s not a good idea to guess, either.
You really have to understand the technical definitions. One example is the
measurement of “Depth”, which is not generally used in leisure boating, but the
MARINA insists on it. Their definition:
Depth = Freeboard + Nominal Draft, where:
Freeboard = the distance amidships from the top of the deck beam to the waterline
Nominal Draft = the distance from the waterline to the bottom of the hull itself, not
including any projection such as rudders, fins, a skeg or a keel. This is usually measured amidships, at the same point where Freeboard is. It is very much not the Maximum Draft, especially if you have a fin keel sailboat.
Deck = the top of the hull, which may or not be an actual deck. Thus, in a Hobie Cat,
for example, the “Deck” is not the trampoline you sit on, but the tops of the two hulls.
In an inflatable boat, the deck is the tops of the tubes. In a speedboat, the “Deck” is
technically the tiny strip of fiberglass between the open interior and the gunwales. The
part inside that you actually stand on, is the “Sole”. If you didn’t know any of this, you need an expert.
MARINA asks for the hull number, year of manufacturer, and name of manufacturer of
your boat. If you don’t know, just put “unknown”, but for the year, you’ll have to
guess, a range of five years. If you do not know your boat speed (yes, some people
don’t), you really have to find out. If your boat is displacement type, or a sailboat, just
report hull speed. With regard to the pictures, just make sure the boat is clearly visible, and there are no
other boats in the picture. Common sense. Note that the circular does not say “color
pictures”, but don’t get artistic. With regard to motors, it is better for you to get all the data you can, including the
model and serial number. You can just put, for instance, “Yanmar 60 hp diesel”, but that
will only prove your ownership of a notional Yanmar 60 hp diesel. If you put “Yanmar
4TNV98T 60 hp@2500 rpm, 4-stroke, 4-cylinder turbodiesel, serial Y12345678, then that
proves that you own that specific motor installed in your specific boat. If you’ve never
had an outboard motor stolen, then ignore this at your peril.
Once you have a) to e), you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Once you get the ATAP, you have to go physically (or send an authorized messenger)
with all the physical documents a) to e) to the MARINA Central Office at Bonifacio
Drive corner 20th St., Port Area, Manila. The MARINA Central Office is a distinctly ugly
building (you can’t miss it) made, at your tax expense, to resemble a ship, across the
street from the Puerta de Santa Lucia at the Intramuros Golf Course. Do not expect to be
able to park anywhere near there. The MARINA has been very hard hit by COVID, and
is running on a skeletal staff. Better wear a mask.
Once you get the certificates, you need to keep copies on board the boat (well, maybe
not if it’s an inflatable dinghy, but do have them handy). You will need to either paint
or attach the identification number to your boat. The Memorandum Circular has the
specifics for this. FPMI suggests that you just have plastic plates made by the people
who make temporary license plates. You can find them online or at the malls. You can
screw these on the hull (not on an inflatable dinghy), or use Velcro or double-sided
tape. Don’t use metal plates, for obvious reasons.
The identification number is very important. Without it, or a foreign flag, the Coast
Guard, etc. will assume that the boat is unregistered, and when the amnesty period
expires, they will have every right to board the vessel and even arrest it. If they cannot
see the number, and the boat is of a size where you should have a radio, they will hail
you, and ask for the number. If you make one up, they will know almost immediately,
and you will be in even worse trouble.