We are regularly asked what the rules are for flying the Irish flag on a yacht, so we asked the Department of Transport to clarify ...
It all starts with the Mercantile Marine Act 1955.
Under section 9 of the Mercantile Marine Act 1955, the following ships shall be known as Irish ships and, subject to section 18(3) of the 1955 Act, shall be entitled to wear the proper national colours and assume national character (fly the Irish Flag on your vessel's stern) –
- State-owned ships;
- ships which are wholly owned by Irish citizens or Irish bodies corporate and are not registered under the law of another country;
- other ships registered or deemed to be registered under the 1955 Act.
Under section 18 of the 1955 Act, as amended, ships wholly owned by an Irish citizen or an Irish body corporate are obliged to register on the Irish ship register unless the ship is exempt from the requirement to register, as follows:
ships not exceeding 15 net tons, provided they are only used on the rivers, canals, lakes or coasts of Ireland, Great Britain, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man
ships acquired before the date of the passing of the Mercantile Marine Act 1955
ships in respect of which the Minister has consented to their registration under the laws of another country under section 21 of the 1955 Act
ships owned by Irish citizens not ordinarily resident within the State
sea-fishing boats of less than 15 metres in length overall and required to be registered in the Register of Fishing Boats maintained under section 74 of the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006 or exempt from such registration by regulations under section 76 of that Act.
Arising from the above, a ship not exceeding 15 net tons owned by an Irish citizen or Irish body corporate that is not registered under the law of another country and is exempt from registration on the Irish ship register having regard to section 18 of the Mercantile Marine Act 1955, is entitled to fly the Irish flag when being used solely on the rivers, canals, lakes or coasts of Ireland, Great Britain, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
We also wanted to know what the Department's obligations were to any vessels on the Irish ship register. Their answer was ...
The responsibilities and risks for the Department include obligations to follow-up on any pollution incidents or alleged violations of navigation systems such as traffic separation schemes and any other alleged violations of maritime legislation.