Cayman’s prestigious ‘red ensign’: The flag flown ’round the world

One of the oldest organisations in these islands is the Cayman Islands Shipping Registry (CISR), established in the port of George Town in 1903. Through an aggressive programme of expansion, coupled with an international pool of skilled professionals who are backed by a state-of-the-art 24/7 technology platform, the Cayman Registry has grown to become the world’s number one leader in the registration of mega-yachts, all of which fly either Cayman’s or the UK’s prestigious Category 1 Red Ensign from their sterns in the glittering international ports of the world’s waters.

As a Category 1 registry, the highest ranking achievable and a status granted by the United Kingdom in 1991, Cayman is entitled to register vessels of every size and description, provided that they meet international standards. Today nearly 1,900 entries are listed on its register – from super tankers to gigantic cargo craft, vessels under construction and even submersibles. As a result, Cayman’s colours might be thought of as the ‘flag seen ’round the world’.
Effectively at the helm of the Cayman Registry since 1993, when it then fell under the aegis of the Portfolio of Finance, is Mr A Joel Walton, then Deputy Financial Secretary and today the CEO of the Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands (MACI).
It was at that same point in time that the first Shipping Sector Consultative Committee was appointed. It consisted of the main local shipping sector service providers and was formed to advise government on all maritime matters. This initiative was followed, in 1997, by the formation of the Shipowners Advisory Council, comprising the major shipowners of Cayman-flagged vessels in order to advise the Registry on matters of mutual interest. Mr Walton believes, it is this private/public sector partnership that has greatly assisted in fostering the organisation’s dynamic evolution.
Another major stepping stone in the Cayman Registry’s development occurred on 1 July 2005, when the Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands Law came into effect, making MACI a statutory corporation and separate legal entity. As a result, it reports to Cabinet through the Portfolio of Finance and Economics. As Cayman is a British Overseas Territory, it is also accountable to the UK Secretary of State via the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency. This is particularly relevant for the effective implementation of international maritime and maritime-related conventions that have been ratified by the UK government and, thus, extended to Cayman.
The Authority today incorporates the original CISR vessel and mortgage registration as well as advisory and marine survey and audit services. It has responsibility for:

  • Implementing Cayman’s marine pollution prevention, maritime safety and security, and seafarers’ welfare obligations under international Conventions and Codes and under Cayman legislation for Cayman-flagged vessels;
  •  Implementation of Cayman’s obligations under the Caribbean Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control for foreign-flagged vessels entering Cayman Islands ports and for marine Casualty Investigation activities in relation to Cayman-flagged vessels;
  •  National maritime policy formulation, the provision of advice on maritime-related matters and the development of Cayman’s maritime-related legislation;
  •  To represent Cayman at international forums and to protect its maritime interests,
  •  And to help facilitate the development of the Cayman Islands as an international maritime centre.

Despite its numerous obligatory responsibilities, vessel registration is still at the forefront of efforts for the ever evolving Cayman Registry. There are many compellingly persuasive reasons to register a vessel in Cayman, including the expertise of the Registry, with its cadre of highly skilled nautical professionals, the reputation of the Cayman Islands flag internationally, its tax-neutral regime and the ease and speed with which a vessel and mortgage can be registered. In addition there is a wide of choice of types of registration (eg under construction, provisional, interim, full demise [bareboat] charter), Cayman’s highly developed British legal infrastructure, myriad attendant maritime sector service providers and the country’s sophisticated state-of-the-art telecommunications capabilities.
“In Cayman, we have the skills, legislative and socio-economic frameworks geared to creating the best integration of global product offerings. I test this every day at the Registry,” the organisation’s CEO, Mr Walton says.
“A day in Cayman can start by putting the finishing touches on a proposal and end with a presentation of that proposal at the office in Greece or Monaco, or elsewhere the very next day.
“The primary reasons for this success include the offer of high quality client-focused service and the benefits of a sophisticated jurisdiction that understands shipping,” he adds.

“Shipping is a bright spot in our economy that links our past, present and future. It is exciting to be constantly balancing local and global challenges in public sector and commercial environments simultaneously,” Mr Walton states.
“This initiative has had tremendous spin-offs to other sectors within the Cayman economy including company registration, vessel finance, private banking and real estate.”
Hailing from a boat building/seafaring family of Cayman Brackers, Mr Walton’s main goals are to assist in creating a successful, globally diverse organisation that has a local historical seafaring context and also provides new career opportunities in the areas of professional ship survey and inspection, vessel registration, ship management and ship finance. The organisation annually wages a targeted campaign to attract young people to the field of maritime interests – whether sea-going or land-based, from the discipline of naval architecture and marine survey through to maritime administration.
The organisation’s vision is summed up in a single sentence: To be a reputable global niche market leader of distinctive client-focused quality maritime administration and services, add value to client operations, meet and promote international standards and positively contribute to the Cayman Islands.
Likewise, its mission is simple and, in summary, states: Cayman Maritime aims to help develop the Islands as an international maritime centre of excellence, support client efforts to maximise growth opportunities and returns in global shipping, comply with and promote international standards, regional agreements, and Cayman legislation regarding maritime safety and security, environmental pollution prevention and especially seafarers’ welfare.
The conundrum of the Cayman Registry is that it manages to essentially be a small operation of far less than a hundred employees/associates worldwide with a large global presence nonetheless. One of the ways it achieves this feat is its partnership with seven international classification societies which are authorised to act on the organisation’s behalf around the world. These include the American Bureau of Shipping (US), Bureau Veritas (France), Det Norske Veritas (Norway), Registro Italiano Navale (Italy), Germanischer Lloyd (Germany), Lloyds Register (United Kingdom) and Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (Japan).
These prestigious classification societies augment the Cayman Registry’s multinational and highly skilled cadre of professionals of surveyors and naval architects who are constantly in the field.
At the time of this writing, for example, from George Town, Grand Cayman headquarters’ Survey Section were: John Aune, Senior Surveyor, (a Norwegian national), in office, but just returned from Ft Lauderdale; Duncan Currie, Prinicipal Surveyor, (a Scotsman by way of Bermuda), visiting a Stolt vessel in Houston; Capt Peter Domladis, Senior Surveyor, (a Croatian national), en route between Jacksonville and Ft Lauderdale; Saagar Kadiyala, Surveyor (Trainee), a Caymanian, shadowing a Port State Control inspection aboard the cruise ship Crown Princess in port in George Town, and Capt Fabio Minetti, Senior Surveyor (an Italian) in West Palm Beach.
Similar movements were being carried out by the survey section staff based at the European regional office in Southampton, UK, as they were en route to Holland, New Zealand, Spain, France and the Philippines.
Cayman Registry’s offices and representatives are always ready to serve the organisation’s valued clientele on a 24/7 basis. In addition to the headquarters in George Town, Grand Cayman they include offices in Ft. Lauderdale (US),Southampton (UK),Monaco, Athens, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo.


Joel Walton is Chief Executive Officer of Cayman Maritime and director of the Cayman Registry. Previously, he was Deputy Financial Secretary for 11 years. He obtained a Bachelor of Administration (Hons) degree from Brock University, Canada, and an MBA with a specialisation in Finance and Planning in 1988 from the University of Windsor, Canada. Mr Walton is chairman of the Maritime Sector Consultative Committee.