In 2014 the Irish parliament passed the Merchant Shipping (Registration of Ships) Act 2014 (the Act) to update the regime for the registration of Irish ships and the regime for registering mortgages over ships. It is intended that the new regime will provide a more efficient, user friendly and accessible regime for commercial ship owners and those involved in financing the construction and purchase of vessels. Among other things the Act provides for the establishment of an electronic ship ownership and mortgage register. It preserves all of the basic protections under the existing regime for banks which have a mortgage over commercial ships. With the exception of one provision, however, the Act has not yet been commenced. Given the potential for the further development of shipping finance in Ireland, it is hoped that the government will soon implement it.
Ireland is an island maritime nation of long standing. In recent times (the 1990s) the ship finance industry experienced growth with the construction of large sea trawlers by Irish fishing enterprises. These were financed by a number of European banks which specialised in ship finance. The scale of activity in this sector, however, has reduced in the 2000s.
The ship finance industry in Ireland is inevitably compared with Ireland's highly successful aircraft finance industry. Ireland is a hub for aircraft leasing and is the home of some of the largest international players in this sector. There are many complex reasons why the ship finance industry has not grown in the same way as aviation finance in Ireland. However, implementation of the Act would ensure that conditions existed for encouraging growth in this sector. It is hoped that the government will expedite the project of establishing the register so that the Act can be brought into force as soon as possible.
Maples and Calder