Beginner’s Guide on Starting a Maritime Business in the United Kingdom

Maritime remains one of the most vital sectors in the economy. It is estimated that maritime services generate approximately US$19.8 billion per year for the economy. Investors with a plan on starting a maritime business in the United Kingdom have an opportunity to explore the sector fortunes. The city of London remains on the summit as the largest maritime centre in the world.

With that in mind, here is a guide on starting a maritime business in the United Kingdom.


Industry Practice for Maritime Business

The modern maritime industry in the UK is involved in container shipping, gas & oil exploration, cruise ship, commercial fishing and passenger transportation, among others. There are various types of vessels used within this industry, from tankers, container ships, bulk carriers, passengers to fishing vessels.

The industry employs many people to work in both the vessels and the ports that receive and launch ships. In the UK, the companies range in different sizes, from one vessel to numerous fleets in the hundreds. The maritime business falls under some of the risk-prone companies, and therefore owners must protect their workers from injuries. These could be accidents from out at sea to bad weather and rough sea to equipment failure. Again, the vessels may capsize and get hijacked by pirates, explosions, fires and chemical exposure. This means that if you plan on starting a maritime business in the United Kingdom, you must consider all the security factors.


Business Registration Process

Those starting a maritime business in the United Kingdom have a lot of work to do. As a beginner, you’ll probably need a phone, excellent personal relations skills and an enormous amount of energy. Prepare to juggle between suppliers, shippers and clients. Running the business can be very stressful, and therefore the organization is a vital part of building a successful maritime business. One avenue is creating an office-based freight forwarder. You will only act as a broker that aids businesses to ship goods from one point to another.

With that said, here are a few steps in the process of setting up your maritime company incorporation services in the United Kingdom.

Choose a Business Structure

To create a maritime business, you can opt for a Sole trader, Partnership or a Limited company. Having a Limited Company protects you in case of issues with shipments to some extent. Before you move forward with business registration, you must gather all the necessary information.

Choose Your Company Name

You must register a company name before starting a business. When choosing the name, ensure that it’s distinct and doesn’t conflict with other registered names. The Companies House is the department responsible for UK company registration. If your business has a sensitive word, you must submit a letter of non-objection to the responsible governing body explaining the reasons behind it.

Choose Director(s) and Company Secretary.

The Company Act requires you to appoint at least one director when forming a Limited Company. You also have a choice of having multiple directors, each with different or equal share ownership. Again, it’s essential to appoint a company secretary to ease the directors of some responsibilities.

Memorandum & Articles of Association

The law requires that all registered corporate service provider companies in the UK present both memorandum & articles of association. These documents outline the rules about the company’s operation, such as goals, mission, and share allocation. All the shareholders, guarantors, directors must append their signatures upon agreement.

Address Registration

As part of the registration process, you must provide your business registered address and the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code.

Securing Shipping Insurance

As you plan on starting a maritime business in the United Kingdom, you’ll need to look at two (2) types of insurance.

Freight Liability Insurance

As your company will be moving cargo, you’ll be responsible if anything goes wrong. Therefore, securing yourself liability insurance means that:

  • You’ll be the first point of contact
  • It will be a  way of reassuring your clients
  • You become a member of BIFA (British International Freight Association).

Marine Insurance

This is insurance that offers extra cover to your clients’ cargo. When you work closely with an insurance broker, you can utilize marine insurance as a great upsell. In return, you can generate some extra margin from your maritime services.

Open a Business Bank Account

Most businesses operating within this sector have opened a bank account for transactions purposes. Opening a bank account means that you’ll be able to carry your shipment financial processes smoothly.

Register at BIFA and Become a Member

In the UK, we have the UK freight association that provides training and support to its members. Within this association, you’ll be able to meet other freight forwarders and add a BIFA badge to your website to reassure your clients.

Build Robust Partner Relationships

As a beginner, you should start by building a strong relationship with freight forwarders. This will help you find the right footing and discover more market strengths.


A maritime business will not only require workers but highly skilled workers. This is because it’s a technical business where only specialized people can work.  However, you can always contact us whenever you feel the task is cumbersome.

Getting an Office Location

If you’re new in the maritime industry, not many people will be willing to trust your service when there are other popular companies. Therefore, the first rule of getting an office is choosing a perfect location where competition fis not stiff. You can choose to target a market where there is demand but a lack of shipping companies.  Remember that the place you choose should be easily accessible to people.

  • Build Your Business Website

You having a website is not debatable whether you’re a beginner or not. You must develop your business website to start having that online presence where clients can easily access your services. Don’t think of a complicated website; you can have a simple one that has the following:

  • Homepage: for client reassurance
  • Landing page: create a form for gathering leads
  • About us: answer the Why, Where, Who and How questions your customers may have
  • Contact us: ensure your clients can reach you
  • Privacy policy

 Acquiring Leads and Clients

Once you have your website ready, you must hit the ground rolling with generating leads and acquiring clients. There are several ways of doing that, and Google Ads can help you reach your targets. Another option is networking with people that are already in the industry, where you can get referrals.

Embrace Client Management Software

You cannot manage the number of clients coming in without adopting Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM). This is because there will be a lot of chasing and updating clients involved in the maritime business.


Licences, Permits and Regulations

The maritime industry is governed by various UN agencies—primarily the International Maritime Organization (IMO). They are responsible for developing and maintaining the framework of global maritime safety regulations. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has its role of implementing the government’s maritime safety policy in the UK on behalf of the Department for Transport.

Maritime Passenger Rights

Within the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, we have the National Enforcement Body (NEB) responsible for passenger rights for people travelling by sea and inland waterways. They are the enforcer of passengers’ rights and compliance by carriers. They are also responsible for taking action whenever there are regulation breaches.

Boatmasters’ Licence

If you’re a master of particular vessels on inland waters or limited coastal area operations where your vessel sets off or arrives, you’ll need to apply for this licence. However, this licence does not apply if you’re in charge of a pleasure vessel or fishing vessels. Alternatively, one can opt for certificates such as STCW certificates of competency issued by the Royal Yachting Association. You can always download and fill up the application form for the certificate before sending it to the nearest marine office.

Marine Licence

As an entrepreneur with plans of starting a maritime business in the United Kingdom, it’s imperative to apply for a Marine Licence. The Marine Management Organization (MMO) is the authority in charge of this licence. The primary objective of the permit is for activities taking place from British vessels outside UK waters. The application may take a fortnight or longer, depending on the different types of licences. Likewise, if your business activities are termed low—risk, you may be eligible for self-service marine licensing. Again, for low-volume dredging activities, then you may be suitable for an accelerated licensing process.

Starting a Maritime Business in the United Kingdom