Ship Registration: Law and Practice
The legal requirements of ship registration
On 1 December 1873, President Ulysses S. Grant, in his fifth annual message to the Senate and House of Representatives, considered the appropriate treatment of vessels registered by a flag State while on the high seas. He described the steamer Virginius that in September 1870 had been duly registered at the port of New York as a part of the commercial marine of the United States and received the certificate of her register in the usual legal form. In October 1873, while sailing under the flag of the United States on the high seas, she was forcibly seized by a Spanish gunboat and was carried into the port of Santiago de Cuba where 53 of her passengers and crew – consisting of US, British and Cuban nationals – were summarily tried by court-martial for piracy and executed by firing squad. He stated:
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