Statutory registration of British ships of over 15 tons was introduced under the Shipping Act of 1786, which placed the responsibility of keeping records on the Commissioners of Customs & Excise. An Act of 1825 further laid down that changes in ownership of vessels (normally held in sixthy-four shares) and in the ship's master also had to be registered. Shipping registers were kept locally by the Port Custom House and transcripts and other returns were regularly submitted to the Custom House in London - these are now preserved in The National Archives (BT 107 to BT 111). These transcripts are not necessarily as complete as the local documents.
The shipping registers constitute a document of title to property and provide details of the dimensions and ownership and ultimate fate of each ship registered in each port. They are not a record of the movement of ships, arrivals or departures from ports, nor do they give any information about their crews.