Beneficial owner. This is the real owner of a ship, one who obtains the ultimate, real benefit that comes from owning it.
This would be the owner who has chartered his ship out to others who may act as if they are the owner (that is, disponent owners). Sometimes an owner, who does not wish to be identified as the real owner, perhaps if liabilities arise from the ownership, may set up an organisational structure where the ship is owned by a “shelf company” registered in some open-registry country, such as Liberia or Panama. The ship is the only asset of this shelf company and if liabilities arise, only one ship can be arrested and sold by an order of a court. In legal disputes, judges have, from the late 1980s, been prepared to “draw aside the curtains”, or “lift the veil of incorporation”, and expose the real, beneficial owner whose assets may be seized to fulfil any liabilities.