Here in the United States we have three basic forms of registration for yachts – state registration, federal documentation, and offshore (foreign) registration. While there are many variables that might lead an owner to choose one over the other including taxes, where the yacht will be cruising, whether or not it will be chartering, etc., the basic concept is outlined below.
Other options include holding title in your own name, forming a corporation for liability and tax reasons, and of course, including it in your family trust is another option. I wouldn’t spend a lot of time worry about this subject. This is a highly organized segment of the industry with top professionals and law firms available to explain the options more fully and to handle all the details. As with many things in the world of yachting you just need to bring your checkbook and everything can be worked out in a matter of hours or days.
- This is the lowest cost option
- This is also the fastest option
- A non-US citizen can operate a state registered boat
- Requires numbers to be painted on the bow
- Name on the transom has no legal requirement – can be the home country of the owner
- More common at 100’ or less in length
US Documented Vessels
- Usually required by any lender
- Offers better chain of title at resale
- Subject to protection by US Government in firing waters
- More expensive
- Can only be operated with US citizen in command of vessel
Foreign Flagged Vessels
- The gold standard for all global mega yachts, but available to smaller vessels as well
- More complicated, more expensive, and lots of choices for flag nationality
- Expertise readily available locally to understand the issues that impact this decision
Thinking of going to Europe with your yacht? Thinking of chartering? The MCA requirements are mandatory for any yacht hoping to charter legally in the European Union. If you are leaning in this direction, we will give you a package of information that will give you the overview to help you form your initial opinions on this subject.