Registering Your Yacht, Home or Abroad?

By | November 15, 2016

Purchasing a yacht is a big expense, and you want to make sure that you register it in the country that will give you the most benefits, and flexibility. Owning a yacht can be an amazing experience. Traveling the world by sea, seeing everything there is to see is an exciting prospect.

If you plan on traveling the world in your super yacht, including the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas, you will likely be advised by your lawyer or yacht broker to register and flag the yacht offshore. Generally, you do not need to be a resident of the country in order to register your yacht there. When you choose your location for registration, this will have an effect on your privacy, taxes, expose to liability and boarding, and the ultimate enjoyment of your yachting experience.

The registering process

Depending on where you choose to register your yacht, the process for doing so may vary. For example, to register your yacht under the Malta flag, it is first registered provisionally for a six month period and may be extended for a further period not exceeding six months. During that time, all the appropriate documentation for permanent registration will be finalized. If you wish to register your yacht in the UK, you can register immediately for a five year period by providing the required documentation.

Most locations require certain documentation in order to register your yacht. Types of documentation that may be required for yacht registration include:

–        Proof of ownership

–        The required application

–        Certification of survey for tonnage and measurement

–        International tonnage certificate if the location requires it

–        Certificate of incorporation if you are registering on behalf of a company

–        Deletion certificate if the yacht had a previous owner

–        Confirmation of a radio call sign if you have one

Generally, there is a fee associated with registering your yacht, and then another fee for renewals. The process can vary between locations, so it is important that you consult your lawyer or broker to find out which location will benefit you most, and not make the decision on the process itself.

Locations where you can register and flag your yacht

There are many great countries abroad that will provide you great benefits for registering your yacht. Some have easy registration processes, where you merely visit the website of the local authority and provide the required information. Others may have a more strenuous process, but with great benefits, that may require help from a third party.

Here is a list of locales where you can choose to register your yacht:

  • The Cayman Islands – If you are interested in traveling the Caribbean, the Cayman Islands are a great choice. They make it easy to register a vessel, with three ports available. Plus, yachts registered as pleasure yachts will usually be granted a License to Cruise the waters of the United States.
  • Malta – More interested in the Mediterranean? Malta is a perfect location. A small island in the Mediterranean, it is a very inviting location for yacht owners. They have efficient registration procedures. Malta has an active super yacht industry and world-class berthing facilities. This little island offers big benefits for registration.
  • The British Virgin Islands – This is another location in the Caribbean. By registering your yacht in the BVI, it is registered under the red ensign and one can enjoy British consular protection around the world. The BVI also does not have any corporate or personal income taxes, which is just an added bonus.
  • Cyprus – If you will be yachting in the Mediterranean and throughout Europe, consider Cyprus as your registration and flag country. The VAT rate in Cyprus is generally one of the lowest in Europe. A private use yacht will greatly benefit from this low VAT rate. However, Cyprus requires the vessel to be registered under a Cypriot legal entity.

It is an amazing experience to own and use a yacht for exploration of the seas. Choosing the right location for registration and flag of your yacht can be a difficult decision, with many factors involved. The process and benefits of each location should be considered and discussed with your lawyer or broker before you set sail.

Should you consider Yacht registration in Malta?

The Maltese flag is very well respected all over the world. A number of yachts and super yachts can be registered here, even cruise liners and yachts that are still under construction.  They offer a number of advantages for both pleasure and commercial yachts.

Here are a few:

  • Malta has a widely recognized, reputable, and efficient EU-based yacht registry.
  • The Island’s strategic location helped it to become the largest shipping register in Europe
  • They offer efficient procedures for easy and quick registration and transfer of Maltese yachts and mortgages.
  • There is a large presence, and has been for quite some time, of a super-yacht industry accompanied by world class berthing facilities.
  • Tax exemption or minimal tax obligations.

About Author:

Dr Ann Bugeja is a Lawyer where her areas of interest cover Ship and Yacht Registration, Employment Law, Contract Drafting, Residence and Work Permit applications and applications for Special Tax Status. Ann was admitted to the Maltese bar in 2010 and is a member of the investment migration council in Malta. She is currently the head of CSB Legal. Amongst her many interests, Ann is also a member of various philanthropic organizations.

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