boat registration, british virgin islands yacht registration, marine documentation, USA
Here are a few brief answers to some of the more frequently asked questions. If you need to discuss any of these issues…please contact us.
20 June, 2024

Carving & Marking of Vessels: Most states require that the vessel have a state registration number and a decal on the bow of the boat.  However, if the vessel is Documented or under any other form of formal registry, this requirement is lifted.  (BUT, most U.S., States DO require a registration for a Documented Vessel, and require a Decal be displayed on the vessel.  There are different carving and marking requirements for Commercial or Pleasure, and also for the different Ports (countries) of Registry.  We will always advise you of the Carving & Marking Requirements for your vessel.

Cruising Permits: U.S. Cruising Permits are issued to foreign registered vessels which wish to move freely from port to port within the United States without having to clear customs each time. U.S. Cruising Permits are issued for a period of one year. The vessel must then depart U.S. Waters and be gone for at least 15 days, touching a foreign port prior to its return to the U.S., before a new Cruising Permit will be issued. (Proof of touching a foreign port is required by the Dept. of Homeland Security (U.S. Customs). Not all foreign flagged vessels are eligible for a U.S. Cruising Permit. More Info.

Documentation Agents: (Such as All Yacht Registries, Inc.,) are in the unique position of protecting ALL PARTIES involved in a vessels transfer of ownership.  This means we are protecting, Buyer, Seller, Listing Broker, Selling Broker, and the Lender.  In Europe the costs of the agent are often split.  But in the U.S., all Documentation Fees are paid by the purchaser.

Duty: Vessels cannot be sold in the United States unless they are duty paid.  If a vessel has become part of the commerce of another country…by way of actually physically exporting the boat AND paying duty to another country, the vessel must be Custom Cleared by a Customs Broker, and duty must be paid…currently about 1.5 percent.  (Simply flagging a vessel foreign does not mean that duty is due).  Also, U.S. built and Canadian built boats are duty free, but must still be custom cleared, upon entry for sale in the U.S.  It is advisable to contact a customs broker to answer all of the possible scenarios prior to placing the vessel on the market.

Hull Identification Numbers: The regulations requiring Hull Identification Numbers (HINs) for recreational boats are intended to provide a uniform positive identification of each boat manufactured in or imported into the United States.  The Coast Guard uses the HIN to identify the safety standards that apply to a particular boat and in identifying specific boats involved in a defect notification campaign.  The States use the HIN to identify boats for State registration and titling. State marine police units and federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and National Crime Information Center use the HIN to trace stolen boats.  Coast Guard regulations require manufacturers to affix two identical Hull Identification Numbers (HINs) on every recreational boat used or intended to be used on waters subject to Federal jurisdiction.  Each HIN consists of 12 continuous characters at least one quarter of an inch in height, uninterrupted by spaces, slashes, hyphens or other symbols.

Offshore Closings: The decision to have an offshore closing is a hefty one.  We evaluate your needs and then we steer you in the right direction.  It is NOT necessary to have a Maritime Attorney handle an offshore closing.  However, a much better comfort level can be reached if one is advising you.  We work hand in hand with the Maritime Attorney.  Please see our referrals page for an Admiralty / Maritime attorney.
Sales Tax: Sales tax is due when the vessel is purchased.  A trade up or trade down might reduce the amount of taxes due.  (Some states do not allow a tax credit on a trade vessel).  Most States will allow a "Removal Affidavit" to be signed for vessels purchased which are to be removed from the state within a certain period of time.  Taxes will then be paid to the state of "principal use" upon arrival into that state.  Some states do not charge sales tax on vessels, and some impose a Personal Property tax, (both State and County Property Taxes could be due).  And most states are reciprocal on taxes paid elsewhere.  If you are confused, just call us, and we will help you to navigate your way through your own tax situation.  Please visit our State Links on our Fees page for helpful information.

Tonnage: Each “formal” port of registry requires a formal admeasurement of the vessel to determine its Tonnage, if it is over a certain length.  A Tonnage Survey will be performed (not to be confused with a "buyer's survey".  The requirement differs from Country to Country.  Tonnage is often confused to mean the weight of the vessel, but is actually based on volume, water tight doors, and where the engine(s) are located.

VAT: The EU has established a VAT which provides a liability for yachts purchased or “Formally Imported” into all EU waters.  While there are “guidelines”, as usual, they are interpreted, administered and enforced by each country a little differently…causing a great deal of confusion and misunderstandings in various countries.  It is usually the “Local Official” and his/her interpretation of the guidelines which enforces the rules.
Two usual methods for calculating VAT by Customs Officials are:
1. When the vessel clears customs entering an EU Country.
2. Routine inspections of boats cruising in EU waters.
A boat owned by an EU resident (individual or body corporate) may move freely throughout the EU, IF VAT has been paid on the vessel in any one of the EU countries.  The rules state that a vessel belonging to an EU citizen, or flying the flag of an EU country, must be VAT paid.  Therefore we recommend you carry proof of the VAT payment on board at all times.  Also, if a vessel has been determined to be exempt from VAT, we highly recommend carrying on board a document from any relevant authority stating such reasons for the exemption.
It is essential to ascertain on arrival in a new country the exact situation concerning VAT.  As non-EU boats are required to contact immigration whenever crossing a border between EU countries, this may be the time to make such enquiries.  Yachts must carry their original registration document, insurance policy and ship's radio license.  One member of the crew must have a radio operator’s certificate of competence.  For EU boats, proof of VAT status is also required.  It is also very useful to have a typed sheet containing the name of the boat, port of registry, and the crew list.  It is important that you “know before you go”.

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