Yacht Cruising Licenses for South Florida Clarified: The interpretation of the Jones Act and the Passenger Vessel Services Act by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) offices has led to inconsistencies in how these laws have been put into practice. This has recently changed with regard to foreign flagged vessels that are available for charter in South Florida.
Previously, foreign-flagged vessels offered for sale or charter were not liable for duty payment could obtain a cruising license and sail freely in American coastal waters. Such is no longer the case. Several South Florida CBP offices have determined that these vessels are no longer eligible for cruising licenses under the idea that they are engaged in trade, regardless if they have or have not been offered for sale or charter while in U.S. waters. Additionally, large private that have been commercially certified for practical reasons, are also now considered ineligible.
Patience Cohen of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida has noted that CBP has realized that the law was not being uniformly applied throughout the country and that the Miami Tampa district is being used as a template to ensure that the law is more uniformly applied.
Cohn added that cruising licenses are only meant for private and personal use to a vessel carrying charter documentation does not qualify as private. The superyacht industry has evolved into a commercial world where the legislation has not yet caught up.
The development is more of a clerical issue than a practical one. Owners of commercially registered vessel can still obtain a cruising license for private use if they are able to provide adequate proof that the yachts are being used privately.
Cohen stated that the role of the CBP is to encourage commerce in the United States. However, charter vessels cannot charter here, but if an owner has legitimate dates for private use, a license may be obtained. The hope is to create a uniform system to lessen confusion for visiting yachts. Most issues have arisen when yachts visit the United States without using an agent.
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