New Law Enables Mega Yachts Over 300GT to Fly the U.S. Flag: A recently enacted legal amendment makes it possible for owners of mega yachts over 300GT to fly a U.S. flag. The move updates legislation passed in 1920 that defined yachts as vessels with a maximum volume of 300GT.
U.S. Superyacht Association (USSA) Chair Kate Pearson noted that her organization has spent nearly a decade trying to correct the outdated law. Yacht owners will no longer have to go to other countries to flag their vessels.
Before the amendment, owners with yachts over the 300GT limit could only fly an American flag if they registered their yacht as a commercial vessel, thus subjecting it to different construction and operational standards, including U.S. Coast Guard inspections for seagoing motor vessels. In some instances, owners pursued acts of Congress asking for their yachts to be flagged as exemptions, however the process was arduous and expensive.
The amendment received bipartisan support in Congress throughout its development. It was spearheaded by Congressman Rob Bishop of Utah, along with USSA volunteers, including Tilman J. Fertitta, who is building his fifth yacht. Kitty McGowan, USSA president, said the economic impact of more large yachts flagging United States could be significant as these large vessels would not provide more high-profile opportunities for American crew, keep yachts traveling in American waters and spend more time in U.S. repair and refit yards.
The International Yacht Brokers association says the amendment comes with some caveats. Large mega yachts can’t carry cargo or passengers for hire, meaning no time charters, but appears to allow bareboat chartering. Other requirements include compliance with U.S. documentation that include citizenship of the yacht’s owner and crew. Owners must also disclose the identity of the yacht’s beneficial owner to the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard is currently developing a new U.S. Large Yacht code due to go into effect in 2020. However, the recently passed amendment will allow an MCA-compliant mega yacht over 300 GT to fly the U.S. flag.
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