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Historic Day for USA (Super) Yachting

Published on August 21st, 2018

Patriotic yacht owners are now able to fly an American flag and register their yachts – over 300 gross tons – in the United States. This is a result of new legislation which modernizes outdated laws and brings the United States in line with current times.

“This has been a significant issue that the U.S. Superyacht Association (USSA) has spent nearly a decade working to correct,” said Kate Pearson, USSA Chair and vice president of business development of Safe Harbor Marinas. “Yacht owners will no longer be chased from American shores to other countries to flag their vessels.”

Until now, U.S. law defined a yacht as a vessel whose volume was a maximum of 300 gross tons. That law was written in 1920, but was never updated. Americans owning yachts exceeding the 300-GT limit were only able to fly the U.S. flag if they registered their yacht as a commercial vessel.

However, commercial vessels such as cargo ships were, and are, held to different operational and construction standards than recreational ones. As a result, many owners chose to flag their yachts in offshore jurisdictions, such as the Cayman Islands or British Virgin Islands.

“The economic impact of more large yachts flagging U.S. could be significant, as these large vessels would now provide more high-profile opportunities for American crew, keep yachts traveling in U.S. waters, and spend more time in our repair and refit yards,” stated Kitty McGowan, president of the USSA.

A handful of owners in recent decades did pursue acts of Congress for their personal vessels as exemptions but this route was both arduous and expensive and not the right solution for most superyacht owners.

“For at least a half century, ridiculous regulations prohibited American citizens from displaying their patriotism by flying an American flag on their yacht,” remarked Tilman J. Fertitta, a longtime passionate yacht owner, star of the TV show Billion Dollar Buyer and sole owner of Landry’s Restaurants and the Houston Rockets.

“With the new legislation, that ends. American yacht owners can now proudly proclaim their citizenship on their yachts. This is truly an historic day for American yacht owners and the yachting industry.”

Source: U.S. Superyacht Association

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