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Flag State Yacht Registration, USA or UK?

Updated: Apr 20, 2023


The time has arrived to begin the process of registering Vanguard as a completed vessel.

Under Turkish law, the hull has always belonged to the owner since keel laying. This law protects prospective owners in instances of insolvency at the various yards, allowing possession of an incomplete hull for potential completion elsewhere. However, this facet does not constitute vessel registration within any particular jurisdiction.


US Yacht Flag Registration


Our initial intention was to flag within the USA, bringing some advantages; for example, if we wished to use the vessel for commercial purposes within US Territorial Waters, we needed to be US Flagged (Ref Jones Act restrictions).

As the hull is not US-built, she would also need to be over three years old and obtain a MARAD Waiver (Marine Administration permission to use the hull within the scope of the US Jones Act). We get US Naval and Consular support and good, patriotic intent. So we contacted a law firm in Newport, Rhode Island, and registered an LLC. Then we hit a snag for an unexpected quadrant. After two months of looking for suitable insurance, it proved impossible to obtain, given the nature and purpose of Vanguard. Ninety-mile trips from Miami to Bimini appear to be insurable all day long unless it's between June and November (storm season); a trip to Greenland, no chance, as in zero chance, nil, nada.....


Trolling the Miami Boat Show in February this year, we spoke with every insurance agent we could find. The answer remained the same even after hiring a professional crew. One chap even laughed a bit, I took an immediate dislike to him. Too big for the recreational policies, too small for anything else. So it's back to the drawing board.


UK Yacht Flag Registration


I spent the first ten years of my working life sailing under the Red Ensign in the UK Merchant Navy. I still have a "red duster" stolen one evening in some drunken wager from the rear of a ship in Liverpool in the 1970s (take your flag down at night!). The Red Ensign is used in various forms by many UK and Commonwealth jurisdictions, including the UK, Isle of Man, Malta, Caymen Islands, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar; Montserrat, St Helena, Turks & Caicos Islands, Gurnsey, and Jersey. Try saying that in one breath?

So we first contacted the UK Marine insurance market with a preliminary inquiry assuming voyage plans and potential Flag State choices. Pantaenius offered terms we can work with assuming registration in UK, IoM, or Channel Islands. I am now an American citizen and proud of my newfound country, but the nostalgia of a red duster still did feel good.


So Jersey, it will be; registration applies to all vessels <400GRT and lasts ten years with no additional fees. Explorer and Expedition Yachts less than 24M fall well within this category. We will need a local representative to complete this process, and the registry has proven both responsive and very helpful thus far. We have approval for our chosen name, "Vanguard," and will submit documentation for temporary registration pending a Tonnage Survey and Builders Certificate on completion. Our UK MCA-approved surveyor will calculate tonnage and, conveniently, is also based in Turkey.

The Jersey Register allows a US based LLC to own the asset (Vanguard) registered in the Jersey Ship Registry, provided we also appoint a local representative. In the USA, we call these pass though, single asset entities and are recommended vehicles for any significant asset vulnerable to potential litigation. For tax purposes, they reflect on personal IRS Tax returns. The UK is different, my knowledge is now dated and has different rules around depreciation and offset so I can't usefully comment on that score.


Temporary Yacht Flag Registration


We have approval for our name and an initial temporary 90 day registration allowing details such as tonnage surveys to play catch-up. We can cruise in Europe (EU) for up to 18 months on a temporary importation cruising license and in the USA for up to 12 months using similar procedures. VAT or Sales Tax does not apply at this point. There remains the opportunity to register in the USA further down the line should we venture into any commercial uses for Vanguard in US Waters. Her engines are all US EPA Tier III compliant, so registration would be a formality assuming insurance becomes more readily available at that point.


Explorer Yacht Vanguard Flag Registration


So there you have it in one brief Blog. Our explorer yacht Vanguard will register in Jersey under the Red Ensign Group of jurisdictions. Perhaps another own goal for the "No Cure No Fee" legal fraternity, but that's the world we live in.


Chris Leigh-Jones


  • Red Ensign Group - HERE

  • Jersey Shipping Register - HERE

  • Newport RI Company Registration - HERE

  • Authorized Representative (Jersey) - Piers Baker <piers.baker@gmx.co.uk>

  • Photo acknowledgement and guide to ship registry in Jersey : HERE


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