Flying the Flag

But which flag?

Now that its not an option to have an Australian Flag with the name of my Footy team (Fremantle) on the back on the boat, we need to have a good think about where to register our new Saba 50. Australia is not an option as Dee and I will be jointly owning the boat and for it to be an Australian boat it needs to be majority owned by an Australian. 

So we need to look around for an alternative. And there are a few that spring to mind. 

But there’s a few factors to consider: 

  • Cost – Initial and Ongoing Year to Year
  • Risk – Can we use a US Limited Lability Company or do we need to set up a Company in Country. And how much does that cost?
  • Radio License and EPIRB Registration
  • Insurance options for the various flags. 
  • Reputation and Coverage.  
  • And finally….Do we like the actual flag? Does it have an annoying Union Jack in the corner?

USA Flag out of Delaware is the easiest and cheapest solution – we can set up a jointly owned Limited Liability Company in Delaware and have Wilmington as our home port all for $947USD (using http://www.boatandyachtregistration.com). However, I’m not so sure I want people to think I’m from the USA. 

As far as a homeport goes, Bikini from the Marshall Islands sounds rather cool. However, we would need to set up a Marshall Islands company. Every Marshall Islands LLC must appoint a registered agent and maintain a local office address. Not 100% sold on either an LLC in a far-off land; or the flag for that matter, but at least it doesn’t have that annoying little Union Jack in the corner.  Interestingly, the Marshall Islands Registry permits private yachts to be chartered out for up to 84 days per calendar year, provided that some additional requirements are satisfied. Fees are: $2800.00 Year 1 (Company setup and Boat Registration) and then $1800.00 (Year 2 and onward – Company and boat renewal).

A good looking flag is important and we really like the Maltese Flag. However a Maltese flag means we cannot get VAT exemption if we are in the EU. So that rules it out in the short term whilst we are in Europe. Registration Fees are 115 Euros, plus an annual fee of 425 Euros plus VAT. To this we need to add costs for a Radio license and an MMSI number. Plus the cost of local representation. 

Multihulls Solutions are very experienced with registering boats in the Cook Islands and Captain Cook is pretty much up there when it comes to sailors. Fees are $800 for one year, $2100 for 3 years. The easiest way to register a boat in the Cook Islands is to join The Cook Islands Yacht Squadron (CIYS).  Members of the Cook Islands Yacht Squadron (CIYS) are eligible to have their yacht registered in the Cook Islands without having to register a company. The definition of person includes companies and trusts as well as individuals or partnerships of individuals. In this way foreign corporation can become a member of CIYS without having to register that corporation in the Cook Islands. However the Cook Islands flag has that annoying little Union Jack in the corner. Cook Islands is the only option that my current insurer, Topsail Australia (who I am very comfortable with) will cover, however interestingly they can’t provide cover when we actually sail into the Cook Islands because of some strange licensing quirk.   

We saw a lot of boats with Jamaican flags and again Montego Bay has an air of the exotic as a home port. Jamaica also has a Private Limited Charter option where the yacht may charter up to 84 days per calendar year where permitted. Ownership can be with any legal entity in good standing or an individual.  There is no requirement to create a new owning entity in Jamaica. Fees are The Private Yacht Only (PYO) option is $1950.  The Private with Limited Charter (PYLC) option is $2500 (plus $4100 for a survey).  Ongoing annual fees are $750, and if chartering an annual charter survey is $3,575.   These fees include vessel registration, radio license, tonnage, registered agent, all documentation, and a flag.

Quest, a fellow Saba 50, went with a Cayman Islands flag and that’s not a bad choice (except for that annoying little Union Jack in the corner once again).   A USA LLC can own a Cayman Islands Registered Vessel so that’s a tick. However, a foreign LLC must appoint a representative in the Cayman Islands (at an additional annual cost no doubt). Like the Marshall Islands, the Caymans also have a Yacht Engaged in Trade (YET) program for yacht operated privately that provides the option to charter their yacht for up to 84 days per year. Costs are $1200USD for initial registration and $530USD for each year after that (according to https://www.cishipping.com/feesandcalculators).

Having digested all this, I’m not sure there is a clear cut option for us, so some more thought is required. Once again, all suggestions and further information will be gratefully received. 

2 thoughts on “Flying the Flag”

  1. Hi Steve and Deanne,
    Wow….decisions, decisions. I’ll ask my girlfriend who sold jets and large yachts for many years. If she has any ideas, I’ll share them.
    I would not use a US flag. It’s too controversial. I would pick the least controversial flag with the least cost to use it.
    Also wouldn’t use any country that has to set up a local entity who owns your yacht.
    Cayman’s has always seemed to be a good bet; however, at one time (maybe not now) a lot of people hid money there, so they might think your rich and just using the flag to hide money.
    Look forward to seeing you two again. I am still in Florida, but will leave by mid-June since I hear it will get crazy humid. No decisions on where I am going, just know I am heading back West eventually.
    Take Care,
    Ramona

    1. Thanks Ramona…glad florida worked out well for you. Will be good to get your adventure rolling along again. You should check out st Augustine (if you haven’t already). Its an interesting old town. Look forward to catching up again. S&D xx

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