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Old 03-03-2009, 07:04   #1
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Bringing a French boat into US Waters

Hello all,

It looks as though we may be buying a French flagged boat and will be bringing her into the US to refit and provision for a trip to central and south america.

We are US citizens, but don't want to register the boat in the US. What can I expect from Customs when we check in? Are they going to hassle me to pay taxes or duties? Are they going to tell me that as a US citizen I have to register the boat?

Any "heads up" advice would be much appreciated!

Cheers,

Jon
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Old 03-03-2009, 07:28   #2
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Foreign flagged boats cruise in the US using a cruising permit. There's no charge. The permit is good for one year. You have to leave the US each year and re-enter to get a new permit. There are no taxes or duties at federal or state level. Many people do this.

You need to think about in what country you will flag the boat. It might be possible to form a French company and keep the boat flagged in France. Each country has different rules and fees. Popular ones are BVI, Bahamas, Marshall Islands. In many cases the boat doesn't have to go to the country. The Marshall Islands even has an office in Florida. Google any of these to find details. You typically form a corporation to own the boat in the country were it is flagged.

Having said that, don't dismiss importing the boat into the US and documenting it. While the US has certainly not been at it's best for the last few years, a US documented vessel has a powerful protector overseas. It might be less expensive than the ongoing fees of other countries. I believe the import duty is about 1.5%. There are no other federal taxes. While in the US, you would want to keep the boat in a state with low or no taxes such as Rhode Island.

Carl
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Old 03-03-2009, 12:06   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CarlF View Post
Popular ones are BVI, Bahamas, Marshall Islands.
Add Cayman Islands, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Panama.

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In many cases the boat doesn't have to go to the country. The Marshall Islands even has an office in Florida. Google any of these to find details. You typically form a corporation to own the boat in the country were it is flagged.
We used these to register in the BVI 6 years ago without problems: ASAP Marine Documentation and Registration, Inc.

Quote:
Having said that, don't dismiss importing the boat into the US and documenting it. While the US has certainly not been at it's best for the last few years, a US documented vessel has a powerful protector overseas. It might be less expensive than the ongoing fees of other countries. I believe the import duty is about 1.5%. There are no other federal taxes. While in the US, you would want to keep the boat in a state with low or no taxes such as Rhode Island.
How can you say that? A powerful protector? You think the navy will come to your rescue when under attack in a place like for example Venezuela? Never happens. Or do you think that the government will intervene when they would seize your boat in a country like that? Never happens. For some years now, a US flag on the stern will cause more trouble than the flag of other western nations. Not so much as to change flags, but certainly not wise to change to US flagged for reasons of protection!
Cost is another issue. Registration in the BVI will total up to more than $1000.- each year now, and ever increasing (started at half that 6 years ago). I think Panama is the best option today. It can be combined with a foundation etc.

cheers,
Nick.
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Old 03-03-2009, 13:55   #4
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US documented vessel is FREE-
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Old 03-03-2009, 14:06   #5
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Nick,

I agree that the lower multi-year US cost is the primary motivation for US documentation. Jon should also think carefully if he might ever want to resell the boat in the EU. If it is VAT paid now, he will probably lose that status if he flags outside of the EU - including the US.

I agree that the power of the US flag isn't what it used to be (or maybe ever was) - and my reference certainly wasn't to imagine a US Navy response to my sailboat. My experience has been that even the possibility that I could generate a call from the US Embassy to some higher functionary (which I probably can't) has crossed the mind of the local authorities. Other large western countries are just as good or better. It's the little island places that I think could put you at a disadvantage.

US flagged boats also have the substantial downside of the Jones Act if there is even a remote possibility that you ever want to pay someone to help as crew.

Carl
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Old 03-03-2009, 14:30   #6
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Good Stuff, Guys - pretty spot on! I would add that my experience of helping US citizens reflag to BVI has changed muchly in the last few years. It used to be remarkably easy and, as some one said, much cheaper! They would form a BVI company and register through this medium. The company could even have an offshore bank account. All this has changed ......Try getting a BVI bank account now unless you live here!! Tony
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Old 03-03-2009, 16:18   #7
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For EU VAT, the only thing you need is a declaration showing it has been paid in the past. No re-registration, change of ownership etc. changes that. So, no problems there as long as you don't loose the invoice or whatever paper you get with the boat.

About difficult offshore registrations: yes, I think the best option is Panama and we are seriously considering changing to that now that we are there. I also think it's cost-effective but will find out in the process.

About embassies helping out... they don't. They care too much about how the local government thinks about them; it would hurt future negotiations on economic matters. Also, they will not interfere in local prosecution / laws etc. And the officials in these countries know that. They laugh at you, humiliate you and even spit you in the face if they want. I you say something back, they seize your boat. I know all that happened to US cruisers in Venezuela and the embassy was silent... it's even empty now as they sent the US ambassador home!

The protection you get is the lawyer you are going to hire so better hire a good one. Your only hope is that the judge involved does not consider your passport a factor and I believe most judges will be okay in that aspect.

cheers,
Nick.
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Old 03-03-2009, 16:55   #8
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Yeah..you wouldn't want to do anything

that may look out for the crew.

There are too many stories of owners stiffing crews or leaving them with no way to get home.

An old captain I knew called them MONKEY FLAGS



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Nick,



US flagged boats also have the substantial downside of the Jones Act if there is even a remote possibility that you ever want to pay someone to help as crew.

Carl
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