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Old 11-04-2010, 17:17   #1
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Facts and Fiction on US Registration and RCD

I am new to the forum, and would like to thank everybody willing to help me out with some advice on the following matter. I am interested only in verifiable facts and not gossip. If you don't know that's fine with me, but don't post any fairy-tales here please.
I have tried to put as much info here as possible to narrow down on the 'what's' and the 'ifs'.

Okay here goes,

I am a Belgian National (EU) and I have lived outside the EU for more than a year now which my passport can testify. I have been the proud owner of a Westsail 28, a 1976 factory built boat (not a kit boat) since July 2008. I will soon have cruised more than 6 months on her. The boat did not come with an owners manual, but has the HIN number on the starboard side of the transom.

I have registered the boat in Virginia (paid the sales tax) and I have decals and registration numbers on the boat, which will expire in august 2011. I fly the American Flag.
I am currently sailing the Bahamas and I am looking forward to cross the pond to Europe in May, and spend a couple of months there to visit friends and family.


Now, fact of gossip:

I have heard from a world cruiser last week that when faced by the FEDERAL US government bodies (Coast Guard, and Immigration) they would frown upon non US-Citizens owning and driving a US flagged and registered pleasure craft, and that it is even illegal to fly the US flag when you are not a US-Citizen.

If it is illegal, I don't really know why the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in Richmond issued me the necessary documents after seeing my foreign European passport. The documents were issued by the State of Virginia and not the Federal government though, since I could not get a Coast Guard documented vessel as I am not a US-citizen.

Should I be worried about my boat being impounded or being fined by the US if I ever sail back there ?

Now another matter

I want to cross the Atlantic and go from Bermuda to the Azores, and providing it is not illegal, keep flying the US-Flag, which means I don't want to import the boat, but use it for cruising in EU waters. I could apply for the VAT tax Loophole described in this post, (Import Duty) since we have the same directive in Belgium, but what about this;

I still have to verify if my boat is exempt from RCD or if I can make it RCD compliant, but if you can move your boat out of the EU every 18 Months for 6 months why bother ? Or is it mandatory as a EU citizen to make your US-owned vessel RCD compliant if you live on it in EU waters, and you don't wish to import it ?

Any thoughts on this ?

G
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Old 12-04-2010, 14:41   #2
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Actually your vessel is NOT U.S. flagged - it is flagged by the State of Virginia. The term "U.S. Flagged" or any other "country-flagged" refers to the National/Federal level registration/documentation which in the case of the U.S.A. is USCG Documentation which is not available to non-citizens. You should not be flying a U.S.A. flag, Either no flag or a Virginia Flag. Registering your boat with a State (e.g., Virginia) is primarily designed for vessels that will never leave U.S.A. waters.
- - It is somewhat like arriving in Brussels by airplane from the USA with only your State of Virgina Drivers License as identification instead of having an International Passport.
- - The Bahamas is quite lenient on boat registration/documentation of visiting vessels as they really want you to visit and spend money. Also small vessels are not normally allowed to be USCG Documented.
- - A lot of countries have a "temporary" registration provisions for bringing home a vessel purchased in a different country. You should check with your officials in your home country. Then you would be "flagged" under your home country for your crossing.
- - Some countries get rather snitty about vessels that are not "flagged/documented" at the National/Federal level and may treat you as an "un-flagged" or boat from no-where. The bureaucratic hassles that involves could get nasty and expensive. So I would suggest that you get the vessel "flagged"/registered/documented from your home country before you venture outside USA waters.
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Old 12-04-2010, 20:21   #3
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Thank you for your to-the-point reply and it gives me some clarity on my situation, although it doesn't really solve any problems.

The trouble of course is that the Recreational Craft Directive applied to Belgian registered vessels will be very hard to overcome for my old Westsail 28. So if I cannot fly the US flag I will have to look for another country that will accept non citizens to fly their (federal) flag, or a flag of convenience for example. The RCD is an impossible hurdle to jump.

I have no intention of importing the boat in Europe as I don't intend to live there anymore. Seems like the best bet I have is to put the boat on the hard in storage in the Bahamas and fly back to Belgium. Do you know of any other options I might have ?
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Old 12-04-2010, 20:59   #4
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There are several other threads on CF talking about almost the same situation. Most of the Caribbean Islands (except the French) and some Central American countries will let U.S. State registered vessel transit or operate in their waters. Almost all of the smaller countries have provisions for "flags of convenience" for foreign owned boats. You merely have to research which one fits your particular situation best and either sail the boat there or have it shipped there.
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