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Old 20-07-2006, 06:56   #1
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Which Flag?

You may wonder why such a title, but I think it would not only provide a really interesting discussion, but hopefully provide a few interesting answers for myself.
I am a UK citizen, living permanently in Australia. It is my ambition to fly to the US, purchase, perhaps a 34ft Catalina (it has to be a US built boat for tax purposes) and then sail it to Australia, where it will be imported.
Does anybody have advice as to which flag to fly. Other comments about such ambition would be gratefully accepted, such as documentation, insurance etc.
Many Thanks
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Old 20-07-2006, 08:01   #2
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In a Perfect World...

there would be no flags or borders...

Generally - one flies the flag of the vessel's country registry off the stern.

But I, personally, do not think it's of any real issue whichever flag you decide to fly... unless you come across a very anal member of a Royal Yacht Club or a by-the-book government official.

We've met a lot of cruising sailors out there who simply fly the flag of their nationality.

Courtesy Flags are a different issue. And one should always try to be courtious when visiting.

I'm interested to know why your boat must be U.S. built for tax purposes and the general details of importing it into the Land of Oz. My darlin' wife is from the Brisbane area and we intend to sail back and settle down a while. Our hull was laid-up in Taiwan and then shipped to the U.S. for commissioning. Any up-to-date info would be much appreciated.

Thanks,

Kirk
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Old 20-07-2006, 08:57   #3
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Flags

Good Evening Kirk from sunny Brisbane.
In 2005, the US and Australia signed a free trade ageement, you can now import duty free into Australia, "US manufactured goods". Hence the reason I,m looking at a Catalina.
Check out the FTA on google and Australia Customs agreement I think you,ll find it interesting. But many thanks for your answer on flags.
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Old 20-07-2006, 10:33   #4
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Kirk,
I'll back up everything Kirk has said. 100% spot on.

Interestingly we're Ozzies, resident now in EU and sailing a UK reg yacht, and only people who've questioned our Ozzie Ensign are Kirks aformentioned blazer brigade.

One even reminded me it is an offense under maritime law for me to fly any other flag than the Brit one!

But dozens of customs officers, immigration officials and port police across EU have not blinked an eye.

So if it were me, I'd go fly the Ozzie ensign with pride. Sounds like you can simply choose what you want.

Cheers
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Old 20-07-2006, 13:30   #5
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we're Ozzies, resident now in EU and sailing a UK reg yacht and only people who've questioned our Ozzie Ensign are Kirks aformentioned blazer brigade
Lots of people do ignore the proper usage, probably not realising that they are breaking the law, and this has led to unwanted interest by Customs etc. I suspect that the "Blaser brigade" were actually trying to help rather than being a stuffed shirt.

I suspect that a US registered yacht is a totally different matter, because the US authorities will not allow it to be US registered with a foreign owner, thus you would need to register it as Aus anyway

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Old 20-07-2006, 15:05   #6
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I think you should fly the flag of the country of registry. Maybe I'm old fashioned but where boats are concerned there is a bit of tradition not to mention the legalities of flying any old flag you wish on a documented vesssel. Now if you're asking which country to register the boat in, I guess you have a few options. As a non US citizen you still can register (known as documentation in the States) your vessel in the US through a "dummy" corporation. At one time non US citizens were not allowed to skipper US documented vessels but this has been changed to allow "foreigners" to captain small US pleasure craft. I don't know the Australian regulations as to whether they will allow non Aussies to register a vessel in Australia but if you can I would think that would be your best bet. You would have to check at your end all the requirements for Australian registry of a vessel overseas. Another approach might be to not register (document) the vessel and fly a Red Ensign to match your passport. Some insurance companies like to see boats documented especially if you intend to sail off! You should also check into the sales tax provisions of the state you're going to buy the boat in especially the part about how soon you have to get out of the state to avoid tax.
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Old 20-07-2006, 18:35   #7
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i don't believe a non us citizen can document a boat in the USA.
fair winds,
eric
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Old 20-07-2006, 20:34   #8
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A non-U.S. citizen can't document a boat in the U.S., but you could set up a corporation to document it. There shouldn't be any problem in registering it in some state--you will have to be able to show some registration if you are ever stopped in the U.S. (unlikely), and will definitely have to have some registration if entering other countries. I hear that French territories have fined U.S. boats large amounts that were just state registered. To register in most states you will have to pay a sales tax (not in RI, NH, and a few others) or else remove the boat from the state rather quickly (10 days in some cases). I doubt you will be able to register it in Australia until you actually import it. Probably the best bet is state registration in a tax-friendly place like RI.
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Old 20-07-2006, 21:25   #9
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Originally Posted by Kettlewell
I doubt you will be able to register it in Australia until you actually import it. Probably the best bet is state registration in a tax-friendly place like RI.
Most countries do not require that a vessel be in or ever be in the country of registry to be registered. Many Canadian registered vessels have never been in Canada. Have you ever wondered how Swiss vessels get to their home port?
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Old 21-07-2006, 03:28   #10
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Flags

Many thanks to you all, you have all provided much food for thought. I,m firstly going to tackle Australian registration, see what anwsers I can get as to registering whilst boat is still in US waters, and to see if I can register prior to actually importing. However corporate registration also seems a possibilty. What is disturbing however is unregistered boats entering French waters being heavily fined, this is the first I,ve heard of this.
What is of note is that after buying boat I am excempt from paying CA state taxes if the "vessel" is taken immediately out of state, and will never return, but it has to be immediate.

Alan
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Old 21-07-2006, 09:20   #11
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Flags, Registrations and First Hand Experience

All correct regarding the need to be a US citizen to federally document a vessel in the US... however anyone can register a vessel in any state of the US and probably any nation, as well.

I'm a roving Yank sailor and (up until now) have never bothered with federal documentation. Our state registrations were accepted in every foreign port across the Pacific, SE Asia, Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Mediterranean & Caribbean... even though they had long expired.

On the rare occasion when a port official mentioned the fact that the registration was out of date - I simply apologized and and said we were "just trying to get home, Sir".

It was NEVER a problem.

I've heard (mostly in harbour pubs) that some French Territories have a problem with US state registrations and I've heard tales of fines, bonds, cheap wine and nuclear testing, etc... but have yet to actually meet anyone who has had any first hand problems with French officials in this regard.

From my own personal experience with "the Check-in Shuffle" the vast majority of officials look at us pleasure sailors as a fly on their cake when my wife and I walk into their office and would much rather not have to be bothered with us. Their main concern is cargo, commerce, smuggling and big shipping matters and we yachties are just more paperwork.

For example: The "official" word while traveling the Greek Isles is that "one must check into every port" but when I asked about this "necessity" while checking in at Rhodes... the man in uniform looked me in the eye and said "Don't Ask" and gave us a wink & a smile.

No Problemo.

The same was true with Malaysia.

The ONLY time flags were ever mentioned by any uniformed officials was in regard to our yellow Q Flag.

The ONLY time registrations were ever a real issue was when we'd been in a US port long enough and that we really should register the boat locally... which we gladly do.

I carry old flags and boat registrations from California, Hawaii, Guam & the US Virgin Islands (Guam was cheapest) and I freely admit that I'm usually guilty of operating vessels with expired registrations within a year of departure. I always do my best to comply with local requirements, yet I certainly do not believe I'm guilty of any real "crime" other than having too much fun to be bothered with keeping paperwork up-to-date.

Furthermore - I freely admit that I've flown flags of many colors whenever the notion suited me (one would be crazy to fly the Stars & Bars in the Persian Gulf right now) including a big Peace Sign and a Don't Tread On Me flag.

And foreign officials have never made an issue of it anytime, anywhere.

From my experience - most Port Authorities (including customs & immigration) are primarily interested to see that the names on the boat documents match at least one of those on the passports.

If you have nothing to hide and stay out of trouble, you have little to worry about.

In a Perfect World there would be no Flags or Borders... or people giving me $#*t for not doing things their way.

That's why Aye prefer life at sea!

Kirk
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Old 21-07-2006, 12:38   #12
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Buying a boat in the US can be a problem for an alien. Well, anyone an buy the boat, but the paperwork and all gets more complicated from there. If you buy aboat with a motor in it, you'll probably be required to pay state sales tax on the "motor vehicle" if you apply for a matching state registration. That can be 3-8.75% of the purchase price. That's on the state level and you would need to check with the state Department of Motor Vehicles or other appropriate agency (i.e. state Dept. of Taxation and Finance) in the specific state to be sure. The laws will vary in each state. The good news is, if you are an alien (even from another state<G>) and taking the boat out of state with you, it is often exempted from the taxes. But again, that will vary and you MUST get set up before the sale to make sure you meet rules.

There is no federal "registration" available. US Vessel Documentation for a privately owned pleasure craft (as opposed to commercial craft) is available only to US citizens, and IIRC corporations can only apply if they are more than 51% US-owned. A dummy corporation presents problems of its own.

So, legally? You're probably left with taking it home without US papers. You may be able to get some kind of "transit" or import papers from Oz to sail home with. Other than than, you'd only have US state registration, and you'd have to ask the folks at home how they'd respond to that when you try to import the boat.

The correct flag to fly, of course, will depend on how you've flagged the boat. I suspect you can get the correct Australian papers for it by mail (or Fedex) and so have it properly flagged and documented as Australian before you leave the US, unless you're in a great hurry.

The US & UK have some odd treaty relationships, as I recall the treaty ending the War of 1812 gives UK vessels the right to navigate up the Mississippi River without clearing US customs. So while you're here...do check out the options.<G>
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