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Old 19-05-2010, 02:49   #1
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Guarantee of Title when Buying Overseas

I am considering buying a boat in a French territory in the Caribbean and was wondering what gaurantee of tittle or ownership is given. What with all the economic kaos at the moment you don'y want to buy a boat that isn't owned by the seller. What are the laws in different parts of the world?
I'm pretty sure brokers must gaurantee tittle in Australia.
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Old 19-05-2010, 09:30   #2
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I just went through this and found there isn't a "guarantee". Here in the States we have title companies the research property filings and issue an insurance policy when you buy real estate. If, later on, it is found to have leins on it or ownership issues, the policy pays up.

On my boat purchase, I hired a document agent. It cost $4000 US to have them do the documents, and that wasn't the only charge. I had to form a company in the BVI's, have the weight of the boat certified, and other requirements. All together it cost about $7000.

The document agent basically works to make sure you have a valid bill of sale. In my case, the boat was previously owned by an American and registered in the Marshall Islands. The Marshall Islands had to issue a complete bill of sale which was accepted by the BVI's and proof of the transaction. I feel very comfortable that I own the boat, but when your transfering a large sum of money to a person you don't know, it's a little nerve wracking.

In the end, my posession of the boat helped aleiveate that fear. Also, I met the owner during the survey and quickly determined this was chump change for the guy. He had no motivation for a scam.

The boat was, and is, in St. Maarten btw.
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Old 19-05-2010, 13:30   #3
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There is no guarantee.

When you register your boat sucessfully and get to fly the Aussie flag thats the first moment ownership if guaranteed.

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Old 19-05-2010, 15:38   #4
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Thanks, I'm looking at a boat in charter with a large company based in Greece so probably a high risk of bankruptsy at the moment.
Just have to wait and see how it all pans out I guess?
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Old 20-05-2010, 07:16   #5
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Thanks, I'm looking at a boat in charter with a large company based in Greece so probably a high risk of bankruptsy at the moment.
Just have to wait and see how it all pans out I guess?
If the charter company has not paid bills there is a possibility someone who has worked on it (or stored it) might make a claim against the boat in the future. I beleive the claim can be made against the boat, not necessary to make a claim against the owner. You had better get local legal advice in Greece before you commit your money.
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Old 21-05-2010, 06:29   #6
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In some countries registration does not prove ownership. As all things a bill of sale proves ownership.
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Old 21-05-2010, 06:50   #7
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In some countries registration does not prove ownership. As all things a bill of sale proves ownership.
Bill of Sale in these parts (and UK) is part of the evidence of the vendor having good Title and not conclusive 100% proof. A chain of Bills of Sale going back to new is good evidence that the person now selling did buy (and not "find" ) and therefore does now own...........but also not 100% as of course he could have sold the boat 5 times already this week with or without finance also secured on it..........

Therefore someone simply signing a BoS does not "prove" that they own the vessel, so nothing to stop me signing a BoS for anything from the boat moored next berth along..............to HMS Ark Royal

But a BoS is proof of a sale (but only between the parties named)...........as long as the Vendor actually owned the vessel!

In the UK registration does not 100% prove (and certainly does not guarantee) Title. What does?...........in the UK nothing does 100%

In different parts of the world different rules will apply to the above.


In practice of course no great problem for 90% of the time (most folks happy with 99.999999999%), but always good to be aware of what is going and what paperwork you actually need and to consciously accept any risks (or not).............very easy when doing business "abroad" to over assume things as the same as back home. Especially the blindingly obvious things that "must" be the same
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Old 21-05-2010, 09:34   #8
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Here in Ontario, we used to have (and still occasionally have) problems with title fraud during real estate transactions.

The solution the real estate market came up with was to create "title insurance" policies that protect the buyer's ass(ets) if it turns out the seller is pulling legal trickery, or there are hidden liens that the lawyers miss. They're pretty cheap for houses and bring considerable peace of mind to the deal. Perhaps there are (or should be) boat brokers offering similar protections, if title fraud is enough of a worry in the used boat market for people to be concerned?
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Old 26-05-2010, 17:47   #9
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Spoke to broker at the boat show last weekend it seems there is no guarantee but if you stick to a large charter company at least you have their reputation to go on.
As long as they aren't going bankrupt you should be OK.
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Old 26-05-2010, 22:31   #10
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Spoke to broker at the boat show last weekend it seems there is no guarantee but if you stick to a large charter company at least you have their reputation to go on.
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As long as they aren't going bankrupt you should be OK.


The Charter company does not own the boat, usually. Investors own the boats and the charter company operates them. Then when the owner sells the boat the charter company uses their brokerage but they are just offering it as any brokerage would and that is without any guarantee whatsoever. This is particularly so of brokerages based in the USA. They have extras (expensive) steps they like people to do like title search companies etc.

Buyer beware.


I would not pay any money whatsoever (including deposit) if there was no bills of sale and Builders Certificate. You need ALL the bills of sale and the Builders Certificate to get Aussie rego. A builders certificate does not need to be issued by a builder if the boat is for that countries' doomestic buyers. So not all boats have one. Then you have to get the vendor to arrange an builders ceretificate.... not so easy on old boats/lazy vendors who already have the money/defunct countries.

The problem with USA brokers is they require you to pay 10% deposit just to put in an offer to an owner. Completely illegal to do that in Australia, but other countires, other laws.


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Old 27-05-2010, 03:19   #11
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Just to add to MarkJ's comments on Aussie registration. In Oz, once you have it registered in your name (all 64 shares) - you own it - period. This certificate can't be changed except by a ruling from the Supreme Court; however, others can still have a lien against the boat and that lien remains against the boat, not the current owner.

As others have said, nothing is 100%.
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Old 28-05-2010, 19:24   #12
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So let me see if I have this right?
If I as an Australian citizen buy a boat with a french flag, I must have it registered as an Australian ship before I take it anywhere.
I could not for example have it sailed to Tahiti and have it registered there, before importing it to Oz?
Unless it was stil owned by a french national.
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Old 28-05-2010, 21:47   #13
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I don't know the law's of OZ but unless you don't allow foreign flagged boats into your country, you should have more options. Again, I'm an American and have a BVI based company that I am the sole shareholder of. My boat is flagged as BVI so I don't have to pay sales tax. Perfectly legal and used extensively. The cost justification for this starts with boats over $250k. My only potential hassle is that if I cruise in the US, I have to leave the country for two weeks per year.

Where is the boat? Have you talked to a broker? If it's in St. Maarten I'll be there for two weeks starting next week and would be happy to look at her for you.
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Old 28-05-2010, 22:55   #14
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If I as an Australian citizen buy a boat with a french flag, I must have it registered as an Australian ship before I take it anywhere.
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Yess, 100% correct.
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Old 29-05-2010, 18:11   #15
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Where is the boat? Have you talked to a broker? If it's in St. Maarten I'll be there for two weeks starting next week and would be happy to look at her for you.[/QUOTE]

Thanks for the offer,

I'm looking at some boats in Martinique as they seem to have the best prices.

I'm still trying to get onboard an Athena 38 in Sydney to see if it's the boat we want.

It it turns out to be the boat of choice I'll go where ever I can find the best deal.

I've been told the Med is the go to buy a boat but the Carrabean looks better to me, but keeping my options open.

It looks like there are a lot of traps for young players so my research will continue.
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