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Old 02-03-2016, 07:25   #1
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Location: Caribbean - currently cruising Grenada
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Issues with Buying a Foreign Flagged Vessel (French)

I'm looking at purchasing a French flagged catamaran located in Sint Maarten. I'm an American and familiar with the USCG documentation requirements and process but have no experience with purchasing a French flagged vessel, having it deflagged and reflagged with the USCG. To make the matter more complex the vessel has an existing mortgage with a French banc.

Anyone who has first hand experience with this process that can walk me through the steps and timelines is greatly appreciated. From my initial research it sounds lengthy.


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Old 16-04-2016, 04:25   #2
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Re: Issues with Buying a Foreign Flagged Vessel (French)


I am a broker but I have to deal with this issue regularly. The best thing to do is contact a company that deals with customs and duty. One in Ft. Lauderdale is Steele Reader.

From what i know,

1.If you are a US citizen and intend to bring the boat in you may have to show proof of Duty paid or pay the 1.5% duty. I am not sure how ofter the Department of Rev investigates this, but if you resell the boat, the broker will ask you for this.

2. If the there is no proof of duty paid, the broker cannot show the boat to US citizens.

3. If you are caught, you may have to pay up to 15% penalty and the 1.5% duty.

4.Believe it or not, US Customs does not keep records!!!

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Old 16-04-2016, 04:51   #3
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Re: Issues with Buying a Foreign Flagged Vessel (French)

I read this as buying a French vessel in the Netherlands to bring to the USA.

The #1 issue here is getting a clear title to the vessel.. after that I suspect its pretty straightforward...
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Old 18-04-2016, 14:27   #4
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Re: Issues with Buying a Foreign Flagged Vessel (French)

Summary of my experience buying a French Flagged vessel although with no loan on my end or the sellers:

The vessel was located in French Polynesia. The seller had two brokerages offering the vessel for sale: one in France (Outremer), one in FP. I ended up working with both of them.

Roughly speaking, there were two steps in order to actually own the boat. Step1 was getting a deletion certificate from the French marine registry. Step2 was sending that to the USCG with the typical form(s).

Step1 (France) required:
- Vessel paid for, held in escrow by the brokerage
- A physical copy of the signed bill of sale (French version
"Acte de Vente") by both myself and the buyer sent to the French registry (in France). Actual copy.
- The boats original "Acte De Francisation" (like the certificate of documentation), sent to the French registry. Signed by the previous owner. Actual copy.
- Proof of my own residence (photo copies okay). Gas bills, etc.
- A French "power of attorney" document to allow the French yacht broker to act on my behalf.

Step2 (USCG) required:
- All the usual stuff required by the USCG in addition to the physical (no photocopies) deletion certificate that the French registry provided as a result of all the step1 activity.
- Note, the USCG BOS had to be signed and notarized by the sellers. This was difficult in FP as the sellers had to fly to Tahiti and could not accomplish this on Raiatea.

Other stuff:
I was told that after step1 and 2 were completed, I would need the USCG certificate of documentation in order to exit French Polynesia with the boat. When it came time to clear out, the Gendarme who I cleared out with did not ask but I went through great lengths to make sure I had it.

For step1, the Outremer broker in France physically drove the documents to the French Registry and obtained the deletion certificate same day and mailed it overnight to me. I have no idea how long this would take without an "inside man".

I was told as well (although I don't know how sure I am about this) that the boat was mine from when the "Acte De Francisation" was signed because it could not longer be insured by a French Insurer, meaning that it was under my insurance from there forward.

When I made landfall in Hawaii, I wrote a check to US customs for the import duty tax since the boat I was buying had never been imported to the US. 1.5% of the price paid.

I program managed the S*** out of the whole leviathan buracracy and did everything I could to expedite. It took ~6 weeks to get the COD in the Marquesas. The only section of the process that I couldn't nail down a specific time table on was the USCG.....who were also under threat of furlough by the debt ceiling hostage situations. They took about 2 weeks with a form to expedite.

Hope that helps. Its one experience of many though so I'm sure that somethings I was told or did may have been legally unnecessary. Feel free to message me if you have questions about my experience.
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buying, enc

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