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Old 19-02-2008, 13:31   #1
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Which Flag?

Hi there, Not sure where to post this, feel free to point me to the right place on the forum:
I am buying a catamaran for a tradewind circumnavigation and I must choose where to register her...Delaware looks attractive (cheap!) but I dont want a US flag if it going to cause "problems" in some 3rd world countries like parts of South and Central America, Indonesia, Red Sea or where-ever? Am I being overly cautious? What about going to Cuba? I am South African, the cat is in the Caribbean, there seem to be a lot of flagging options with a wide range of prices. Anybody have bad or good experiences with any particular flags? Secondly can anyone recommend a good company to take care of the registration? Saw a company called offshoregate.com on the net, anybody use them?
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Old 19-02-2008, 15:04   #2
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You might also consider registering in one of the Red Ensign jurisdictions, which include:
Bermuda , Cayman Islands , Gibraltar , Isle of Man
Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Falkland Islands, Guernsey, Jersey, Montserrat, St Helena, & Turks and Caicos Islands.

Goto:

Red Ensign Group
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Old 19-02-2008, 16:00   #3
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OffShoreGate appears to be a Croatian setup and will deliver you a Delaware registration and a HIN (Hull Identification Number) if you don’t have one yet. Registration in Delaware is only valid to the 31st. December of each year so you might consider the 3 year option they offer.

If you prefer Red Ensign registration, you might look into Gibraltar. There’s an enterprise located there called RegisteraYacht.com and they appear quite competent. They charge £800.00 for registration of a pleasure yacht and £120.00 for a ship station licence and you don’t have to be incorporated, which is quite often a requirement.

A third option is to register your boat in Malta. This is the route I’m taking (with Gibraltar as my backup) and although it costs a bit more, the services of the law firm I’ve employed down there appear to be quite professional and they deliver all the goods.


Also, the Maltese flag just looks so cool...


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Old 19-02-2008, 16:25   #4
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According to international law, you cannot fly the flag of a country different from where the vessel is documented. I see a number of Cayman Islands flags on a number of very large yachts in the SF Bay Area. I think that is more for tax purposes though.

Personally, I think you may be a little overly concerned about flying the US flag. Visiting foreign countries is much more about your attitude than your nationality. People are people wherever you go and most can see you for who you are regardless of your countries politics or its leaders. You will still need to declare your citizenship by showing your passport when visiting customs...so whats the difference? I have never experienced this myself but I wonder if you may get questioned as to why US citizens are operating and crewing a Maltese registered vessel for example. Its something that perhaps someone else has had some experience with?
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Old 19-02-2008, 16:59   #5
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I'd love to hear more opinion on this. I would think that a group of American passport holders on a Maltese ship would raise more eyes with immigration and customs than a US registered boat.

Singapore requires Singapore residency or citizenship to skipper a Singapore registered boat. I wonder if other countries are like that? Maybe a US citizen couldn't skipper a Maltese ship in Maltese waters/ Probably wouldn't matter elsewhere. At a minimum I would expect you would have to show authorities that you are "legal" to own a boat outside your home country. I think it would raise too many questions.

I have talked to a lot of cruisers registered from UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, US and even Isreal. Only the Isrealis had horror stories of where they were welcomed or not.
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Old 19-02-2008, 18:44   #6
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I believe that the U.S. Coast Guard has the right to board and inspect any U.S. flagged vessel even if it is in international waters. Personaly I view this as harassment especially if you are not committing a crimminal act. After all we do not allow the police to enter our homes or search our cars without a warrant or probable cause. If you spend alot of time in international waters where the Coast Guard is active this could prove annoying if they get overzealous. If you plan on spending little time in U.S. waters foreign flagging would be an option to consider. I am not clear on what country you hold a passport from and as some others have said this may have a bearing on the best course of action.
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Old 19-02-2008, 19:26   #7
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I guess there are a number out there that have a lot of money and one way they have it is to skirt US rules/taxes etc. I don't have that kind of money, nor do I know much about skirting tax laws.

I grew up in third-world country's.

Personally, I feel privileged and proud to be an American!

If some feel the need to flag their vessel to another country then they should also feel free to move on over and renounce their American citizenship. I won't miss them!
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Old 19-02-2008, 19:52   #8
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I believe that the U.S. Coast Guard has the right to board and inspect any U.S. flagged vessel even if it is in international waters. Personaly I view this as harassment especially if you are not committing a crimminal act. After all we do not allow the police to enter our homes or search our cars without a warrant or probable cause. If you spend alot of time in international waters where the Coast Guard is active this could prove annoying if they get overzealous. If you plan on spending little time in U.S. waters foreign flagging would be an option to consider. I am not clear on what country you hold a passport from and as some others have said this may have a bearing on the best course of action.
Whatever country you're from has the right to board whatever flagged vessel (ie, a Canadian Navy vessel can board a Canadian flagged vessel, etc). I'm not sure if there's any country on earth that this isn't the case for, so I really wouldn't single out the USA.

The odds of the USCG or USN stopping your boat, on the high seas, to conduct a random search, is insanely small. I was in the Navy and we only played that card when there was good reason to believe something illegal was happening. It's just not worth stopping a warship that's on a mission to do random searches. If a captain is going to stop you, there's going to be a very good reason. Even for a USCG cutter, it probably has a crew of a couple hundred, and they all have to switch gears to deal with your boat.

The USN and USCG are out there doing a lot of good; as a former blue jacket I'd really ask that you not view maritime law enforcement, that's been in effect as long as boats have had sails, as harrassment.
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Old 19-02-2008, 19:54   #9
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Also, in international waters you can boarded by nearly any warship, regardless of your flag or their's, if they feel you are violating a law usually UNCLOS.

Captains learned a long time ago that it's not very hard for you to put whatever flag you want to on your transom, regardless of what should be there.
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Old 19-02-2008, 22:03   #10
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The odds of the USCG or USN stopping your boat, on the high seas, to conduct a random search, is insanely small. I was in the Navy and we only played that card when there was good reason to believe something illegal was happening. It's just not worth stopping a warship that's on a mission to do random searches. If a captain is going to stop you, there's going to be a very good reason. Even for a USCG cutter, it probably has a crew of a couple hundred, and they all have to switch gears to deal with your boat.
Doing 45kts in a cigarette boat on a bee line between Cuba and Miami at 3 AM might qualify as suspicious...
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Old 19-02-2008, 22:15   #11
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Doing 45kts in a cigarette boat on a bee line between Cuba and Miami at 3 AM might qualify as suspicious...
He wasn't just checking El Radar?
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Old 19-02-2008, 23:07   #12
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I don't want to hijack the thread so I will respond to you and that's it. I have been boarded twice in the Great Lakes for the sole reason that I just happened to be there. No citations were issued. I have no problem with the job they do except I don't feel they should be able to board my vessel unless I am either doing or suspected of doing something illegal. I know it has been this way for a long time and the fact that it only affects a small portion of the population may be why it is not much of an issue. Think of the uproar if your local police had this power.
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Old 20-02-2008, 11:57   #13
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OffShoreGate appears to be a Croatian setup and will deliver you a Delaware registration and a HIN (Hull Identification Number) if you donít have one yet. Registration in Delaware is only valid to the 31st. December of each year so you might consider the 3 year option they offer.

If you prefer Red Ensign registration, you might look into Gibraltar. Thereís an enterprise located there called RegisteraYacht.com and they appear quite competent. They charge £800.00 for registration of a pleasure yacht and £120.00 for a ship station licence and you donít have to be incorporated, which is quite often a requirement.

A third option is to register your boat in Malta. This is the route Iím taking (with Gibraltar as my backup) and although it costs a bit more, the services of the law firm Iíve employed down there appear to be quite professional and they deliver all the goods.


Also, the Maltese flag just looks so cool...


Just being nosey, but apart from the set up costs do any of these also cop you for annual fees? and if so do you know how much or a ballpark?
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Old 20-02-2008, 12:18   #14
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Now that this thread is well off the track line, I think I will make it worse. The Supreme Court has ruled that Coast Guard boardings are not the same thing as illegal searches as described in the Constitution. According to the rulings, a boat is not the same as a home on land. I'm not saying this is right or wrong...I am just stating the facts.
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Old 20-02-2008, 12:25   #15
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These are not multi-million dollar mega-yachts subject to exorbitant tax laws. Why would you not flag it in the country you're a citizen of? Now that South Africa is no longer a pariah nation, why not register it there? I have seen many South African flagged boats in the Caribbean and the Bahamas.
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