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Old 11-05-2015, 19:13   #1
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Clearing customs while changing ownership?

No cruising experience, but am in the process of buying a tidy little 32 foot cruiser. Slight logistic challenges:
  1. I'm in NZ and the boat is in Fiji
  2. I need to keep the boat somewhere before bringing it to NZ in October/November - recommended time for passage.
  3. I'll pay the duty and taxes for NZ, but I want to also avoid paying them for other country while waiting. So for example, sale can not happen in Fiji.
Have googled, but not much info around..and I'd like feedback on the following..
  1. Seller and I complete contract of sale, and include a term that transfer of ownership will come into effect after boat checks out of Fiji and is in international waters, and then seller sends off his de-registration paperwork.
  2. We prepare Bill of Sale and once seller leaves Fiji, this is signed and I am then the legal owner. I will give him letter that he can show to whoever that I have given permission for him to be delivery skipper etc. The seller can sail from Fiji to New Caledonia (possibly via Vanuatu). No ownership change between checkin and checkout for any country, so no taxes due?. Anyone know if seller can clear customs with me as the legal owner even if his name as owner than on the registration papers?
  3. Once the de-registration comes through, then I can register the boat as a NZ ship - having the de-reg certificate is required.
  4. Then it's a matter of finding somewhere to keep the boat until November - Vanuatu or New Caledonia are probably the most likely options - but no marina in Vanuatu.
Suggestions welcome.
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Old 11-05-2015, 21:44   #2
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Re: Clearing customs while changing ownership?

Damn all that seems complicated. Couldnt you find a boat thats already here to buy ? There are lots for sale.

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Old 11-05-2015, 23:57   #3
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Re: Clearing customs while changing ownership?

Agree, plenty of boats for sale in NZ...much simpler.
Short answer, no you can't clear the boat out of Fiji with you as owner if your name is not on the registration papers which it won't be 'cos you don't own it.
Unless you're prepared to do something illegal...but if you do, more than likely you'll get caught and it will cots you a lot more than if you'd followed the rules.
See you out there ....... Alan S.V. Elyse
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Old 12-05-2015, 01:17   #4
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Re: Clearing customs while changing ownership?

Thanks for the replies.
  1. Yep - complicated in that there are multiple steps and timing is relevant, but none of the steps seems actually difficult.
  2. The intention is for the process to be completely legal. I am waiting for a response from customs in New Caledonia - as their web site has some information which seems promising. In the meantime, I thought I'd see if anybody here had relevant experience.
  3. Lots of boats for sale in NZ - a pretty stagnant market and I've been looking for something suitable for a while - but almost none in my budget are or would be fully equipped easily single-handed offshore boats. The seller is a friend of a friend and the boat and the included inventory of equipment and spares is simply a much better package than anything else I've seen in NZ.
  4. I should have made the original post a bit clearer - the seller clears out of Fiji without problems because nothing has changed. The question is whether, if he fills in the forms 100% honestly, he would have any problems checking in to the next country - specifically Vanuatu or New Caledonia, while waiting for the certificate of de-registration to come through.
  5. Seems that if the boat was registered as owned by a corporation, then it could be a matter of transferring shares, so unless there were significant extra costs, I might do this instead of registering it in my own name in NZ.
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Old 12-05-2015, 01:19   #5
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Re: Clearing customs while changing ownership?

best way is for you to be named as" skipper" to move the boat then complete the sale in NZ,where you can dereg and re register at your leisure.

other way is for the boat to be owned by a company and shares are transferred to the new owner,where the registration stays the same in the name of the company
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Old 12-05-2015, 08:12   #6
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Re: Clearing customs while changing ownership?

Hi Sean,

Why make it more complicated than you need it to be?

If he is willing to bring the boat to NZ, why not sign a Bill of Sale that only comes into effect when he delivers it safely to your port of entry in NZ? The mney can be placed in an escrow account for his peace of mind. You can then pay him on clearance into the "Shakey Isles" along with the appropriate NZ taxes. The Bill of Sale should get him through the door if you wave it at the right people prior to his arrival.

And why go to Vanuatu and New Caledonia when it's much quicker, cheaper on wear and tear, and less of a hassle to go direct?

Just my thoughts,
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Old 23-10-2016, 18:13   #7
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Re: Clearing customs while changing ownership?

Sean, would you mind relating how the process played out for you?
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Old 24-10-2016, 04:44   #8
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Re: Clearing customs while changing ownership?

My experience was that New Caledonia provided a way to transfer ownership without incurring sales tax there.
It seems a long time ago now, but mostly because it took two goes to get the boat to New Zealand - the first trip from Vanuatu was aborted due to bad and worsening weather and we ran out of time - so I left the boat in Noumea for 6 months, before bringing it to NZ in May this year. So, lots of air miles as well as 2000 offshore miles.
The New Caledonian customs officials were very helpful, and facilitated the transaction without any sales tax/import duty, as neither buyer or seller was a resident of New Caledonia. So, the seller (owners) arrived from Fiji - checked in, then they deregistered (Austrian registration - took a few weeks), I registered the boat in New Zealand (to a company I set up, as I'm not a citizen)), and we provided the paperwork to the customs official (sale agreement and registration/de-registration documents) and they updated their entry documents to show that the boat came in under the new owner, so that when I checked out as skipper, there was no questions/issues. I've heard that there can be a time limit for the boat staying in New Caledonia after the transfer, and we were headed for Vanuatu in any case (for cyclone season), but the letter I got gave me 6 months. Next step was to complete the import paperwork in New Zealand - most people go through an agent (so customs NZ had to set me up as a user for their online system, but they were really co-operative). I paid the import duty and GST (calculated on the purchase price). All up it took a bit of time to do the paperwork (for example, getting the Austrian de-registration translated to English by a translator registered with NZ government agencies), but I was lucky in that the people I dealt with in New Caledonia and New Zealand seemed to be happy to help me get it sorted. I know enough school French to apologise in advance. My impression was that the customs in New Caledonia might not be quite so helpful if you did't turn up in person - but I understand there is an agent who can help for a fee...)
Would I recommend buying a boat offshore to others? Yep - if the boat is what you want and the numbers work out. My experience was that it is not a difficult process once you can fill in a few forms and have time to work things through with the customs folks. Getting the boat to NZ took longer and cost me more in flights than I anticipated, and I had to upgrade some things for a serious passage which many local gulf cruisers can survive without. (After 4 days sailing into reinforced trade winds, I decided that a dry cockpit was a happy cockpit, and got a sailmaker in Noumea to make up removable sides for the bimini - makes Winter sailing more comfortable too).
Overall was it worth the trouble? Well - I got the boat I wanted and importing it legitimately and only paying tax in NZ saved a bit of money and had a side-effect - I started off without much sailing experience, and now I've got 2000 miles offshore experience - some of it in pretty uncomfortable conditions, and I know the boat well enough to confidently single-hand it unless it's very rough. (I enjoy the independence rather than the solitude). And I've already seen the boat stand up to conditions that I'm pretty unlikely to be out sailing in around the Hauraki Gulf. I had a whole lot of fun in the process and met some really good people..both delivery skippers and crew for the passages worked out very well.
Hope this helps anyone who is considering an offshore purchase...
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