Reflagging new-to-us boat in Med - which flag?

nmeyrick

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The wife and I are in the process of negotiating the purchase of a used boat, currently in Italy. The boat is currently US flagged, but has VAT paid status after being imported into Sweden by the current owner - we will of course verify this prior to completion. We are both UK citizens and resident in Spain. Note that I've confirmed that there is no longer any requirement for Spanish residents to flag the boat in Spain, and that we are well aware of the issues around Matriculation tax in spain, for which we are seeking professional advice. I've seen plenty of threads here on these subjects and don't wish to add further to that!

The topic I'd love to get any insight on is the question of how to flag the boat. I've read numerous posts on here about whether to reflag boats in the Med to an EU flag in the hope of "flying under the radar" and attracting less interest from customs and immigration people, most of which seem to end with the conclusion that its not worth the agro of changing and they would be as well to stick with the red duster.

However the position we are in is that the boat is not currently UK registered, and as UK citizens but not UK residents we would appear to be eligible for Part 1 but not SSR registration. As my wife is also a US citizen we could actually keep the current US flag if the boat was owned solely by her, although I'm not convinced that's necessarily the ideal flag to have in the EU either.

Firstly does anyone have experience of how strictly the residence requirement of SSR is applied? For example is it one of those situations where we could provide a relative's address on the registration docs and nobody would care, or could that create all sorts of problems? The last thing I would want to do would be to have our papers rejected by a foreign customs official because we weren't a UK resident - bearing in mind that we may be relying on our Spanish residence in order to remain in Spanish waters.

If we decided that SSR was not an option that would leave Part 1, which I understand is rather more onerous and expensive; it seems like we shouldn't have too much difficulty proving a trail of ownership but flying a tonnage surveyor out to Italy sounds like it wouldn't be cheap!

Against this there is the perception I have that a UK flagged boat is more likely to attract interest from customs and immigration people around the Med. This may be all in my mind, and I would love to hear anyone that has experiences that support or refute this, but I suspect given the pandemic this year is probably too soon to know for sure. For the avoidance of doubt we fully intend to comply with all immigration requirements, monitor our Schengen time etc - but it sure would be nice to avoid having to prove this to local officials any more frequently than strictly necessary.

So given that we are starting from a blank slate I wonder if it would be worth finding a friendly EU flag; Poland is one that I've heard mentioned but I would be open to other suggestions. Spain is not under consideration given how onerous their regime is.

Does anyone here have experience with having a boat flagged in another EU country (without a citizenship or residence requirement) that they can recommend or caution against?

Thanks
Neil
 

sailaboutvic

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To start this off , unless you are living in the UK in other words have an address with bank detail in your name at that address you have a problem with getting a SSR .
The other thing I say is , we consider changing flag but we throught we see how this year go and how many time we get boarded because ,
Answer twice both times they wasn't interested in flag, vat or how long we been in the EU , all they where interested in was insurance , reg, and a quick look at passport to make sure they belong to us .
No question asked and the whole lot took less then 5mins both times
On we stay on SSR and play it by ear .
As you said you plain to abide by every rule in which case if you can get a SSR I would just go for it , it's easy cheap
 
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Tranona

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While it is perhaps unclear about what may happen in the future, Having a UK flag has never been a problem. Flag state is nothing to do with the EU, but international maritime law. EU VAT and Schengen are probably more an issue and it may well be that having a UK flag may attract more attention, but as Vic says, insurance, registration document and passport are what is normally inspected.

In your position I would go for Part 1. Pretty sure you will find there is an MCA approved tonnage surveyor in Italy, but it is also possible to get temporary registration so that you get the survey done later when you are closer to a surveyor. Speak to the registry in Cardiff.
 

wwalsh

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For tonnage measurement it is also possible via various ship classification societies including the Italian RINA
Tonnage measurement of UK ships: Authorised organisations
It is also possible to get 3 month provisional UK Part I registration without tonnage measurement which cannot be extended. After expiry it is necessary for tonnage measurement and submission of all the required documents to get the full registration.
 
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Irish Rover

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I note the boat is US registered. Is it owned by an individual or a corporation? Is it US Coast Guard registration or State registration [Delaware being the most usual]? If it's State registration be aware that there are also issues with that and it may not be strictly legal although, at the moment, European authorities seem to accept it.
 

billskip

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Do you have the qualifications to skipper the boat under the flag you chose? Eg you can as a UK registered SSR flag skipper up to 24 mtrs and engine size not questioned, but for a Spanish flag you are restricted to 5mtr and 5hp un qualified I think, I dont know about US flag....Greece was the same yrs ago. Also if under a "foreign" flag you need a radio licence in that language...

I would go for SSR and fix the address problem....
 

sailaboutvic

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Do you have the qualifications to skipper the boat under the flag you chose? Eg you can as a UK registered SSR flag skipper up to 24 mtrs and engine size not questioned, but for a Spanish flag you are restricted to 5mtr and 5hp un qualified I think, I dont know about US flag....Greece was the same yrs ago. Also if under a "foreign" flag you need a radio licence in that language...

I would go for SSR and fix the address problem....
Fixing the address problem , isn't that easy ,
Once you could use anyone address but it's all change now and not only SSR.
Dutch,Belgium are not longer available to non resident.
And now the MCA have a new site , I know people have had problem and a call and they do it over the phone or email you the form but without your name at a register address and a bank or credit card in your name at that said address you can't get an SSR
 

billskip

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Fixing the address problem , isn't that easy ,
Once you could use anyone address but it's all change now and not only SSR.
Dutch,Belgium are not longer available to non resident.
And now the MCA have a new site , I know people have had problem and a call and they do it over the phone or email you the form but without your name at a register address and a bank or credit card in your name at that said address you can't get an SSR
I didn't suggest it was easy, but its imho the best workaround.
Captsensible lives in landsagrot, maybe he can shed some light on the risks of a Spanish flag for example.
The op may have or be able to get the necessary legal requirements, I dont know, I think it should be taken into consideration and the risks assessed.
 

sailaboutvic

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I didn't suggest it was easy, but its imho the best workaround.
Captsensible lives in landsagrot, maybe he can shed some light on the risks of a Spanish flag for example.
The op may have or be able to get the necessary legal requirements, I dont know, I think it should be taken into consideration and the risks assessed.
Bill you miss read my message,
I didn't suggest you said it was easy , I'm just stating it no longer easy to get a SSR .
The op may have a bank account in his name on a UK address for all I know , in which case he shouldn't have a problem .
 
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billskip

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Bill you miss read my message,
I didn't suggest you said it was easy , I'm just stating it no longer easy to get a SSR .
The op may have a bank account in his name on a UK address for all I know , in which case he shouldn't have a problem .
It's all down to risk and the individuals personality.
If something goes tits up, have you covered your arse.
I'm conscious of these things and they worry me, perhaps unnecessarily, but some just wing it and keep smiling.

Edit...I still think if it was me I would go for a solution for SSR
 

nmeyrick

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It's all down to risk and the individuals personality.
If something goes tits up, have you covered your arse.
I'm conscious of these things and they worry me, perhaps unnecessarily, but some just wing it and keep smiling.

Edit...I still think if it was me I would go for a solution for SSR
Thanks all for the helpful replies. Billskip you’ve hit the nail on the head.

As it happens I probably do have what I need to jump through the hoops to get SSR, even if I may not strictly meet the criteria. I'm not much of a winging it type so would probably look to get the part 1 rather than risk opening a can of worms. But maybe the SSR would do at a pinch if needed while I go through the process for part 1 - as from what I read the temporary part 1 only applies if you will be bringing the boat to U.K. to finalise it.

I’m actually surprised everyone seems agreed that U.K. registration is the way to go - I’ve evidently been away from the forums for a while as I don’t remember people agreeing about anything! ;)

For what it’s worth the fancy marine lawyer I spoke to also reckoned red duster was the way to go to keep things simple.

wwalsh thanks for the pointer about RINA - hopefully that will be cheaper than paying forna london surveyor to have a weekend in Italy!
 

Koeketiene

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1. Check the VAT status paperwork - I have my doubts whether a US flagged boat can be EU VAT registered.
2. As your wife is a US citizen, I would consider keeping the US registration. CG or state reg?
3. As you plan to keep the boat in the EU, there is IMO no difference between US and UK reg - both are a 'third country' as far as the EU is concerned.
4. As has already been pointed out, Belgian and Dutch registration are no longer an option for non-nationals/non-residents.
However, another thread on here (might have been SB), suggested Polish registration might be an option if you are planning the keep the boat in the EU for a long time.

🇵🇱 Polish yacht registration €469 (incl VAT)
 

Tranona

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1. Check the VAT status paperwork - I have my doubts whether a US flagged boat can be EU VAT registered.
Flag of registration has nothing to do with VAT payment. The latter is levied when a boat is put into service when new - that is sold to a private owner or imported into the EU (or UK). No compulsion to register a boat in many countries, although compulsory registration in some states of the EU may also include evidence that VAT was paid. VAT paid boats can be owned by anybody and registered in their state of choice. so no problem to have a US registered (and owned) boat that is VAT paid. In this case the boat was imported into Sweden and the evidence the OP will require is the customs receipt for VAT (and maybe duty) paid on importation. Assuming the boat is still in the EU it will have free movement with the new owners.
 

nmeyrick

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Thanks all for the responses. I’m conscious of the vat concerns and seeking professional guidance to ensure it is covered.

Polish registration is the other option I’ve seen discussed but I haven’t been able to find any first hand accounts of experiences using it, pros & cons etc. If anyone has any insight on this it would be much appreciated

thanks
 

Graham376

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A few years ago lots of people trying to avoid their national regulations changed to Dutch flag which turned out to be invalid. Increasing numbers are now changing to the Polish flag and my guess is authorities are more likely to target those than a UK flagged boat which has been a common sight in EU waters for many years.
 

billskip

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A few years ago lots of people trying to avoid their national regulations changed to Dutch flag which turned out to be invalid. Increasing numbers are now changing to the Polish flag and my guess is authorities are more likely to target those than a UK flagged boat which has been a common sight in EU waters for many years.
Yes I remember when I bought a boat in Greece with a Greek flag,they said then I could not skipper it because I would need Greek qualifications and have fluent Greek for the radio license.
Many ignored this and a few got caught, I got stopped and ordered into Lavrion by the greek coastguard and had to show all papers, fortunately I had re registered to SSR and British flag.
 

Lorrendraaier

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You may want to consider registering your yacht in the EU, if the VAT and import levies have been paid any way, as she is then probably easier to sell in the future. If she is registered in a non-EU flag state, the VAT status is valid for just three years. That means if you would want to register her in the EU after three years, VAT and import levies would have to be paid again.

If as a UK and US paspoort holders you have a permanent Spanish residence permit there are a number of EU states where you will be able to register your yacht, including the Netherlands. Poland is however one of the less complicated flag states to register a vessel and relatively cheap.
 

billskip

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You may want to consider registering your yacht in the EU, if the VAT and import levies have been paid any way, as she is then probably easier to sell in the future. If she is registered in a non-EU flag state, the VAT status is valid for just three years. That means if you would want to register her in the EU after three years, VAT and import levies would have to be paid again.

If as a UK and US paspoort holders you have a permanent Spanish residence permit there are a number of EU states where you will be able to register your yacht, including the Netherlands. Poland is however one of the less complicated flag states to register a vessel and relatively cheap.
Yes, but does he have the required license to skipper the yacht under the EU country flag? For example if I change my flag to an EU country, say Spain, I would be restricted to skippering the yacht to Spanish regulations.....
 

Koeketiene

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Yes, but does he have the required license to skipper the yacht under the EU country flag? For example if I change my flag to an EU country, say Spain, I would be restricted to skippering the yacht to Spanish regulations.....
Not all countries have such strict requirements as Spain.
There are EU countries that do not require any formal qualifications.
 
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