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Foreign Yacht Registration Overview

What you should know about foreign yacht registration.

Foreign yacht registration on both the national and provincial levels is similar to what we have in the United States. However, conducting title research in various offshore countries presents unique challenges, especially when it comes to language barriers, currency exchanges, and international time differences. The issues of export or import duties, fees, and taxes can also come into play as potential encumbrances. The following is a basic overview of what one should know about foreign yacht registry on the national level as it relates to titling, liens, and mortgages.

While foreign entities have adopted national yacht "registration", "registry", or "flagging" systems of their own, these are not unlike U.S. Coast Guard vessel documentation. Although their administrative processes are typically handled by the appropriate governmental offices, it is not unusual where such function has been contracted over to privately owned agencies. The Resources page of our website offers a link to summary listings of the most common countries which engage in federal registration or flagging activities. These include contact information and basic details about their respective rules and regulations.

As a general rule, foreign vessels must have complied with various size or tonnage qualifications required for entry into their respective registry systems. Citizenship rules will also apply which may vary from those strict requirements for U.S. Coast guard for documentation purposes. Vessel numbering and marking requirements usually consist of an assigned registry number and a designated vessel name along with the hailing port. Upon acceptance into the registry system, a Certificate of Registry would be issued and destined to be carried on board during periods of operation.

Joint individual or legal entity ownership methods will of course depend on those which are recognized by the respective government. Although most will sound familiar, others may vary from what we encounter here in the United States. In Canada for instance, vessel ownership is expressed in terms of "shares" with a total equaling sixty four. Although vessel mortgages are available in most countries, these and other liens may not always be indexed or recorded on the vessel's abstract of title or transcript of registry. In Australia for example, vessel mortgages and other liens or claims are handled through a nationwide Personal Property Register.

Title research on foreign registered yachts typically begins with obtaining a copy of the vessel's current Certificate of Registry and an Abstract of Title or Transcript of Registry. The transcript will show all recordings pertaining to the vessel during times of active registration. This includes ownership transfers and in most but not all cases, any recorded mortgages, claims of lien, or encumbrances. These are sometimes found in other governmental or privately contracted agencies. Although most often available in English, abstracts or transcripts of registry may need to be transcribed by a certified professional translator.

Our website offers a Foreign Yacht Registration Summary which is linked from our "Resources" page. However, these do not currently address matters of vessel import or export duties, taxes, fees, and other liabilities. A professional import broker should therefore be employed when appropriate for such purposes. It is also advisable to consult with maritime attorney or professional titling agency in the respective titling jurisdiction unless one has full confidence that an existing owner can or will provide all off of the necessary documentation.


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