US superyacht owners can now sail more easily under US flag

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2019 has been passed into law, and a non-defence provision was included that will change the rules relating to the registration of US-flagged superyachts.

Since 1920 private recreational vessels of more than 300 gt in the US had been required to register as commercial vessels in order to sail under the US flag. Historically, many prominent American yacht owners had chosen to flag with open registries instead, allowing them to avoid the compliance costs associated with American merchant vessel standards.

The superyacht provision in this year’s NDAA directed the Coast Guard to develop a non-commercial code of regulations for recreational vessels over 300 gt. In the interim, it will allow yachts to register in the US under the standards of the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s Large Commercial Yacht Code (LY3) rather than current US rules.

Kate Pearson, USSA chair and vice president of business development of Safe Harbor Marinas, said that “this has been a significant issue that the U.S. Superyacht Association (USSA) has spent nearly a decade working to correct,” adding that “we are thrilled to have been an integral part of helping to finally make it a reality and are pleased that yacht owners will no longer be chased from American shores to other countries to flag their vessels.”