Gibraltar: Yacht Registration and Ownership

Gibraltar is a territory outside the EU customs union, yet in close proximity to Spain, France and Portugal. It is a British port of registry and therefore combines the advantages of British yacht registry with non EU ownership and registration.

Fiduciary Marine Services Limited specialises in the registration of yachts and through its close association with Isolas 1892 is able to offer legal services such as advising on the purchase of your vessel, assistance on registration of mortgages, legal opinions on transactions, yacht chartering agreements and crew employment contracts

The Red Ensign is an internationally recognised flag of choice and is not seen as a flag of convenience. Gibraltar is a Category 1 Red Ensign Group Register and therefore yachts, and ships for that matter, registered in Gibraltar benefit from all the advantages this brings with it. British yachts, wherever situated in the world, may seek assistance from any of the many British Embassies and Consulates throughout the world.

Today we are spoilt for choice. Often the decision on which yacht, or should I say style of yacht, is defined by your own background and whether you have been competing in dinghies as a youngster and therefore have a preference to sail, or are new to the scene and prefer the sometimes easier choice of motor. Added to this the fact that it is also possible to choose a hybrid where motor and sail come together in harmony can make deciding very interesting.

On registration British law applies to the yacht and the registration procedure provides evidence of ownership of the yacht thus making the transfer of ownership straightforward. The register contains all the necessary details concerning yachts and requires all legal mortgages to be registered there. Therefore, by merely inspecting this public register, it can be ascertained whether a yacht is free from a mortgage or not. This provides two main advantages:-

i) Title can be easily inspected offering the buyer security as to title as well as enabling the seller to dispose of his yacht more easily and speedily;

ii) As the register is open to inspection, it is easier and quicker to obtain mortgages by producing a transcript of register to the potential mortgagees showing that the vessel is free from encumbrances.

Likewise, there are a number of Flags to choose from although, on occasion, it may just be a simple matter of where the vessel will be berthed or perhaps the fact that you are a member of a particular Yacht Club. If, however you wish to consider the various options available to you then the Red Ensign has to be one which, pardon the pun, flies high on your list.

So having decided which yacht and where you wish to register leaves one final decision to be made: How should I own my yacht?

There are many ways in which this can be done, however the two more common choices are individually being an EU national or via a company. Obviously the value of the yacht plays an important part in this decision as smaller costal pleasure craft do not usually choose the corporate structure as there are no real benefits against the cost, which can be kept to a reasonable amount, of maintaining a company.

For the larger vessel corporate ownership offers substantial benefits.

These include the simplification of the future sale of the vessel as it is achieved by the transfer of shares of the company rather than the transfer of ownership at the registry. Where the company is established in a suitable jurisdiction, as an example Gibraltar, the transfer of shares is by way of a transfer form signed by the shareholders on receipt of payment. The ownership of the vessel remains the same as far as the Registry is concerned, hence a simplified, efficient and cost effective way of transferring the vessel.

In addition corporate ownership offers limited liability. This is a very distinct advantage of corporate ownership as it provides the shareholders with the protection they need against any potential future claims. Where the yacht is of a particular size and value limited liability is a very real benefit and particularly so when the yacht is made available for charter purposes.

Finally, there may be tax and VAT benefits to corporate ownership, however, these can only be determined on a case by case basis with proper professional advice.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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