15 Oct 2012
California eases entry regulations for superyachts
In the lead up to the 34th America’s Cup finals in 2013, the state of California has made headway to improve its attraction for cruising superyachts, led by a group of businesses in San Diego. Onerous and costly reporting requirements have been factors that put large luxury yachts off calling into Californian ports in the past, said Todd Roberts of San Diego refit and repair yard Marine Group Boat Works and marina Fifth Avenue Landing. However, amendments to regulations via the Assembly Bill 2005 could prove persuasive in bringing more traffic to the state’s marinas and businesses.
The Assembly Bill 2005 addresses California’s Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act, as applied to non-commercial vessels over 300GT. The Bill was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on 26 September. Roberts led a coalition of San Diego businesses that petitioned legislators in Washington DC to relax the regulations for seven months, and was supported by Assemblyman Martin Garrick.
The Act requires submission of individual vessels’ oil spill contingency plans and procedures, along with paperwork showing evidence of financial responsibility – ie insurance - among others. In the past, strict regulations dictated this documentation relating to the Act needed to be presented to officials at least 21 days prior to arrival in the state of California, under threat of a fine for failure to comply.
The need for such advanced planning was a deterrent to superyacht traffic, said Roberts. Under the recent changes, although the reporting requirements are the same, a vessel has up to 14 days after arrival in the state to present the relevant paperwork.
Photo credit: Fifth Avenue Landing
“The Bill refers to an oil spill prevention and response plan for vessels that quite frankly has no use and has no merit,” said Roberts. “Our argument is that there is a duplicative element to a lot of the information being requested. Most of the superyachts will already have the necessary paperwork, plans and provisions in place but unfortunately the state of California wants it presented in different form. What the 14-day period does is allow the yacht to present its evidence at the dock directly to an official rather than over the internet before arriving.”
Roberts went on to suggest that although this may be seen as California’s issue alone, it in fact affects the whole country when it comes to the perception of cruising in America: “The next stage is to get the industry more active in supporting us. This was a relatively independent effort. It’s seen as a California issue because it refers specifically to our state but it impacts the reception of the United States overall as a cruising ground.
“We were adamant about getting this change in time for the America’s Cup because interest is huge right now; we are getting enquiries regularly already. Which is great bearing in mind we are some 400-500 miles from the venue of the racing. The Fifth Avenue Marina is almost booked full for the periods before and after the Cup,” he continued.
During the petitioning process, Roberts highlighted the study by the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, which showed that for every $1 spent on yacht repairs, another $7 goes into the local economy. This additional income comes from owners and crews seeking hotel rooms, and spending money on restaurants, shopping and entertainment during the repair process. So encouraging superyacht traffic brings benefits to more then just the marine community.
“Our coastal cities and towns rely on tourism, and Assembly Bill 2005 will make it much easier for California to roll out the welcome mat. With the America’s Cup already underway we can expect an influx of large private yachts visiting California. My legislation will ensure those recreational and tourism dollars will be spent here rather than ports in Mexico or neighboring states,” said Garrick.
San Diego has been making other efforts to ease the path of superyachts to its docks this year. In recent months, for the first time in California, the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has designated its first private inspection facility on the west coast for visiting superyachts, which previously all had to clear customs at the main CBP dock. This is located at Fifth Avenue Landing marina.
“Although it is common in places like Florida for Customs to come to the yacht in the marina, it’s the first time we have had this option in California for the visiting yachts. Our intention is to use our marina as a test bed to show Customs how successful the programme could be, and then other marinas will be able to follow suit; it is not for exclusivity. We have cleared about 15 vessels this way so far,” concluded Roberts.
It seems that the continued advocacy within the United States is easing the levels of regulation and legislation that can be seen as a hindrance to visiting superyachts. Hopefully California will be welcoming a healthy fleet of superyachts as spectators at next year’s America’s Cup, and bringing the associated economic injection as well as visibility.
Fifth Avenue Landing profile | Fifth Avenue website
Marine Group Boat Works profile | Marine Group Boat Works website
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