As 2013 draws to a close, many will look back on the past year as one focused on regulation – the Spanish Matriculation tax, EU VAT changes, MARPOL amendments and the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC), to name a few. Indeed, introduction and implementation of regulations in 2013 has, for many, reached the point over over-indulgence with many hailing a year of over-regulation.

It is primarily commercially registered superyachts, however, that have born the burden of 2013’s statutes, which raises the question: will new owners choose to register their yacht privately rather than commercially for mere ease, and are existing owners considering shifting from commercial to private for the same reason? SuperyachtNews.com investigated, speaking to registries large and small, with a very mixed response from the industry.

Some registries have seen little or no alteration when it comes to choice of registration, perhaps due to what Captain Christophe Hezelgrave noted in a recent debate on TheCrewReport.com: “Regulation often inconveniences but seldom confuses.” Antigua & Barbuda Department of Marine Services Chief Marine Surveyor Captain Chris Balls reported: “There has not been a noticeable difference in commercial or private registration numbers over the past year, with some vessels changing registration according to the area which they are cruising and of course the desires of the owners.”

Transport Malta revealed to SuperyachtNews.com that it had seen a tangible change, but not one contingent with speculations pertaining to a movement away from commercial registration. “The Merchant Shipping Directorate within Transport Malta, which is responsible for the administration of the Malta flag, does not report any droppings in the number and tonnage of commercial yachts – and pleasure yachts – registered under the Maltese flag. In fact, during the period October 2012 to October 2013, Malta registered an increase of nineteen per cent in terms of tonnage and fourteen per cent in terms of number of commercial yachts on its register.


It is primarily commercial superyachts that will feel the effects of 2013's heightened regulations

There is widespread agreement that the 2013 wave of maritime regulations has not yet affected registrations in the way proposed, however a prominent registry speaking with SuperyachtNews.com disputed this, though asked to remain unnamed. “The regulations regarding the VAT are so unclear at this point. [The owners] are just saying, ‘Look, I’m done with the commercial stuff in the EU. It’s becoming too expensive, a headache and I’d rather use the boat privately.’ We’ve seen increased [private] regulations … There’s a decrease in the level of true commercial registrations … A lot of people are finding there are more private registrations happening because of the non-clarity and the increased expense of running a commercial yacht.”

While there is no concrete evidence to confirm the effects of 2013’s regulations on the superyacht industry, the amalgamated comment we see above does confirm there is still some confusion as to the repercussions of 12 months of heightened regulation; though the coming 12 months could hold the key. Yachting Advisor Alexander Von Stein told SuperyachtNews.com: “We hope that in the next year there will be further clarity in the application of the EU VAT rules and how it is applies to charter in the various EU territories.  Those owners deciding to register as commercial should be confident they are operating in a legal and efficient way with minimal financial risk.”

Over the next year we will see more member states enforce the MLC – specifically, those that ratified the MLC after the Convention’s ratification on 20 August, 2012 – and it is likely that 2014 will provide the industry with the tangible evidence needed to asses the true impact of 2013’s regulations on the yachting sector.

Profile links

Transport Malta

Antigua & Barbuda Shipping Registry