On 13 August, 2018, Donald Trump, president of the United States (US), signed off on a piece of legislation that would make it possible for yachts over 300gt to fly an American flag and register their yachts in the US. Until now, US law had defined yachts as vessels with a maximum volume of 300gt. That law, however, had been written in 1920 and never update until now.

“This has been a significant issue that the US Superyacht Association (USSA) has spent nearly a decade working to correct,” said Kate Pearson, USSA chair and vice president of business development of Safe Harbour Marinas. “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.”

Under the previous system, owners with a yacht exceeding 300gt were unable to fly an American flag, unless the vessel was commercially registered. However, commercial registration would require the yachts to be built to the operational and construction standards of commercial vessels. Therefore, flying the American flag was not a practical solution. In some isolated instances, a handful of owners pursued acts of Congress for the yachts to be flagged as exemptions, however, the process was both expensive and arduous.

The new legislation, an amendment included on the bill that was signed by president Trump, received bipartisan support in Congress throughout its development. “I am very pleased that the president has signed legislation that will increase the number of large recreational vessels which fly the US flag,” comments congressman Duncan Hunter, representing California’s 50th District and chair of the subcommittee on Cost Guard and Maritime Transportation.

“The economic impact of more large yacht flagging US could be significant, as these large vessels would now provide more high-profile opportunities for American crew, keep yachts travelling in US waters, and spend more time in our repair and refit yards,” says Kitty McGowan, president of the USSA.

While a specific US Large Yacht Code is now being developed by the US coast guard, due to go into effect in 2020, in the interim, a private yacht over 300gt that is MCA compliant will now be able to fly the US flag.

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