By Lucy Chabot Reed
Michael Reardon won one of the U.S. Superyacht Association’s highest honors yesterday when he was awarded the Golden Compass for his work to increase the U.S. recreational tonnage limit from 300 tons to 500 tons.
Though the effort was started about three years ago, Reardon and the association’s advocacy committee made headway in the past year through meetings with the U.S. Coast Guard. Reardon is owner of Reardon Yacht Consulting, a Ft. Lauderdale-based yacht management firm.
Under the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, any vessel over 300 tons, regardless of its use, is considered a commercial vessel and must be inspected. Those vessels must abide by a host of safety-related regulations, including some that would not work on yachts (think orange life rings and orange life rafts).
Accepting a change to 500 tons requires proof that those vessels would remain safe and satisfy the U.S. Coast Guard that they would remain safe.
Reardon and others met with the U.S. Coast Guard during the American Boating Congress in May, when it agreed to consider the proposal. Most other Western countries recognize 500 tons as the lower limit for commercial vessels. The next step is to conduct a gap analysis to isolate the proof that private, recreational vessels up to 500 feet will be operated in a safe manner.
The U.S. Superyacht Association has commissioned that analysis, and hopes to meet with U.S. Coast Guard officials again in about six months.
The change, he said, will encourage American owners to flag their yachts in the United States.
“American owners don’t put foreign flags on their yachts for tax reasons,” Reardon said, dispelling the notion that offshore closings and flaggings were a way to avoid taxes. “They are doing it because they don’t have another option.
“What we’re trying to do is take what could be an onerous process and make it more simply so U.S. owners can say, this is safe.”
History and honors
In related news, the USSA also honored the companies that helped start the association 10 years ago. The group’s first chairman, Karen Dudden-Blake of Paladium Technologies, told the story this way:
“In December of 2005, David Reed called me to meet
with him and John Mann of Bluewater Books and Charts and a few other industry leaders. I’ll never forget that day. The impacts of Hurricane Wilma, our Category 3 storm, were still vivid in our minds. It was a time when most were more concerned with the international exhibitors and the impact on their attendance at the show and not about the local companies. It was a real wake-up call for us. We couldn’t count on the U.S. government to have our back like other associations from other countries do.
“So we developed a plan and defined the issues, including lack of berths, longshore requirements, U.S. flagging, and inconsistent U.S. regulations. Eleven founding members paid $1,000 each of their own resources to get it going.
“In September 2006, we were incorporated and official. Our first membership directory had 14 members. I had the honor of being the first chairman, Tim Davey [of ISSGMT] was vice chairman, David was treasurer, and John was our honorary director.”
She remembered how difficult it was in those early days to get meetings with U.S. government agencies. “They wouldn’t take our calls,” she said. “Now, after the work of people like Corey Ranslem, Kristy Hebert and John, now they call us.”
Other milestones include the association’s explosive growth to 66 members one year later in 2007, and its first appearance at the boat show with 16 member companies exhibiting.
This year, the USSA hosts the American Pavilion, attached to the south wall of the main Superyacht Tent with more than two dozen exhibitors.
The USSA also awarded its annual Chairman’s Award to former industry leader Frank Herhold, who passed away in December, and Yachting the Chesapeake, which is working to pull together and market the region to yacht captains.
Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher of Triton Today. Comment below.