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Sales, refit tax breaks underway in Fort Lauderdale

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By Dorie Cox

Two of Fort Lauderdale’s largest yachting centers are the first to get final approvals to activate Foreign Trade Zones. Both Lauderdale Marine Center and Bahia Mar Yachting Center received the FTZ designations June 7. As many as a dozen more companies are in line to achieve the same.

The designations will alleviate duty and taxes on imported parts and boats, and will likely be a financial benefit for builders, dealers, brokers and the refit industry, said George Whitehouse, director of business development at LMC.

“It is like a boat show year round,” Whitehouse said.

The foreign trade zone designation benefits to the yachting industry include:

  • In major refit projects, duties can be deferred on all imported parts while the yacht is in the zone. Once the project is complete, the vessel must depart the U.S. to avoid paying required duties or taxes on those items.
  • All boats in the zone, including foreign-flagged vessels, can be shown to U.S. buyers for sale and conduct sea trials.
  • Foreign-made new builds can be brought into the zone without the need to pay the typical 1.5 percent import duty. New builds brought into the U.S. within the past three years can use the FTZ designation to file for a refund on previously paid duties.
  • Vessels can come and go as needed from the zone to accommodate owner trips or charters.

Bahia Mar Marina

LMC serves as both marina and boatyard, and Whitehouse said the zone will not only benefit builders and dealers, but the entire brokerage community for large yachts. LMC also expects a boost in refit work at the property, which offers 60 on-site contractors for a variety of marine-related services.

A boat can come into the FTZ slip and get anything imported, from couches to engines, straight to the boat, Whitehouse said.

“No duty or taxes are paid,” he said. “That could be substantial if it’s a big refit.

Lauderdale Marine Center, with the skyline of Ft. Lauderdale in the background, is one of the largest service and repair facilities in the United States. PHOTO BY DAVE KRESGE/davekresge.com

Both LMC and Bahia Mar are working with Customs officials to meet requirements that include restricted access and monitoring of boats and parts. Bahia Mar will work with a company that will track each vessel’s movements, including sea trials and/or travel into another zone.

Bahia Mar requests two weeks notice to prepare activation of the zone, according to Megan Lagasse, general manager at Bahia Mar. She said she expects the worldwide yacht industry to take advantage of the designation since Bahia Mar is home to the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. This year’s show runs Nov. 1-5, and the location was recently secured for the next 30 years [see news brief on Page 4].

“It will positively affect the yachts, yacht owners and yacht brokers because they will not have to pay the duty on ‘for sale’ vessels when bringing them into the U.S.,” Lagasse said. “They will also be able to show the vessel for sale to U.S. residents. Before, they were unable to do so.”

The entire Bahia Mar Resort and Marina property was given the FTZ designation, however only certain areas will be activated as clients request them for both in-water slips and upland properties, Lagasse said.

The actual operator of the FTZ is the Marine Industries Association of South Florida (MIASF), which was approved by the U.S. Department of Commerce late last year. Karen Reese, the FTZ administrator for the city of Fort Lauderdale, said the 16-site marine industry subzone under MIASF is the first recreational marine foreign trade zone in the United States.

Bahia Mar has high expectations.

“We are hoping that the brokers and owners use this designation to their advantage,” Lagasse said. “And we hope that this will encourage more U.S. residents to become yacht owners.”

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comment at dorie@the-triton.com.

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