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No cruising license, no problem

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By Capt. Debora Radtke

There is a misconception among many captains, crew and yacht owners that a foreign-flagged vessel cannot cruise in the United States without a valid cruising license. They can, and do.

The purpose of a cruising license is to allow private, foreign-flagged vessels to cruise without having to make a formal entrance into each port or place.

(By the way, this privilege of a cruising license is actually only extended to vessels from 27 countries. A vessel registered in Malta, for instance, cannot receive a U.S. cruising license.)

A vessel without a U.S. cruising license can still cruise U.S. waters. The difference is that it must clear into each port by filing form 1300 with the local office of Customs and Border Protection. Each office will then take the yacht’s Certificate of Registry and return a receipt, or Permit to Proceed.

When the vessel leaves the port, its certificate of registry is returned and the vessel is given a clearance out, which can be presented at the next port of call.

There is a $37 fee at each port for this clearance, unless the vessel applies for an annual D/TOPS decal. This decal allows vessels to clear in and out of each port without paying an additional fee.

With the Permit to Proceed, vessels can perform sea trials and cruise within the boundaries of the port, which are outlined in the Permit to Proceed.

Click to read more on U.S. Cruising licenses.

Yes, there is more paperwork associated with cruising in the U.S. without a cruising license, and yes, there is a little more hassle, but it’s possible. And as captains who have cruised around the world are well aware, many other countries charge a great deal more and have more regulations.

There has been a lot of concern recently about changes in the system for obtaining a U.S cruising license. The reality is that CBP is formalizing the application system to make it consistent in every port.

Capt. Debora Radtke is the owner of American Yacht Agents. Comments are welcome below.

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3 thoughts on “No cruising license, no problem

  1. Leo

    On a related note, paying import duty (while keeping foreign registry) obviates the need for a cruising permit and for calling Customs while cruising, according to CBP Baltimore. The duty paid receipt is used to show officials this status.
    Everybody [point out that the import duty for yachts is 1.5%, but I found it’s really 2% after they add other fees, and this can make a noticeable difference. I wonder I anyone else has found this?
    I was also told that if and when the boat is sold to a US person, the buyer also has to pay the same import duty again. Very strange. Wonder if anyone can confirm this?

  2. Fred Brodsky

    The duty paid foreign flagged vessel still requires a Cruising Permit I believe since the Cruising Permit for our vessel has “Duty Paid” stamped on its face.

  3. Ian

    I realize this string is a few years old now. However here is my experience

    My boat is Licensed (not registered) in province of Ontario.
    I was granted a cruising license at a New York port. After sailing south and spending five weeks in Bahamas I returned to Florida.
    I was refused a new cruising license because “licenses are only granted to foreign flagged (registered) vessels.

    Any comments on this inconsistent application of rules?

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