Americans who own yachts larger than 300 GT can now flag them in the U.S., thanks to an amendment included on a bill signed Aug. 13 by U.S. President Donald Trump. The new legislation, which received bipartisan support in Congress, reforms a law written in 1920 that defined a yacht as a vessel with a maximum volume of 300 gross tons, meaning Americans with yachts exceeding that limit were only able to flag their yachts in the U.S. if they registered them as commercial vessels.
Since commercial vessels, such as cargo ships, are subject to operational and construction standards different from those of recreational vessels, some American owners in recent decades have pursued acts of Congress for their personal vessels as exemptions, but this route is considered arduous and expensive.
“For at least a half century, ridiculous regulations prohibited American citizens from displaying their patriotism by flying an American flag on their yacht,” stated Tilman J. Fertitta, a longtime yacht owner, star of the TV show “Billion Dollar Buyer,” and owner of Landry’s Restaurants and the Houston Rockets. “This is truly a historic day for American yacht owners and the yachting industry.”
Kitty McGowan, president of the U.S. Superyacht Association, credits Fertitta with a key role in the effort to change the outdated law, along with U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, who spearheaded the legislative action.
“The economic impact of more large yachts flagging U.S. could be significant, as these large vessels would now provide more high-profile opportunities for American crew, keep yachts traveling in U.S. waters and spend more time in our repair and refit yards,” McGowan said in a USSA statement.
The U.S Coast Guard is now developing a U.S. Large Yacht Code, to take effect in 2020. In the meantime, a private yacht over 300 GT will be able to fly the U.S. flag if it is MCA-compliant.
“We look forward to continuing our efforts with the U.S. Coast Guard to help develop and establish the new U.S. flag registry as the best in the world,” stated Jay Dayton, USSA advocacy co-chair.
USSA is a nonprofit trade association formed in 2006 to promote and support the U.S. superyacht industry. For more information, visit ussuperyacht.com.