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Rules of the Road: NZ considers charter yacht rules for 2021 Cup

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Rules of the Road: Capt. Jake DesVergers

Maritime New Zealand is currently considering how the regulatory regime will apply to yachts visiting New Zealand for the 36th America’s Cup in 2020-2021. A story in the February print issue indicated otherwise.

The America’s Cup is the oldest international sporting trophy in existence. Established in 1851 by the United Kingdom’s Royal Yacht Squadron, the competition consists of a trophy being awarded to the winner of match races between two sailing yachts. The Defender, representing the yacht club currently in possession of the Cup, contests against a Challenger, representing the yacht club seeking the Cup.  

The most recent America’s Cup, its 35th running, was held during June 2017 in the waters of Bermuda. Golden Gate Yacht Club (USA) unsuccessfully defended a challenge from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. Thus, the America’s Cup was transferred to its new home in New Zealand. The next defense is scheduled to take place in March 2021 near Auckland.

As to be expected, this prestigious race attracts its share of spectators. Of course, the best way to watch a sailing race is on the water. That requires charter yachts – and lots of them.

While New Zealand has its share of recreational vessels, the number of large luxury yachts is not as numerous. In anticipation of this demand, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) has published guidance for those yachts seeking to conduct charters in their waters. As of February, no final ruling has been made on the guidance.

Because most yachts will be temporarily visiting and likely sailing under a foreign flag, an application for a short-term exemption from the Maritime Operator Safety System (MOSS) may be necessary.  MOSS is the inspection scheme used by MNZ to ensure charter vessels meet certain national and international safety criteria.

Before beginning the application process with MNZ, which they recommend allowing at least three months to process, the guidance recommends that the yacht must meet this criteria: (1) carry twelve passengers or less; and (2) be 500 gross tons or less.

The process expects to start with the submission copies of the yacht’s statutory and classification certificates. These include:Certificate of Registry

* Certificate of Registry

* Ship Construction Certificate

* Certificate of Class

* International Load Line Certificate

* International Tonnage Certificate

* International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate

* International Sewage Pollution Prevention Certificate

In addition, the considered guidance recommends that a certified statement from the yacht’s classification society be submitted confirming that a Safety Management System is in operation. This will be either a full ISM Code-certified safety management system or a “Mini-ISM” as outlined in Chapter 23A of the REG Yacht Code – Part A.

A current Certificate of Survey, or equivalent, along with the corresponding check sheets and survey report is expected to be required.

The yacht is expected to be required to provide a documented explanation of how it will comply with the requirements for pilotage, as applicable.

Particular review will be made by MNZ to a yacht’s compliance with international conventions. These will include the REG Yacht Code, SOLAS, MARPOL, Load Line, Tonnage, COLREGS, and MLC.

As with any yacht visiting a particular location, the boat is expected to be subject to inspection by Port State Control. MNZ reserves the right to complete this inspection before the consideration of any exemption approvals. This is especially important for a yacht’s schedule, as arriving just before the America’s Cup begins will not leave sufficient time. Being physically in New Zealand waters, perhaps several months before the event begins, may be necessary.

MNZ emphasizes that while each application will be considered on a case-by-case basis, in no instance shall any allowance be made that may affect safety or protection of the environment.  

Applicants must be aware that there is no guarantee that every request will be approved. Definitely, no assumption shall be made by a yacht that any approval is automatically granted simply by submitting paperwork.

Capt. Jake DesVergers is chief surveyor for International Yacht Bureau (yachtbureau.org). Comments are welcome below.

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