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SUPERYACHT #7
Winter 2006

Article selected from our quarterly magazine dedicated to the largest and most luxurious boats with information, interviews, technical articles, images and yachting news


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Article by
Andrea Petragnani Ciancarelli


INTERNATIONAL YACHTING LAW

It's now a well known fact that yachting, especially with regard to large vessels, can no longer be considered the exclusive interest of one single country. Certainly considerations of a national character may be a reason for pride, speaking in terms of production, and in this sense the figures achieved by famous brand names in international boat building are common knowledge. But the superyacht phenomenon, for reasons that will be highlighted below, must be considered in planetary terms, also with regard to regulations. The present writer has already pointed out this necessity, in the monthly magazine Nautica, as an indispensable factor in connection with large vessels. Let's see why.

The objective to establish an International Yachting Law is based on precise requirements linked to the commercial technical/production aspect, dynamic in the sense of navigation and safety. This is borne out by the increasingly numerous congresses dedicated to yachting. But also and especially by the general evolutionary process of this particular branch of seafaring. We should not forget that international law grew out of the need for a uniform discipline regarding trade, within the sphere of a millenary maritime law. In effect the sea, cradle of this subject inasmuch as it is an element linking seaboard countries, has always featured a high degree of internationality. So it would certainly be an error to imagine a different, more limiting fate for Yachting Law.

Moreover, companies operating in the international nautical world, those that produce components and even more so those that build vessels, must step into line with the standards imposed, first of all, by the shipping registers. All this can be summarised in uniformity of finished marine products under the profile of constructional criteria but also the need for similar uniformity with regard to regulations for use. In practice these international standards contribute increasingly to the need, in a certain sense, for increasingly more similar products, for obvious reasons of safety. Nevertheless these rules also aim to facilitate the use of such yachts by means of common principles. So we need to regularise not only construction but also maintenance of these vessels in accordance with universally recognised technical criteria. This is why the International Register was set up. It follows that equally common principles adopted with regard to navigation rules will certainly have a propulsive effect in facilitating movement and therefore marketing. This is universally acknowledged and was recently maintained by Carlo Agliardi of Fraser Yacht. The superyacht world today is characterised by an indisputable internationality, and from a business viewpoint the easy movement of these vessels is the best vehicle for selling them. However, all this should come about without problems or obstacles. These statements also evidence the need for international regulations.

The national initiatives taken by Great Britain (MCA), Holland (CCV) and Italy (RINA) on the subject of a Large Yacht Register represent, in terms of rules, strict regulatory standards on the part of individual countries, but they certainly bear witness to a shared spirit regarding the general reference principles, especially in constructional and safety terms. The new owner of a superyacht, when he must choose which flag to fly under, has several options of register, certain of them more attractive with regard to specific requisites, usually concerning taxes and privacy. We are sure that in the coming months other potentially attractive states, in terms of their flag, will present their own regulations. This in my opinion will bring about a "levelling" of the individual features, making them in the end increasingly similar. We don't intend to linger here over details of the individual regulations mentioned above since they are amply described in this section. But we feel it opportune to underline the two propelling elements of these different national regulatory creations: the "commercial" use of superyachts and the importance of the privacy factor.

As for the former, it's clear that this luxury yacht phenomenon is in rapid growth, precisely due to the possibility of using these vessels as small and profitable cruise ships. This has certainly contributed to reviewing of the concept of yachting also from a regulatory viewpoint at international level. So we are no longer dealing with vessels for personal, pleasure use, as they are unanimously understood to be, but business instruments employed all over the world. This has contributed to the creation of a new type of vessel, half pleasure craft and half business craft. It is not by chance that the difficulty of applying these rules is borne out by the need to reshape the International Register on which these vessels must be enrolled, a register created for merchant ships but which must be extended to superyachts. But there certainly remains a high spirit of internationality on the subject, also because we are dealing with vessels built for international sailing, and this demonstrates the need for countries to adopt criteria in common, in acknowledgement of the "commercial use" concept. In practice, for example, it will be necessary to demonstrate the existence of a charter contract at market rates, even if the direct or indirect owner is on board. This means, at the moment of carrying out the usual formalities with the Port Authority, a uniformity in terms of rules, forms to be filled in and the consequent applicative criteria. Only by means of full definition of these problems will it be possible to let these yachts sail as much as they want to, with all the well known benefits.

But what seems to me a high added value is the concept of privacy which only certain flags can guarantee. Various owners have always had the need to conceal their connection with the vessel, for obvious reasons of confidentiality. Though the entrepreneurial class today see their yacht as a media instrument, there is still a great need for anonymity on the part of other owners. And this will maintain the success of flags belonging to the usual "satellite states". So we feel that the evident efforts made by Great Britain, Holland and Italy, with extremely inviting regulations in fiscal terms, will certainly lead to a number of new enrolments. However, these facilitations will have no effect on wealthy owners who, in spite of a clear series of economic and tax advantages, always see the confidentiality factor as a main element when they come to choosing a flag.

In conclusion, and in the light of such important initiatives that bear witness to the internationality of the subject, we must wish success to these rules inasmuch as they reflect tried and tested standards, which is clearly demonstrated by the prestigious class certificates that recent regulations require. This with view to avoiding, as happened in the past with merchant vessels flying "convenience flags", the international charter market being invaded by vessels enrolled on registers that are not very demanding in terms of safety. Something that would be to the detriment of everyone who strongly believes in the need for increasingly greater professionalism in this fine world of yachting. But today it is certain that the need for international regulations is a widespread feeling. It was also communicated through the direct testimony of professionals, mariners and otherwise, who attended the courses in "Yachting Law" held by the present writer at Viareggiofucina "The School of Yachting".

petragnani@fog.it