Yacht Registration

I was born in the UK, Andrew was born in Australia, we both now live in New Zealand and also have New Zealand citizenship and are planning on buying a boat in Europe to sail back to New Zealand.

With all these nationalities we have got options on which country we register our boat in. Like all things there are benefits and weaknesses depending on which option we go for. Here is what my research has turned up:

New Zealand Registration

When a ship registered in New Zealand travels overseas, its registration gives it the protection of the New Zealand Government. This is in much the same way as a New Zealand citizen is protected while traveling overseas. The ship’s registration papers provide proof of identity like a passport does for a person.

There are two ways to register your yacht – Part A is for larger vessels and involves a title of sorts which can also have a mortgage listed against it. This type of registration remains with the vessel all the while it is owned by a New Zealander. The cost is $2160.00 for a new build or $3024.00 for an existing yacht.

Part B registration lasts for 5 years and terminates when you sell the vessel. It is designed mainly for pleasure craft. The cost is $720.00.

Some excellent information about registering boats can be found on the Maritime NZ website.

The other consideration is that NZ registered vessels have to have Cat 1 safety certification to leave New Zealand. This can be a very expensive exercise, requiring the boat to be hauled out and inspected to prove that it has all the relevant safety equipment on board. While this can be expensive and inconvenient, I do believe that having the yacht prepared to that level of safety is really important.


UK Yacht Registration

Again there are two parts. Part 1 is similar to part A for NZ – however the cost is only GBP124.00. British Citizens overseas are eligible to register using this one. Part III is similar to our part B but it stipulates that you must be resident in the UK for 185 days a year and we won’t qualify for that. The cost for that one is GBP25.00. More information can be found on this website. Both of these options last for five years.

It also states that if the yacht is owned jointly by two people, and one qualifies and the other doesn’t, then the other partner can have a minority shareholding. Ships/yachts for the purpose of registration, are divided in to 64 shares. so as the British Citizen, I should have 33 shares and Andrew 31.

The other consideration with being UK registered would be the VAT implications. If we buy a yacht in Europe, the intention would be to take it out of the EU and not have to pay any tax until we import it back in to NZ. See below…

Australian Registration

As Andrew is an Australian citizen, we also have the option of registering the boat in Australia. The General Register seems to be similar to Part B or Part III – and the cost here is AUD$1190.00. More info here.

The Decision

A flag – or country of registration is a symbol of loyalty, belonging and affiliation.

An open registry or flag of convenience is a country that allows people from any nationality or with no affiliation to register their vessel in that country. Closed registries or national registries require people to be either a citizens of that country to register their vessel there.

The certificate of registry is evidence of ownership and nationality of the vessel.

Well weighing up all those options, the British Registration does definitely come out the cheapest, and the next time the boat left New Zealand then we wouldn’t be required to get the Cat 1 certification.

The Australian option is the most expensive, but again would mean that we wouldn’t need to do Cat 1 when departing NZ.

However we have decided to go with the New Zealand option for the following reasons:

  1. We will be intending to purchase the boat VAT (tax) free in Europe because we will be exporting it. By having it registered as a British boat, this might make the export argument less plausible.
  2. Both Andrew and I will be able to travel on our New Zealand passports, on our New Zealand registered boat. Meaning that we all get the same protection from the NZ Government when traveling abroad. I think things could be a bit confused if we had a British Registered boat, with an Australian and a New Zealander on board. Keep things simple & less confusing all round if we are all the same.
  3. New Zealand is our actual home, where our kids live, and where we will retain our residential tax status. While this does have certain financial constraints, it does mean that if anything should happen we will be able to come home and still be able to access the public health system, or if we set off our EPIRB, then the NZ Search and Rescue teams will assist with our recovery.

We will keep our Australian and British passports current so that should we lose our New Zealand passports we will still have options.

What are your thoughts? Where is your boat registered? Do you have any advice or suggestions in regards to boat registration options?

14 thoughts on “Yacht Registration

  1. I remember when we looked into this too – register our boat in the States (where we were born), NZ (where we’re permanent and tax residents) or Ireland (we also have dual citizenship). We ended up going with the States for a variety of reasons – cheaper, less stringent (no Cat 1 requirements) and matches our primary passports.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Viki and Andrew
    I like the safety of having things be straightforward and “honest” even if it’s not the most convenient or cheapest option. If you sail around Europe before heading home, you may run into other snags. Some American cruising friends, Ed and Sue Kelly, wrote an article for Practical Boat Owner last year outlining their nightmares with Schengen restrictions for non-EU cruisers. Here is a link to the article (http://www.pbo.co.uk/news/change-in-visa-could-welcome-worldwide-yachtsmen-1061). There are ways to do it, like planning your cruising route to spend time in the Med’s non-Schengen countries. But maybe if you have a UK passport you can get around all this? It may be important as to whose name is listed as the owner or principal owner of the boat. Good luck with the plans ! (Fun, even if frustrating, right ?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for that link Maria. Interesting stuff. We are off to New Caledonia next week. I will have a chance to use my rusty school-girl French on some unsuspecting shop keepers! Can’t wait 😉


  3. Right now our boat is registered Canadian, cause we are! But we are thinking to have it registered Marshall Islands. Would form a Cie and the boat will be the property of the Cie. That way, if something happens, it is not the individuals that would take responsibility… We see too much Americans suing for any reason, we don’t want to take that risk.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The UK doesn’t require registration and part III was invented to pacify our European friends who wanted some kind of proof of ownership of boats coming from here. It’s not stringent at all. Fill in a web form and they send you a certificate and that’s it. As far as I know nobody checks anything.


  5. Pingback: Ocean Yachtmaster | Astrolabe Sailing

  6. Hi there,
    I’m just trying to understand buying a boat overseas and registering in NZ. Something I’m unclear about…if a NZ flagged vessel needs to be certified cat1 before heading overseas, what happens if you buy the boat overseas? When does it have the Cat1 survey? Seems a bit of a catch22.
    Kind regards,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Gerry,
      My understanding is that the boat only needs cat 1 when you’re actually departing NZ and as soon as you’ve left it actually expires. So if the boat is already overseas then it’s not an issue. Cat 1 is more a case of ensuring the vessel and her crew are fit and prepared for the long voyage to anywhere from NZ – which is of course a major undertaking. The registration is just an administrative process. Hope that helps!


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