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Delaware Yacht + Vessel Registration - A Warning!

05 May 2016

It is the purpose of this guide to provide information on the registration of yachts in the US State of Delaware and to make existing and prospective users aware of the potential for the system to be challenged by foreign jurisdictions.

Delaware is a U.S. state located on the Atlantic Coast in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state is a popular jurisdiction for the formation of companies and corporations.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife Office of Boat Registration is the vessel registration authority for the State of Delaware.

It is not uncommon to encounter Delaware registered yachts cruising internationally and in the Eastern Mediterranean it is arguably one of the most commonly found 'foreign' yacht registrations.

The prevalence of so many Delaware registered yachts in these countries is often as result of the low costs of the system and the apparent ease of the process. The perceived strength of an attachment to and the support of one of the world's leading superpowers is also attractive to many yacht owners.

Although the Delaware yacht registration is a popular system, both existing and potential users should be aware that a Delaware vessel registration is a State Registration which is a local registration applying only to vessels that are principally used within the coastal and inland waters of the issuing state’s jurisdiction. 

Importantly US state registration does not grant US nationality to the vessel and thus does not automatically afford access to any international treaty rights, privileges or the protection of the USA.

Delaware regulations provide that a vessel is deemed to have its state of principal use in Delaware if it is to be used, docked, or stowed on the waters of Delaware for over 60 consecutive days. 

Vessels registered in the State of Delaware are accordingly issued with a credit card sized 'State of Delaware Registration Certificate', the reverse of which states the state of principal use is Delaware.

It is therefore possible for a foreign jurisdiction to declare the Delaware registration of a vessel to be invalid on the basis that a state registration is not valid for cruising outside US waters and/or the vessel is not used principally within Delaware waters.

If a vessel's registration is declared invalid then the vessel itself is effectively stateless and in contravention of international maritime law.

Whilst many foreign countries apparently tolerate the operation of Delaware registered vessels in their waters we are noticing a growing awareness of the limitations of the Delaware system amongst port state and customs authorities.

We suggest that in cases where owners require a yacht ownership and registration structure that is located in a third party jurisdiction to where the vessel might be based or from where the owner is a national or resident then there are more robust internationally valid options available and we would be happy to discuss such options with potential clients.

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@oceanskiesltd

17 February 2020 at 15:14

Today we have been in Viareggio with @azimutbenetti for the survey of their latest @Azimut_Yachts Azimut 27 Metri undergoing red ensign registration - pls contact us for a registration proposal or go to oceanskies.com to use our flag selector #yachtregistration pic.twitter.com/Y6TZ47WbEp

@oceanskiesltd

13 February 2020 at 19:29

Today we have been in Bordeaux with a very busy @Lagooncats for the tonnage survey of latest Lagoon 52F undergoing red ensign registr by Oceanskies - pls do not hesitate to contact us for a proposal or go to oceanskies.com to use our flag selector #lagooncatamaran pic.twitter.com/Od4Jcs7khU

@oceanskiesltd

11 February 2020 at 20:13

Today we have been in La Rochelle, France with @NautitechCat for the tonnage survey of their latest Nautitech 46 Fly sailing catamaran undergoing red ensign registration by Oceanskies #Nautitech #yachtregistration #yachtregistry #yachtregister #tonnagesurvey #redensign pic.twitter.com/u4tev2MzJu