Want to Fly old Glory?

a change in law means amer­i­cans with yachts over 300 gross tons can now have the U.S. flag on their tran­soms.

Yachts International - - Boats Of Distinction - By Gary Beck­ett west­porty­achts.com

Pres­i­dent trump re­cently signed the John S. Mccain na­tional de­fense au­tho­riza­tion act of 2019, which in­cluded a pro­vi­sion di­rect­ing the U.S. coast Guard to de­velop—within one year—a non-com­mer­cial code for recreational yachts over 300 gross tons.

Since 1920, those yachts have been re­quired to reg­is­ter as com­mer­cial ves­sels to be flagged in the United States. Many own­ers have in­stead flagged their yachts in other coun­tries with open reg­istries, be­cause U.S. com­mer­cial rules for cargo ships and the like weren’t com­pat­i­ble with yacht con­struc­tion and oper­a­tions. the new law brings the United States in line with Bri­tain, which has the large yacht code (ly3).

But more than a month af­ter it was passed, it was still un­clear ex­actly what the im­pact of the U.S. law would be.

“We don’t know what we don’t know yet,” said kitty McGowan, pres­i­dent of the U.S. Su­pery­acht as­so­ci­a­tion, which was the law’s pri­mary backer. “one of the most dif­fi­cult chal­lenges we’re go­ing to find at the beginning, if we have a lot of folks de­cid­ing to do that, is hav­ing enough amer­i­can crews. that would be an in­ter­est­ing prob­lem.”

the new law in­cludes U.S. cit­i­zen­ship re­quire­ments for yacht own­ers and their crew. It also bars yachts over 300 gross tons from car­ry­ing cargo or pas­sen­gers for hire, so the yachts can­not be char­tered. McGowan said that bare­boat char­ter­ing may be al­lowed, but de­tails still need to be sorted out with the U.S. coast Guard. de­spite the un­cer­tain­ties, lead­ers in the yacht­ing in­dus­try are op­ti­mistic. “While the change in ton­nage re­stric­tions won’t com­pletely change the yacht busi­ness, it is a re­moval of a bar­rier to com­merce,” said Paul Flan­nery, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the In­ter­na­tional yacht Bro­kers as­so­ci­a­tion in Fort laud­erdale. “this is im­por­tant for the en­tire in­dus­try be­cause it pos­i­tively im­pacts all of us. More boats mean more jobs, and if they are flagged U.S., there is a greater like­li­hood they will spend more time in do­mes­tic ship­yards.”

While the new code is still be­ing writ­ten, McGowan said, the coast Guard can im­me­di­ately ap­prove U.S. flag­ging for large yachts. the push to en­act the law re­ceived sup­port from sev­eral U.S.-based yacht own­ers—es­pe­cially til­man Fer­titta, who stars in the “Bil­lion dol­lar Buyer” tV show and owns landry’s restau­rants, as well as the Houston rock­ets bas­ket­ball team.

“I know of two large ves­sels that are reg­is­tered in Ja­maica, which is more com­mer­cial than yacht-fo­cused,” McGowan said. “these own­ers now are look­ing to flag U.S.”

Amer­ica’s most pro­lific builder of large yachts, West­port was founded in 1964 to sup­ply ves­sels to the Pa­cific North­west’s com­mer­cial fish­ing fleet. Over the years, the ship­yard moved to yacht con­struc­tion and helped to ad­vance com­pos­ite con­struc­tion tech­nol­ogy. West­port cur­rently has six boats in build, half of which are sold. They in­clude two W112s, two W125s, a W130 sched­uled to launch this fall, and a W165.

“West­port’s busi­ness model is to start boats on spec, and an owner comes along and buys the next one on the line,” Wake­field says. This pro­gram lets own­ers take de­liv­ery sooner than with a fully cus­tom project, and Wake­field says there is still plenty of op­por­tu­nity for cus­tomiza­tion.

“There was some mis­un­der­stand­ing over the years,” he says. “Peo­ple thought that you could have it any way you want it, as long as it’s West­port’s way. No. We have al­ways ac­com­mo­dated cus­tomers.” The yard even will move struc­tural bulk­heads “if we have the lead time,” he adds.

In 2014, a for­mer cus­tomer ac­quired West­port. “He said, ‘ Keep doing what you’re doing and let me know what you need,’” Wake­field says. That ac­qui­si­tion led to the in­tro­duc­tion of the W125 model, which made its de­but in 2016. “We had the op­por­tu­nity to take a lot of the new sys­tems and in­no­va­tions con­sid­ered state-of-the-art to­day and put them on that boat, and then added them through­out the line,” he says.

Four years ago, West­port started an an­nual own­ers’ ren­dezvous that has be­come popular. “Our sales guys aren’t too happy be­cause we won’t let ’ em come,” Wake­field says. “It’s all about the cus­tomer.”

Based in the Pa­cific north­west, West­port has found its niche build­ing semi-cus­tom yachts up to 165 feet.

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