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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Are all the owners of super-yachts evil?


After all the fuss about the super-yacht Equanimity  (pictured), presumably owned by shadowy billionaire Jho Low, center-stage in the Malaysian money-laundering IMDB scandal, and now posted as the second-most talked-about ship in the world (after the Titanic), it is hard not to think that super-yachts belong to the Bad.

After all, as the London Times, points out, these yachts have featured in every movie about billionaire nasties vs the law.

But, as the writer  --- Quentin Bargate, founder and senior partner of a law firm that specializes in super-yacht contracts-- also ruminates, it is not just these mega-yachts that carry a BOT (British Overseas Territory) flag.  Indeed, I can concur, having  been on at least two cruise ships that have suddenly changed the flag from whatever was the current one to somewhere more obscure in a tropical sea.  The ceremony was nice, but was otherwise mysterious.

However, it definitely has benefits --  financial benefits that apply to the lowly small-yacht owner, as well as the cruise line and the crook.  As Bargate points out, "The choice of flag state should be considered one of the most important decisions in yacht ownership. It will affect the regulations that the owner and vessel are subject to, including construction, inspection, regulatory compliance regimes and, of course, taxation and liability protections. The benefits of registering a vessel under a recognised offshore flag state are clear and considerable."

And, naturally, there are advantages to the flag state, too.  By registering with a BOT, the yacht owner can be expected to tender for repairs, bunkering, vitualing and other support services, as well as taking advantage of the restaurants, shops, and so forth on shore.

These BOT islands, with their shipyards and chandleries, are known collectively as the Red Ensign Group, which advertises itself as using  the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency regulations for construction, safety and employment.  Obviously, if this is followed to the letter, there are huge advantages in safety and the well-being of the crews.

Interestingly, though, by opting into the flag, and the Red Ensign Group, the yacht owner takes on the responsibility of responding to any local emergency.

Does this happen?  Historically, it is the little ships that have displayed gallantry, epitomized in the Dunkirk rescue effort.  I have yet to hear of any super-dooper mega-yacht taking on distressed seamen, rescuing refugees, or sending aid on shore during times of flood and storm.

Interested?  A recent sale negotiated by Bargate-Murray was of the super-yacht Palladium, purchased by Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov for a reputed 200 million US dollars.


I wonder how many refugee centers, children's hospitals, and rural schools that kind of money would have bought?

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