The Gibraltar Yacht Registry describes itself as an “internationally recognized, high quality registry providing an efficient and cost-effective service” which has all the benefits associated with belonging to the British shipping register.
Located at the narrow western entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, Gibraltar is a small isthmus bordering southern Spain and is probably most famous for the 426-metre high rock that bears its name.
Although Gibraltar is an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, it has its own directly-elected parliament and a large degree of sovereignty over its internal affairs. This has permitted successive governments to oversee business-friendly, low-tax policies, both of which have been fundamental to the success of the jurisdiction’s dynamic financial centre.
The legal framework is underpinned by comprehensive maritime legislation based on English common law. The main pieces of legislation for yacht registration are the Gibraltar Merchant Shipping (Pleasure Yachts) Regulation 1998, the Large Commercial Yacht Code (LY2) and the Passenger Yacht Code (PYC).
A major advantage for Gibraltar-registered yachts is the right to fly the Red Ensign, which is recognized and respected internationally, and which provides legal protection and prestige.
According to the registry, there are more than 800 active pleasure yachts on the register.
Those entitled to register a yacht in Gibraltar include citizens of the UK and its dependent and overseas territories, and residents of the European Union or European Economic Area, including both natural and legal persons. Applicants must have a majority interest in the vessel’s ownership.
If majority owners are not residents of Gibraltar, a Representative Person or Registered Agent must be appointed. A corporate body is treated as a resident if it has a place of business in Gibraltar.
Vessels registered in Gibraltar are not required to be physically inspected or surveyed within the jurisdiction. However, pleasure yachts under 24 metres must arrange a tonnage measurement survey, while pleasure yachts over 24 metres require an International Tonnage Survey to be carried out. This survey can be arranged with any one of the following approved classification societies:
- American Bureau of Shipping
- Bureau Veritas
- Det Norske Veritas
- Germanischer Lloyd
- Lloyd’s Register of Shipping
Vessels under 24 metres in length can also authorize any of the following appointed certifying authorities:
- Yacht Brokers, Designers & Surveyors Association
- MECAL Limited
- The Society of Consulting Marine Engineers & Ship Surveyors
Commercial yachts in excess of 24 metres carrying fewer than 12 passengers and weighing under 3,000 gross tonnes must comply with the UK Large Commercial Yacht Code. Commercial yachts carrying from 12 to 36 passengers must comply with the Passenger Yacht Code.
Gibraltar has 400 berths spread across three marinas which can accommodate super yachts of up to 90m in length. Additionally, there is a comprehensive support and service network in the jurisdiction, including service companies, shipping agents and brokers, as well as medical facilities and chandleries.
Gibraltar is a low tax jurisdiction, with corporate tax set at 10% for most companies. There is also an absence of many other taxes commonly found around the world, including sales tax, capital gains tax, wealth tax, and estate, inheritance, and gift taxes.
As UK Overseas Territory, Gibraltar entered the EU along with the UK. However, it does not belong to the EU’s VAT or common external tariff regimes, and does not itself levy VAT. As such, non-EU/EEA resident owners can apply to import a yacht into Gibraltar free of VAT for a temporary period of 18 months. There are also no taxes on the sale of yachts in Gibraltar.
This arrangement is likely to remain unchanged until at least 2020 as a result of the Brexit transition arrangement.
The process of registering a yacht in Gibraltar is simple and expeditious. The Gibraltar registry generally processes applications within 24 hours of submission of the relevant forms, documents, and fees. Applications can be processed on the same day subject to an additional fee.
For commercial and pleasure yachts under 24m, the initial registration fee is GBP225. An application for annual renewal of the registration certificate costs GBP25.
For pleasure yachts in excess of 24m, initial application fees are GBP400 for vessels up to 1,599 gross tonnes, and GBP600 for vessels over 1,600 tonnes. Annual renewal for both categories of yacht costs GBP70.
For commercial yachts over 24m, the initial registration fees are GBP550 for vessels up to 1,500GT and GBP1,100 for vessels over this weight. The annual renewal fee is GBP110.