Maryland waters could soon see an increase in large yachts visiting as a new law has been passed in Annapolis, the capital of the US state.
The new law allows for pleasure boats up to 70 metres LOA to navigate state waters without a licensed bay pilot, which was previously required by law for vessels longer than 24 metres, at the cost of the owner or operator.
Considered to be emergency legislation, the law was signed on Tuesday 14th April 2015 by Governor Larry Hogan, and took effect the following day in time for the new boating season.
Marina operators from Annapolis to Baltimore welcomed its passage, now expecting to see more yachts owned and chartered by the rich make their way into the Chesapeake Bay.
Jesse Bowling of Baltimore Marine Centres, which operates five marinas in the harbour said, “These vessels spend tens of thousands of dollars alone on one fuel bill, plus money on provisioning, local entertainment, tourism and repairs.”
On the East Coast circuit, superyachts typically summer in New York, Newport, Rhode Island and New England, before spending the winter in Florida or the Caribbean Sea. The transit route between the two areas, which passes Maryland, often sees yachts stop for fuel and repairs on their route in the spring and autumn, but the pilot law has previously stopped these vessels from visiting Maryland’s marinas.
Steve Grace, dockmaster of Annapolis Yacht Basin, a private marina in the heart of the state’s capital, explained that the marina has space for 15 vessels over 30 metres LOA, but has seen a drop-off in the visits of large yachts in recent years because of the pilot requirements. He said, “Some of them purposely bypass us because of that fact, that they have to pilots on. They tell me, ‘we’d love to come up that way, but we’re going to go outside’”, which means avoiding the passage through Cheasapeake Bay and incurred costs of hiring a pilot.
Grace continued, “Absolutely it will help us. To us it’s really important that we see that type of traffic, and it’s great for the town. They’re spending money, they’re in the restaurants, they’re in the jewellery stores, they’re purchasing fuel.”
The law applies to foreign-flagged yachts or U.S-flagged vessels that engage in foreign trade, accounting for the vast majority of the yachts that travel along the Eastern seaboard. US-flagged yachts up to 70m that do not visit foreign ports were already allowed to travel Maryland waters without a bay pilot.
Jay Denton, a board member of the U.S Superyacht Association commented, “[Large yachts] have many choices on where to spend their time and money, so attracting them to the Chesapeake will have a very positive impact on local business.”
Grace added that neighbouring state, Delaware still requires all vessels of 30 metres or more to have pilots on board, meaning that superyachts travelling along the coast would need pilots if they wanted to transit the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal to enter or exit the bay. He said, “Delaware will see the light” and change its law, too.