A guide to yacht and superyacht registration in Gibraltar
Written by Tom Smith
Last updated: 31/01/2019
Gibraltar has long been a haven for luxury yachts – and the wealth that accompanies them. Low taxation, three prestigious marinas, and membership of the British Flag Registry, it’s not difficult to see why many choose Gibraltar for their superyacht. With the iconic rock signalling its location at the opening of the Mediterranean, this idiosyncratic overseas territory is perfectly placed to register and berth a yacht.
Craft registered in Gibraltar are classified as British Flag vessels, and must fly the Red Ensign, with documentation being identical to the UK requirements.
As a full member of the EU, Gibraltar's status is the same as any other member apart from its exception from the EU's Common Customs Tariff (CCT) area. This means that the enclave is exempt for levying VAT.
Who can register their yacht in Gibraltar?
As a British national or a citizen of the EU, you are entitled to own a British Flag vessel. Yachts can also be registered under the name of a limited company, as long as the company has been incorporated in a jurisdiction which is subject to UK laws and has a principal place of business in this location.
This ability makes it possible, and indeed sensible, for a Non-British national to make use of Gibraltar companies to own their vessels; the yacht will be registered in the name of the Gibraltar company, with the owner or nominee holding all the shares.
Any vessel registered in Gibraltar, whether in the name of an EU citizen or a Gibraltar-based company, will need an appointed Registered Agent who is entrusted with annual renewal of registration.
What are the benefits?
- Shareholders or company directors need not be Gibraltar residents
- The yacht does not need to be surveyed annually
- The registration process is generally fast and straightforward
Gibraltar’s VAT exemption
VAT is generally chargeable on yachts used within CCT waters, regardless of whether the yacht is owned by a Gibraltar company or an EU citizen. A yacht registered in Gibraltar or any other British Flag port is subject to conditions imposed by other countries regarding the length of time that it may remain without becoming subject to import duty as a foreign registered vessel.
Yachts that spend fewer than 6 months in CCT waters in any year are applicable for temporary importation status, which is VAT free. In order to comply, however, EU residents must not use the yacht during its time in CCT waters.
Registering a yacht in Gibraltar means you pay
- No VAT in Gibraltar
- No import duty for yachts based outside of Gibraltar
- No tax on the sale of your vessel
How to register
If the yacht has never been registered elsewhere, you will need to have your Builder's Certificate which should carry the seal of the builder and should indicate who the craft was built for.
If your yacht is not new and is currently registered in a port, then you will need to present a bill of sale showing the craft has been sold to the Gibraltar company, which needs to be authenticated by a Consul or Notary Public who can bear witness to the nationality of the vendor.
If the vessel is currently sailing under the British Flag, then an ordinary Bill of Sale without any form of certification will suffice.
All vessels registered in Gibraltar are required to produce a Measurement and Tonnage Survey Certificate which should be carried out by any of the following recognised syndicates:
- Bureau Veritas
- Lloyds of London
- Germanischer Lloyd
- American Bureau of Shipping
- Norske Veritas
- The Royal Yachting Association
- Yacht Brokers Designers & Surveyors Association