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Importing a Wharram Built by Gunther Nutt or Andy Smith


I think this discussion could go in many different directions.....which is just fine as it seems like a complicated gauntlet with many traps set along the way.

So here goes. Has anyone tackled the legal aspects of importing (to the US) a Wharram built by Seascape or Andy Smith? More specifically, the choice of flag, tax implications, etc.

Thank you in advance for your participation!


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There is a lot to consider, depending on what you want to accomplish.

In my opinion, the first consideration would be tax. Does the US have a free trade agreement with the country of origin? If so, are boats part of the duty free importation? For the US, sales tax can vary by state as well, with some states being tax free, while others could be nearly 10% of the purchase price.

Why the US? It is not a requirement to import (register) the boat in the US. There are plenty of inexpensive countries in which to register a vessel, some with great benefits. Ask yourself why businesses and the wealthy register their vessels in jurisdictions other than the US, namely Panama, Caymen Islands, and Hong Kong.

Regardless of which country you ultimately choose, I would set up a Trust and use it to register a corporation, for the sole purpose of "holding" property (the boat.) This provides great personal and property protection. Registering this way could cause some insurance implications, so due diligence would be necessary.

Mahiya, a Tiki 30 was built at Andy Smith and brought to the US. Search through the internet and you'll find the owner, Ray Barkley, has some videos, might get a clue to his where abouts. The boat was for sale a while ago.

This is not complicated.  My Seawind came from Australia.  I paid a freight forwarder in Long Beach that imported alot of boats.  He handled all the paperwork.  I paid the import tax and that wasn't much.  Can't remember maybe 1.5%.   I met the boat at the dock, and watched it come off the ship.  Then into the water and motored away.

If you're in California you have to pay the sales tax.  Just get the seller to provide an invoice.  Some people fudge the sales price #s, and make two payments....to lower the tax.  One payment would be for the boat, and another for something else.  Consulting etc. Whatever you want to call it unrelated to the boat.

Once the boat is in the US, you can just Coast Guard document the boat by getting the forms online, or pay a documentation service to do it if you don't want to fill out the forms yourself.  I've done it both ways, and it's easy.


Think of all the boats that come in from outside the country.  Happens everyday and is no big deal.

Or you could offer to buy my T46 and save yourself 2 years wait and 10,000+ miles of delivery! 

I imported a Wharram last year. It's really not difficult. You do have to pay a 1.5% import duty. If you're a US citizen you can fill out the paperwork and pay the duty at any cargo customs office. Non-citizens have to hire a customs broker to pay the duty.

Keep in mind the you must pay the import duty if you ever want to offer the boat for sale in the US to a US citizen.

Documentation is also easy. You'll need to contact the appropriate authorities in the country where the boat is currently flagged and ask them to remove the vessel from their registry. They will send you a document confirming this, and you'll need this document to apply for US documentation. (This was super simple with the German authorities.) The Coast Guard takes 6 months or more to process the documentation application, but a copy of the application serves as temporary documentation while you're waiting.

You have to follow the rules of the state you're in regarding state registration. In Florida it was easy--sales tax payment of 6.5% plus the annual registration fee. Florida gave us a temporary state registration number while the Federal documentation was pending.

Thank you all for the great responses. Sorry I could not respond quicker as I have been traveling. 

Importing a vessel to the US doesn't sound as daunting as I original thought.  True, one could pick another flag to operate under and come out perhaps cheaper in the short run.  Thinking down the road, to the "second most happiest day of ones life"....i.e. when they sell their boat ;-).  Having paid the US import duty might help get your boat sold.

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