Posting below on behalf of a new joiner (Chris Bromley - in process) seeking help. Chris, resident in the Caymans, is buying a VAT-paid, Irish registered boat currenty in N.Spain and planning to go to the Caribbean then back to Europe.
What I'm hoping to find at this stage is authoritative advice on registration and VAT. I have heard that even though VAT has been paid, if a vessel spends time outside European waters VAT may be charged again on her return! The protection against the yacht being levied twice over is to keep the registration within Europe, I am told. The Dutch and Belgian registries were recommended on the grounds of easy to negotiate administration and reasonableness of charging. I decided not to apply for British registration because should the UK succeed in exiting the EU, the European authorities may then not regard the registration as a reason not to re-impose VAT - which would close off the prospect of a future Mediterranean voyage.I have phoned the UK register, but no one was able to say what the position would be in a year or two. Then again, not being resident in the UK, British registration would have to be within the Part I listing which I have heard is onerous and may need a dedicated measurement and tonnage survey.
In contrast to the British registry for which application can be approached through the UK. gov. office or web site, I could only find links through private companies to the Dutch and Belgian registers. Their various requirements are similar but not identical. The companies most attractive to me offered registration irrespective of location, nationality or European residence and the reassurance of being able to voyage anywhere under a maritime flag respected worldwide. On phoning, the information given out was that registration could be done even though I'm resident in Cayman and intend to keep the boat there, but that Dutch or Belgian registration would not permit the boat to be taken outside European waters. I read out over the phone the website home page introduction to protest that this was the opposite to what was on public / internet offer (and how indeed could either authority prevent movement outside Europe) and received a message the next day accepting there was no geographic restriction but now noting there was a requirement for residency in respect of Belgium. Reading over the opposite terms offered on the website did not result in a correction this time but I understood that Dutch registration would remain open to me. Terms for the branch of the Dutch register relevant to my craft set an upper limit on its speed capability way above its hull speed but this makes me wonder if the register is actually meant for small planing and coastal craft: I don't want to be clearing into the U.S. or Cuba, for example, only to find out the ship's papers are not acceptable. Another thing I didn't know is that marine insurance includes a tax payable to the registering authority. According to my prospective insurer, it's quite expensive at about twice the rate for Holland as for Belgium, but the registry agent could provide no supporting information on an insurance tax for either jurisdiction. I'd still be keen to get chapter and verse on the reputed rule restricting application to residents of Belgium even though the Belgian website states just the opposite.
So, I'd be most grateful for authoritative advice on the intricacies of private yacht registration. I should have preferred to go for the British part 1 listing for which the charge appears to be several times less than the Dutch or Belgian versions, but absolutely not if it risks the much larger cost of European VAT in future voyaging. I'd appreciate too any other advice you may wish to give, including the matter of changing the MMSI which I believe may need equipment to to returned to the manufacturer for resetting.