The French Ensign – a growing registry with a bright future

Date 28/02/2022
3 minutes to read
Ian Petts

Brigitte Bardot made the French Cote D’Azur popular with the jet set and wealthy. The marinas of the Riviera have responded to the increased popularity with state-of-the-art superyacht facilities. In the summer months the marinas from Marseille through to Nice are very busy catering to the demands of the high and ultra high net worth individuals. 

Together with popular marinas in La Rochelle and the north coast, the French flag is a natural choice for vessels based in France as well as some of the French administered overseas territories, such as French Polynesia, Réunion and Saint Martin. It seems likely that for yachts spending long periods of time in France, yacht owners and managers are increasingly considering the French flag as a viable alternative to other flags.

Commercial yacht registration

The Registre International Franҫais (RIF) is the French international register for commercial yachts. Since the reduction of the size limit for vessels, from 24m to 15m, the RIF has seen more owners enter the charter market in the south of France, leading to an increased demand for commercial yacht registration. 

Other drivers include requests for simplicity in ownership, benefitting from the civil law specifics and clarity, and the significant investment in the large number of superyacht refit yards in southern France. 

The RIF have facilitated maritime procedures with a single point of contact (‘Guichet Unique‘), as well as a number of advantageous taxes and custom measures or exemptions for the ship owners, and benefits for crew. Using the one stop shop ‘Guichet Unique‘, and with a team involved in developing the fleet specifically for yachting, the French flag offers a registration process and fees which are attractive for commercial yachts. 

The high degree of compliance associated with the French flag certification system, offers a great advantage for the owner and has an impact on the frequency of port state control when the yacht is used in the Mediterranean. 

With added social tax benefits for French resident crew members, it is proving to be a popular choice for owners and captains with a French connection. One requirement of the RIF is that the captain and his relief must be citizens of the European Union (EU) and a secondary requirement, they must be French nationals or have knowledge of the French language and French maritime legal matters.

Private yacht registration

Of course, not all owners want to operate commercially and there are also yacht registration options for private use under the French Ensign.

To be registered in France, it is required to proceed with the ‘Francisation’ which means to authorise the yacht under French Law and to fly the French flag.

The formalities are different depending on the country of purchase of the yacht and the build standards. The process of ‘Francisation’ may be associated with the payment of navigation fees collected by customs.

Equiom have an experienced global yachting team and our Monaco office have a multilingual team with experience in implementing the French flag for both private and commercial use yachts. For more information on this topic, please contact Ian Petts.

This article has been carefully prepared, but it has been written in general terms and should be seen as broad guidance only. The article cannot be relied upon to cover specific situations and you should not act, or refrain from acting, upon the information contained therein without obtaining specific professional advice. Please contact Equiom to discuss these matters in the context of your particular circumstance. Equiom Group, its partners, employees and agents do not accept or assume any liability or duty of care for any loss arising from any action taken or not taken by anyone in reliance on the information in this article or for any decision based on it.
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