May 19, 2022

Staying afloat whilst buying a boat

Situated in Lymington, nestled between Southampton, Christchurch and the Solent, it may not be too surprising to learn that we regularly advise on matters involving marine businesses and boats. As the weather improves, the idea of getting out on the water becomes ever more enticing. Celia Hawson, a Company and Commercial Paralegal, with a history in the shipping industry including time spent at the UK Ship Register, considers some of the issues that can arise when buying a leisure craft.

When buying a boat there are a number of things you need to think about, including making sure the vessel you are buying is fit for purpose. There are a number of checks to ensure this, such as examining the physical state of the vessel, checking the engine, hull and interior, as well as by arranging a survey. If spending a substantial amount, appointing a qualified surveyor is important, and if possible, you should always carry out a sea trial.

The technical aspects aren’t the only pitfalls you should watch out for.  There are a number of checks when it comes to the paperwork that can make sure you aren’t about to buy a sinking ship.  It is worthwhile checking whether the vessel is registered. It might not be as a leisure vessel, but if it is that should provide reassurance of the vessels ownership and will also allow you to see whether the vessel is free from various encumbrances, which is definitely something else that should be checked: Is the vessel owned outright? Have you got a complete view of the vessel’s ownership history? Make sure you see all available paperwork for the vessel, from the builder’s certificate and any bills of sale to certificates of survey and receipts for services and maintenance.

Once you have agreed the commercial terms on the sale, a sale contract will need to be drawn up.  If your vessel sale is in any way complex or is a big expense for you, it is worthwhile having a bespoke contract drawn up by a legal professional. Particularly if purchasing a larger boat, consider whether a retention is appropriate. This is where the buyer holds back a portion of the purchase price just in case there are issues in the first few weeks or months. For peace of mind, your solicitor, or broker, may be able to hold this money safely in their designated client account.

Lastly, if the vessel is UK registered, it is vitally important to carry out a transfer of ownership with the UK Ship Register, as until that is carried out you will not obtain complete title.

How can we help?

Whether you are buying a £20,000 rib, or a £1m motor yacht, the experienced commercial team at Scott Bailey can help make sure that your agreements are watertight. We can prepare, or review and amend a sale contract provided to you, and if your vessel is UK registered, we can register the transfer of ownership for you. In the unlikely event that problems do arise, our dispute resolution team can step in to help and send a shot across the bows if needed.

For more information on how our commercial law team can assist when buying a yacht or other asset purchases or sales such as these, please contact Celia Hawson on 01590 676933 or by [email protected].