Introduction

One of the final pieces of legislation that the government enacted before the March 2018 general election was the reform of Legislative Decree 171/2005 (the so-called 'Nautical Code'), which had been eagerly awaited by practitioners in the field.

In 2015 Parliament authorised the government to reform the Nautical Code. Legislative Decree 229/2017, which sets out a number of amendments to the code, was adopted on November 3 2017 and published in the Official Gazette on January 29 2018. It subsequently came into force on February 13 2018.

This update highlights some of the reform's main provisions.

New superyacht definitions

New definitions of 'minor superyachts' and 'major superyachts' have been introduced to Article 3 of the Nautical Code. Both are defined as pleasure craft of over 24 metres in length; however, minor superyachts have a gross tonnage not exceeding 500 tonnes and major superyachts are those with a gross tonnage over 500 tonnes. The definitions of 'yachts' as vessels up to 24 metres in length and 'boats' as vessels up to 10 metres in length remain unchanged.

Electronic registration system

A central electronic registration system has been introduced for superyachts and yachts. However, as this system has yet to be implemented and, therefore, the existing paper-based registration system is still in use.

New superyacht registration rules

Superyachts can now be registered by filing a title of ownership and a certificate of tonnage. For vessels from a previous registry, a certificate of deletion must be presented – which can be substituted by a certificate issued by the previous registry valid for up to six months – declaring that the deletion procedure has been started. Provisional registration is now also provided for superyachts and, in such a scenario, it will be sufficient to file a declaration of tonnage issued by the previous registry and valid for six months in lieu of a certificate of tonnage. Specific written requirements are also foreseen for the registration of commercial superyachts and yachts, which are now generally defined using the English term 'commercial yachts'.

Registration of commercial superyachts with Italian International Ship Registry

Owners of superyachts destined exclusively for commercial activity and navigation in international waters can opt for registration under the Italian International Ship Registry, which was originally available only for merchant ships, but was opened to superyachts in 2003. A new Article 15ter has been introduced to the Nautical Code, which aims to establish less stringent requirements regarding registration and navigational documents to be carried on board vessels. Specific legislation will be implemented within six months to set out the procedure measures for such registration.

Cancellation procedure for Italian yacht registry

The cancellation procedure for the Italian yacht registry has been simplified. Permission to transfer an Italian flag must be granted within a maximum of 30 days from the cancellation request. This amendment has been particularly welcomed by practitioners, as the previous cancellation procedure was time consuming and required confirmation from the social security authorities that no claims over the vessel were pending. The corresponding regulation, which will follow the enactment of this reform, will set out specific new rules for the cancellation procedure.

Leasing

Superyachts and yachts can now be registered directly by the lessee of a leasing contract, provided that a power of attorney issued by the registered owner is presented to the registry.

Shipowner declaration

A shipowner declaration by a party or entity apart from the shipowner has been introduced to Article 24bis of the Nautical Code. The ministerial regulation that will amend the Nautical Code will set out the procedure for presenting said declaration. Article 24bis establishes the limitation of liability for shipowners by introducing a provision identical to Article 275 of the Code of Navigation (as amended in 2012). As a result, the limitation of liability is available only to owners of yachts, boats and superyachts of less of than 300 tonnes. There is intense debate at present among Italian shipping scholars and practitioners regarding whether the possibility to limit liability exists for shipowners of vessels over 300 tonnes. The changes to Nautical Code provide no such clarity.

Occasional chartering

The occasional chartering regime, which was previously introduced, has been restricted in favour of yachts, superyachts or boats registered under the Italian flag. Further, an original or authenticated copy of the contract of charter must be carried on board.

Passenger yacht code

It is established that a passenger yacht code will be introduced to regulate safety, crew and environmental standards, as well as requirements that apply to yachts and superyachts capable of transporting 12 to 26 passengers on international voyages.

Further provisions

Further provisions introduced include:

  • plans to establish a training centre for recreational navigation and nautical schools;
  • a definition of the role of nautical brokers;
  • improvements to mooring facilities;
  • the establishment of a new procedure for obtaining navigation licences; and
  • the consolidation of penalties.

Legislative Decree 229/2017 is a welcome government action which aims to improve and modernise legislation in an important Italian business sector. However, further regulations and practicalities will need to be adopted to render the new legislation fully effective. It is hoped that such actions are not delayed.

For further information on this topic please contact Marco Manzone at Dardani Studio Legale by telephone (+39 010 576 1816) or email (marco.manzone@dardani.it). The Dardani Studio Legale website can be accessed at www.dardani.it.

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