Changes in Delaware Yacht Registry

The State of Delaware have introduced new procedures to crack down on the abuse of the Delaware yacht registration system by owners who are principally keeping their vessels outside the State of Delaware. The new application procedure introduced in January 2020 requires owners to declare as follows:

“I declare under penalty of perjury that I / we am / are the legal owner(s) or agents thereof, of the vessel described in this application and that “DELAWARE IS THE STATE OF PRINCIPAL OPERATION” for this vessel.”

“I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of Delaware that the forgoing is true and correct.”

“I also acknowledge that I must notify the Division of Fish & Wildlife within 15 days of the owner(s) change of address and/or if the vessel is sold. Destroyed, abandoned, becomes documented or IS NO LONGER PRINCIPALLY OPERATED IN THE STATE OF DELAWARE.”

State of Principle Operation is defined by the State of Delaware as follows:

“State of Principle Operation means the State in whose waters a boat/vessel is or will be operated most during the calendar year. (33 C.F.R. § 173.3)”

The procedure also carries the following notice:


Making a false written statement under this law is a “class A” misdemeanour in the State of Delaware. The sentence for a “class A” misdemeanour in the State of Delaware may include up to 1 year incarceration and a fine, restitution or other conditions as the court might deem appropriate.

Awareness of the situation is growing amongst foreign port authorities and owners of Delaware registered vessels that are kept and primarily used outside the State of Delaware can expect increased scrutiny that may result in their vessels being controlled and potentially detained.

As the Delaware registration is not an internationally valid registration it follows that Delaware registered vessels that are operating primarily outside the State of Delaware can be treated as unregistered or stateless vessels meaning that local authorities can impose their own jurisdiction on the vessel which can effect the tax status of a vessel and the rules under which it must operate. There are also potentially issues in other areas such as the validity of a vessel’s insurance policy.

5 thoughts on “Delaware Yacht Registry Update”

  1. Hello, please let me know what happens about the transfer of boats that are outside U.S. waters with foreign owners.
    The form includes a question about this situation.
    Is compatible Delaware been the “state of principle operation” while the boat remains in other latitudes?

    • Hi Daniel,

      If ownership is being transferred with the flag change – you can simply request flag deletion from Delaware, it shouldn’t be a problem regardless of the vessel’s physical location at the time of the request.

      If you prefer keep DL flag, in most cases Delaware Registry will proceed with the requested changes (providing that paperwork is clear), again regardless of the vessel’s location.

      However, if the new owner keeps the vessel outside of US for more than 6 consequent months, DL registration might be proven invalid, mostly not by Delaware itself – but by other ex-US authorities, for example Italy or France.

  2. Hi Alex,
    How to get deleted the Delaware flag and. How long does it take?
    I am going to buy a Delaware flagged sailboat located in Guatemala. License valid until December 2021?
    Thank you for your answer.

    • Dear Hur,

      Deletion usually takes about 2 weeks, depends on the workload of the Registry Office (although a few years ago it was possible to obtain one within just 2-3 days).


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