California Passes Bill to Encourage Megayacht Tourism in State

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Those of you interested in exploring the California coast, especially for the America’s Cup race next year, take note. A new law signed in late September alleviates some of the regulations megayachts must adhere to in entering its waters. And it’s all thanks to several San Diego-based superyacht businesses.

Among those businesses: Seabreeze Books and Charts and Marine Group Boat Works, whose vice president, Todd Roberts, served as a leading voice. Roberts was introduced to California State Assembly member Martin Garrick, who ultimately sponsored the legislation, by Seabreeze’s owner, Ann Kinner. Garrick’s legislation became known as Assembly Bill 2005 (AB 2005).

Previously, California law required non-commercial vessels of greater than 300 tons, including megayachts, to file a variety of paperwork and pay associated fees 21 days prior to arrival. The paperwork was centered around oil-spill concerns, requiring, among other things, documentation stating the LOA as well as storage details for gray water and sewage. These same yachts further had to provide notice of arrival 96 hours before pulling into port. While the latter is still a requirement, megayachts now have up to 14 days after arrival to submit the paperwork.

Albeit a minor change, AB 2005 does achieve two significant things. First, it makes life easier for megayacht crew, owners, and their agents, particularly when an owner makes a last-minute decision to visit the area. Second, there’s a more direct line of communication established between the megayacht industry and the government agencies involved in vessel entry procedures.

Garrick underscores the importance of this last fact. “I worked with various state agencies, boating enthusiasts, and industry representatives for several months to craft a measure that would maintain environmental safeguards but create a more efficient and realistic reporting timeframe,” he explains.

As you can imagine, Kinner and Roberts are thrilled with the results. “As a small business owner, it’s refreshing to see action being taken on legislation that benefits the economy,” Kinner says. “It’s even more refreshing to see lawmakers work with businesses rather than creating barriers for their growth.” For his part, Roberts says, “We see firsthand how a yacht impacts our local economy. In the last three years, Marine Group Boat Works spent an average of $7 million on materials and services within a 15-mile radius of our facility, so you can see how port visits for fuel, food, supplies, services, accommodations, and repairs can easily translate to millions of dollars. For a yacht owner to be deterred by state regulations is detrimental to our economy.” Related to that last point, Roberts testified before the California Senate while the bill was being considered, explaining that megayachts ventured to Mexico or Oregon and Washington for fuel and the like.

“With the America’s Cup already underway, we can expect an influx of large private yachts visiting California,” Garrick adds. “My legislation will ensure those recreational and tourism dollars will be spent here rather than ports in Mexico or neighboring state.”

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