The Italian International Registry

Let’s take a look at the rules governing the activities of commercial yachts registered in the Italian International Register. Part one

by Federico Santini*

With article 3 of the Law no. 172 of 8 July 2003 for the reorganization of the nautical sector, the Italian Parliament introduced the possibility for commercial yachts to be registered in the International Register referred to under article 1 of the decree-law no. 457 of 30 December 1997 (International Register bis), which was previously open exclusively to cargo and passenger ships. In order to be registered in the International Register, yachts must have the following characteristics: they must be used in international navigation exclusively for chartering for tourism purposes; they must have a hull length greater than 24 metres.

photo credit Blueiprod.


With regard to the first characteristic, it has been clarified that the term “exclusively” refers only to the use by charter for tourism purposes, and not to international navigation as well. This means, on the one hand, that the yacht registered in the International Register cannot, under any circumstances, be used for purposes other than chartering (i.e. pleasure boating), and, on the other hand, that the yacht must not necessarily or predominantly be used for international navigation, but must have the technical safety requisites that allow it to carry out the various types of international navigation as foreseen by the Safety Regulations approved by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport with Decree no. 95 of 4 April 2005. The International Register is open to: yachts belonging to natural or legal persons or entities from Italy or other European Union countries; yachts from non-EU foreign registers belonging to non-EU natural or legal persons or foreign entities which operate the vessel directly through a permanent establishment within Italy; and yachts belonging to non-EU subjects under suspension from non-EU foreign registers following a bareboat charter provided to legal entities based in Italy or other EU countries. The registration of the yachts in the International Register implies that such yachts are (i) authorized to carry a number of passengers not exceeding 12, excluding the crew, (ii) have a class certificate from one of the classification societies recognized in Italy, and (iii) are subject to the specific technical and management standards outlined in the aforementioned Safety Regulations.

photo credit Blueiprod.


It should be emphasized that commercial yachts are not subject to the limitation concerning cabotage services, which is applicable, however, to other vessels registered in the International Register, and eliminates the possibility of carrying out more than six monthly voyages or voyages whose individual distances exceed 100 nautical miles, under certain conditions. The Safety Regulation specifically regulates the technical safety requirements that yachts registered in the International Register must possess and maintain, which concern the following aspects: construction and robustness, requirements relating to maximum load lines, compartmentation and stability, fire protection, life-saving equipment, radio communications and navigation equipment, shipboard work safety management, marine pollution prevention, and ship safety management. The aforementioned Safety Regulations also regulate the types of checks (which consist of an initial inspection) to which commercial yachts are subject, before entering the charter business for tourism purposes, or, for existing ships, before obtaining safety certificates; annual renewal inspections; occasional inspections, as deemed necessary.

Commercial yachts are not subject to the cabotage restrictions applicable to other ships in the International Register.

The opening of the International Registry to commercial yachts is aimed at counteracting the progressive reduction of the national fleet engaged in chartering activities, and at attracting vessels from foreign registers, by offering shipowning companies significant benefits and tax and social security incentives. The aim was naturally to create the conditions necessary to encourage investments in the pleasure boating sector and to favour the growth of employment, while at the same time safeguarding of the national fleet. Already during the second half of the 1990s, it was evident that Italy produced an extremely large portion of the best pleasure craft in the world, but did not have a “hospitable” flag for the numerous owners navigating the Mediterranean, who, for various reasons, found it more convenient and appealing to register their vessels abroad. In the past, these locations were mainly in the United Kingdom and in the Red Ensign Group Registers, and have more recently moved to Malta, France, Luxembourg, and Spain: countries that have long offered simplified bureaucratic processes and significant tax advantages. This competitive disadvantage was strongly felt by the Italian nautical industry, which, through its most representative body at that time, UCINA, (now Confindustria Nautica) launched studies and initiatives aimed at bridging the existing gap, and made a decisive contribution to the enactment of law no. 172/2003, as well as the subsequent Safety Regulations. Unfortunately, for certain reasons which will be analysed in detail, the International Register has not yet managed to reach its goal. 

(The Italian International Registry – – September 2023)