The Isle of Man superyacht industry

As a superyacht hub the Isle of Man service providers consist of a range of technical experts in the various aspects of owning and operating a yacht, offering clients a wide range of corporate, financial and technical service. Words: Frances and Michael Howorth

The Isle of Man is an almost mystical island located at the geographical centre of the British Isles in the middle of the Irish Sea. On the face of it, the island seems to offer little in the way of support to superyachts given its location and distance from regular cruising routes. Yet scratch at the surface, and you find that superyachts play an increasingly important role in the island’s economy and because of the island’s laws, regulations and attitudes to privacy; it is attracting an increasingly loyal following in the superyacht business.

Best known for tailless Manx cats and TT motorbike racing, the island has a popular reputation for being a tax haven that falls apart when investigated. Quite simply it is a successful financial centre, in much the same way as the city of London is and, as a result, has collected more than its fair share of bankers, lawyers and accountants. Because of this the island economy is buoyant and the local independent government is dedicated to improving the facilities offered to superyacht owners and managers.

As a Crown dependency, the ultimate responsibility for the government of the island remains vested in the Crown. Like the UK it charges VAT so is not a duty-free island. With the highest rate of income tax set at 18%, it makes the island an attractive place to reside. By long standing convention, the U.K. Government does not legislate for the island except with the specific consent of the Island’s Government. Its balanced economy combines traditional industries such as agriculture, fishing and tourism with areas of recent growth such as financial services, e-commerce and somewhat surprisingly, the film industry. The island frequently plays host to film companies and many block busters have been filmed here and include: Miss Potter, Stormbreaker, Waking Ned, Relative Values and Keeping Mum just to name a few.

Tynwald, the island’s 1,000 year old Parliament, makes its own laws and oversees all internal administration, fiscal and social policies. The U.K. Government administers external issues, such as foreign representation and defence, on the Island’s behalf. The island makes an annual payment to the UK for these services.

It is however the island’s Shipping Registry that has raised the island’s profile in terms of superyachts. This in turn has spawned a veritable slew of island based companies to turn their attention to the sector in a bid to service its needs. Now, corporate service providers, yacht management specialists, VAT and other tax experts along with crewing agencies and other superyacht service support teams are all available on the island to the point that they have grouped together to form an association known as the Isle of Man Yacht Forum.

With many different companies offering a wide of variety of services with high relevance to superyacht owners it is difficult at times to group them together given that some services offered by one group overlap with another with some companies servicing two or three differing groups and a small number giving a service so comprehensive as to cover every discipline.

Isle of Man Ship RegistryTHE SHIPPING REGISTRY
In April 2018, Cameron Mitchell took over from Dick Welsh as Director of the Isle of Man Ship Registry. Prior to this, Cameron had been working for the registry as Surveyor of Ships for nine years. Before that, he served as an engineer at sea with Maersk, Geest Line and Farstad.

He says, “The most appealing point about this registry is the lack of bureaucracy that surrounds it. Founded originally in 1786 the shipping registry is extremely approachable and offers yacht owners the opportunity of speaking directly with the decision makers rather than running through mountains of middle management. The present-day registry was established in 1984 and is staffed by experienced surveyors with expertise in all areas and in all ship types.

The registry offers 24 hour availability with senior staff able to give fast responses by phone to answer queries and deal with problems whether from managers or ship’s staff. Their pragmatic approach to maintaining standards is always upheld and the vision of customer service seems to far outstrip that offered by competitive flags. Unlike many flags sovereignty is not for sale and the registry as such, has no remit from government to become a revenue stream. In fact it generally runs at a deficit of around half a million pound s a year, a sum more than made up for by the prosperity it brings to the island in other ways. The same on island department can handle aircraft registration and this is becoming extremely popular with owners whose yachts carry budgies on the back and already over 100 private aircraft are registered on the books.

Cameron Mitchell, commented: “This is a great achievement and is testament to the island’s ongoing commitment to running a quality flag which adheres to the highest international safety standards.”

Cameron explains the current position and success of the Ship Registry: “The Isle of Man Ship Registry has been a major success story, of which the Isle of Man should be very proud. Being a Red Ensign jurisdiction with a customer focused approach to regulation, we offer a pragmatic, swift service to the owners, managers and operators of ships and yachts both locally and internationally. On this basis, the Isle of Man Ship Registry has established a worldwide reputation for high quality service and value for money. Over recent years, we have invested a great deal in our people and our systems and now we are seeing the rewards with over 70 major global clients and 17.1m gross tons on our books. Our clients operate to the highest standards which is reflected by our excellent Port State Control performance; not just in the Paris MoU region but also in the US where we have Qualship 21 status and also a strong position on the Tokyo MoU White List.”

The register continues to grow at a steady pace, with 17.1 million gross tons now flying the Manx ensign. This makes us the 14th largest flag state in the world, although we have always focused more on quality rather than quantity. We also have one of the youngest fleets in the world with an average age of just 9.9 years, which puts us in a strong position for the future.”

Sarah Lisy is the Isle of Man Ship Registry Client Relations and Registration Manager. She says, “The Isle of Man really does offer high quality and superb service at a low cost. We are a Member of the British Red Ensign Group. We have the right to fly the ‘Red Ensign’ and have access to British support and services world-wide.”

The long history of political and financial stability on the Isle of Man and OECD ‘white-listed’ jurisdiction makes it beneficial to register ships on the Isle of Man. The IOMSR has a dedicated team of registrars that are appointed to complete the whole registration process. Captains will not be handed over to different jurisdictions and time zones!

Sarah Lisy says, “We can accept bodies corporate, limited partnerships and individuals as owners of Manx ships with our eligibility list being extensive: UK Territories, EU/EEA countries and additional countries – Australia, Bahamas, Canada, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Monaco, New Zealand, Pakistan, Panama, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United States of America.

In 2019, the IOMSR was one of the first flag states to issue digital certificates to ships and this has benefited clients immensely on four fronts:

  1. Speed – an original certificate can be onboard within minutes.
  2. Cost – digital certificates has taken away the need to courier original documents around the world.
  3. Security – each certificate has dual means of verification/validation.
  4. The Environment – less paper and few courier packages – in line with their commitments as an ISO 14001 accredited organisation.

Sarah Lisy concludes saying, “We pride ourselves on being responsive, always at the end of the phone and emails generally answered with the hour of them being received. Weekend out of hours transactions can be arranged with one of our registrars.”

Cameron Mitchell says, “The success of the Isle of Man Ship Registry has allowed us to act as a nucleus for shipping business on the island, around which a flourishing maritime ‘centre of excellence’ has emerged. The Manx maritime cluster is now home to a diverse range of offerings including company formation/management, accountancy, brokerage and charter, crew employment, management and payroll, cyber security and privacy, design and engineering, finance, insurance, shore support and technical management and IT, satellite communications and technology.”

THE ISLE OF MAN MARITIME
The Isle of Man Maritime is a new cluster organisation to actively support, promote and develop the island’s diverse maritime sector. It replaces organisations the likes of the Isle of Man Shipping Association, Isle of Man SuperYacht Forum and the Isle of Man Maritime Group, Set up in March 2018, this not-for-profit organisation with a membership of 60 plus organisations aims to promote development and growth of the island’s wider maritime community and to provide a unified voice of reason, where and when it is needed.

The day to day operation of the organisation is controlled by an Executive Committee consisting of three representatives from government, namely the Department for Enterprise, Department of Infrastructure and the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture; and three representatives from member organisations.

Isle of Man Maritime
Isle of Man Maritime

The organisation’s Secretary and Marketing Officer is Lesley- Anne Walker who is also the Head of Marketing at Sentient International, one of the member organisations and a privately owned group of independent, modern corporate and trust service providers.

Speaking on behalf of the organisation Lesley said, “The Isle of Man is a centre of maritime excellence. It is home to a vast number of specialised service providers who offer a wealth of knowledge, experience, and technical expertise to businesses and individuals looking to access top-tier services for their maritime operations. Whether it’s legal advice, corporate structuring, financing solutions, or insurance options, it’s all available.”

Together with its supportive regulatory framework, emphasis on education and research, and lifestyle opportunities, it’s easy to see why the island continues to attract individuals and companies seeking to tap into its wealth of maritime expertise.

Among the significant initiatives Isle of Man Maritime have already instigated, is a Tall Ship Experience for local youths, and a Maritime Expo fair that promotes maritime careers. They have also attended other careers fairs held on the Island. They have organised school visits and presentations, continuing with high schools and now starting primary school visits. They have provided Cadetship funding and training support. Isle of Man Maritime offers funding for cadetships and training courses to island residents with an interest in a career at sea and has seen many cadets through their training with providers including Fleetwood Nautical College, Carnival Cruises, Chiltern Maritime, Shell and Döhle Yachts.

CORPORATE SERVICE PROVIDERS
It is essential that there is a genuine link between the island and those registering yachts on the island. Companies that provide this link and other fiduciary services are said to be Corporate Service Providers or CSPs and the Association of Service Providers on the island lists over 70 as island based companies as members.

CSPs handle all the formalities involved in incorporation and services including the provision of directors, company secretary, registered office, nominee shareholders and related administration and accountancy services. They liaise with the shipping registry to become the body responsible to the island government for that yacht.

Owning and operating a vessel can be complex, with a number of considerations requiring significant attention. With a comprehensive understanding of the maritime industry, Sentient International works with owners and their representatives to help them understand the diverse requirements associated with the ownership, registration and management of a range of vessels (including motor yachts and sailing yachts) whether being used on a commercial or private basis. Lesley-Anne Walker, Head of Marketing & New Business says, “We assist clients to identify and establish a suitable entity in an effective jurisdiction for the purchase and ownership of their yacht whilst ensuring that the structure aligns with their financial objectives, asset protection needs and tax optimisation strategies. We also provide guidance and support for yacht registration with a suitable and reputable flag state according to its intended use and consider any necessary fiscal planning.”

Quadrant Group
Quadrant Group – Paul Fleming & Simon Roberts

Head quartered in the Isle of Man, with other offices in the Cayman Islands, Jersey and Malta, The Quadrant Group bring with them over 40 years of experience in delivering a melange of service to superyacht owners. From ownership structures for both commercial and private yachts to the Malta yacht leasing agreement and crew payroll services, their breath of experience across these high value assets ensure their protection, tax efficient strategies and complete confidentiality.

Managing Director Simon Roberts emphasises the benefits of the Isle of Man HQ, “The island has a long maritime history and is a centre of excellence allowing us to recruit very experienced personnel with the right maritime backgrounds, but at the same time to recruit and train the next generation coming into the exciting and diverse industry.”

 

“As a privately owned company,” Simon points out, “Quadrant provides owners with the peace of mind that comes with a well managed, risk-averse and forward-thinking business that aligns with their own goals.”

The other advantages of talking to someone in the Isle of Man? 0% Corporation Tax on Superyacht Ownerhsip Structures (companies) and the ability to talk to a myriad of very experienced people, face to face in one location. Roberts concludes, “Our 22 personnel on the island have an average of 13 years professional experience in the yachting and maritime industry – this is a rare find and quite unique in our business.”

Whilst the Isle of Man has long been an attractive jurisdiction for yacht owners, particularly with its competitive tax regimes, asset protection, and flexible ownership structures, for certain owners of private vessels it also offers Temporary Admission opportunities.

It is undeniably an important mechanism, without which many non-EU resident yacht owners would likely avoid visiting European waters due to the prohibitive cost of paying VAT on arrival that would ordinarily be applicable.

From simplified border crossings, reduced paperwork, and streamlined customs procedures, Temporary Admission is a great way for private yacht owners to operate their yacht without the need for it to be formally imported, thus avoiding the customs formalities, inevitable import VAT costs and structuring costs associated with EU importations.

As a flag state, the Isle of Man stands out as a good example of a flag of confidence, commanding respect and offering numerous advantages to those that register their yachts there. The Isle of Man Ship Registry (IOMSR) is also a member of the Red Ensign Group and is globally recognised for its high standards and quality service, providing yacht owners with a sense of security and peace of mind.

VAT & TAXATION
The Isle of Man has a standard rate of corporate income tax of 0%. This applies to all business except for licensed banking business and corporate income from Manx land and property. The island has its own Income Tax and Customs and Excise services and is an established low tax area enjoying total independence from the UK on matters of direct taxation.

Therefore, the island has developed into a flourishing and internationally respected offshore business centre. Formerly a Director with Moore Stephens, Ayuk Ntuiabane established the Y & A Group, LP in 2020. With over 25 years in this niche industry, Ayuk is recognised as a yachting and aviation VAT and Customs systems’ expert. His portfolio extends from core accountancy and compliance to lead consultant and industry mentoring responsibilities. In addition to this, Ayuk regularly speaks at industry conferences worldwide.

PWC ISLE OF MAN
PWC Isle of Man – Clockwise: Ferran Munoz-Lopez, Tax Leader, Kate Brummitt, Tax Manager, Alexander Lea, Tax Manager, Holly Roriston, Tax Manager

PwC Isle of Man is a professional services firm supporting local and international clients with quality assurance, advisory, actuarial, and tax services. Operating from their Douglas office, the franchised firm is a locally owned and controlled partnership of more than 100 staff with 17 Partners and Directors. Part of a network of firms in 151 countries with over 360,000 people, their purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems.

Kate Brummitt, a Tax Manager with the firm said, “With a respected, long-established yachting sector, the Isle of Man is uniquely placed with a vast wealth of professionals and knowledge to support yachting business. As a jurisdiction, the island’s shipping registry is recognised globally as setting a high benchmark for standards and efficiency. A responsive Customs and Excise department with a depth of experience in dealing with yacht registrations supports the island’s tax regime.”

YACHT MANAGEMENT
Many superyacht owners do not want to be burdened with the task of co-ordinating the administrative tasks they are legally required to do. They prefer to outline their requirements to a yacht manager and be free to enjoy using their yacht with the minimum of inconvenience. Many CSPs offer basic yacht management services in house while others sub contract the task to other island based companies that handle it for them.

Almost all of the island based providers of facilities to the superyacht business use the term Yacht Management to describe the services they offer and given the wide field that those two words embrace, it is easy to see why they feel confident to do so simply because they manage yacht related problems and do so, well. It does however pay to look into what exactly a company does provide before choosing any one supplier to look after every aspect of management.

Headquartered in the Isle of Man and licensed by the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority, Hill Robinson Limited offers the many different types of corporate structuring that a superyacht owner may require. Callum Carine, Manager at Hill Robinson Limited, explains that the Isle of Man’s non-EU status allows non-EU resident owners of private yachts to benefit from the Temporary Admission (TA) regime.

“Temporary Admission is a relief for private yachts with no connection to the EU to operate within EU waters for 18 months at a time without having to pay VAT on the value of the yacht,” advises Callum. “To qualify for Temporary Admission, the criteria is that the yacht has to be privately operated and registered outside of the EU, the yacht’s ultimate beneficial owner must be a non-EU resident and the owning company must be non-EU – that’s where the Isle of Man comes in.”

I-CAP Marine
I-CAP Marine

I-Cap Marine Ltd is another yacht management company facilitating a full range of services primarily to owners of superyachts. Michael Wheeler, Associate Director, Marine and Client Services explains, “We have gained an enviable reputation within the yacht services industry due to our proactive approach and our passion to deliver a consistent service that provides both value for money and peace of mind. We know from experience that buying a yacht is not just about choosing a make and model. Once you’ve selected your yacht you also need a team that delivers the best support and guidance to ease the responsibility of owning and operating your yacht.”

 

 

There is a broad range of service and product providers on the island that are not involved in the pure financial arena, and one such leading business is OceanWeb.

OceanWeb
OceanWeb

Providers of customised hardware, software, and internet- based solutions for the superyacht industry, OceanWeb Ltd, was founded by islanders Ben and Sara Hexall in 1997. Specialist in satellite communications, IT support, networks, tracking and email systems, they state that most of their business is generated via word of mouth and direct recommendations from captains, crew, management companies, shipyards, and project managers.

Their experience with technology covers the full range from private yachts requiring a single PC through to the largest of yachts with a suite of PCs, servers, and communication systems. With an established portfolio of 150+ superyachts the OceanWeb team of qualified engineers are often referred to by crew as ‘Remote ETOs’. This is because of comprehensive and proactive IT Support service they offer. Sara concludes, “From Starlink, 4G/5G, AV, VSAT, hardware installations and comprehensive monthly IT support contracts, you can always set sail with confidence when dealing with OceanWeb.”

The last word goes to Michael Wheeler who sums up the generally accepted proud feeling of the residents and workforce, “The Isle of Man, with its friendly and intrepid populace, boasts a thriving yachting business sector. Our maritime DNA runs deep, fuelled by centuries of seafaring heritage. The iconic Three Legs of Man, symbolising resilience and adaptability, stands proudly as a testament to our island’s spirit. “Whithersoever you throw it, it will stand.”

 

What the Isle of Man has to offer

UNESCO Biosphere
The Isle of Man is the first entire nation in the world to be recognised as a UNESCO Biosphere. It boasts 160 km of beautiful coastline, 32 beaches, 18 scenic glens and 26 official dark sky sites for stargazing – the highest concentration of dark skies in the British Isles.

The Biosphere status was awarded in recognition of the island’s natural environment, vibrant culture, unique heritage and close-knit community. Located in the heart of the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man is best known as an outdoor adventure hotspot, perfect for walking, cycling and wellbeing holidays, or somewhere to simply switch off whilst immersing yourself in its 10,000 year story.

Arts, Heritage & Culture
The extraordinary 10,000 year story of the Isle of Man is portrayed throughout the Island in a landscape rich in ancient monuments, medieval castles, and landmarks. There 33 National Heritage sites and an extensive network of heritage railways, including the Isle of Man Steam Railway, which is the longest narrow gauge steam line in Britain that still uses its original locomotives and carriages. The Island’s norse history and Manx National Heritage is celebrated in a rich calendar of events.

2024 Events and Activities Highlights
• Isle of Man Darts Festival – 7-10th March
• Shennaghys Jiu – Celtic Festival – 28th -31st March
• CAMRA Isle of Man Beer & Cider Festival – 11-13th April
• Easter Egg Rolling at Cregneash – 1st April
• Manx Music, Speech & Dance Festival – The Guild– 27th April-4th May
• Isle of Man TT – 27th May – 8th Jun
• Tynwald Day – 5th July
• The Lighthouse Cycling Sportive Challenge – 6th – 7th July
• World Tin Bath Championships Castletown – 7th September
• Gran Fondo Isle of Man – 27th-28th July
• Yn Chruinnaght – Celtic Gathering – 22nd-28th July
• World Championship Viking Longboat Races – 20th July
• Isle of Man Food & Drink Festival – 14th-15th September
• Isle of Man Festival of Motoring – 19th – 22nd September
• Walk the Isle of Man – Walking Festival – 22nd-27th September
• Manx Litfest – 24th- 29th September
• Traditional Hop tu Naa Festival at Cregneash – October

Nature & Wildlife
The Isle of Man’s rich tapestry of flora and fauna offers nature lovers and wildlife watchers an unforgettable experience all year round. Avid bird watchers will delight in the assortment of species to be found on The Calf of Man – an official British Bird Observatory. You may also be lucky enough to spot the 100+ wild wallabies that call the Island their home, or the striking basking sharks that come to feed in its plankton-rich waters. Dolphins and Minke Whales can also be spotting swimming in Manx shores.

Food & Drink
The commitment to sustainability, heritage and culture is at the core of the Island’s dynamic food scene, built on local produce and offering the highest quality food and drink. With the Island so rich in nature, foraging has become a favourite practice of the Island’s top chefs. The Island boasts three creameries, famous Manx seafood including King and Queen Scallops, as well as Distilleries with award-winning Manx ales that have been produced for 100 years.

Wellness

The Isle of Man is the perfect place to switch off and recharge. Whether you’re looking for the best sea spots for cold water swimming, exploring glens and waterfalls or taking part in wellness retreats and yoga programmes, the Island is the ideal place for a wellness break. For the adventurous, the Island even has unique camping and glamping locations, from eco-camping to luxurious yurts.

Walking

With 40% of land uninhabited, walking trails on the Isle of Man are as diverse as they are numerous. Whether you’re an ambler, a rambler or a serious hiker, there are countless guided and self-guided walks, spanning the iconic Raad ny Foillan coastal footpath, or heading to the uplands to conquer the Island’s 25 summits over 1000ft.

Cycling

The Isle of Man offers some of the best cycling experiences in the British Isles, with a wealth of terrains to appeal to novices and experts alike. The cycle routes have it all – climbs and mountain paths, leisurely lanes, and coastal routes that will take your breath away. As the birthplace of two of the greatest cyclists of the modern generation, Mark Cavendish and Peter Kennaugh, the Island’s ‘Cyclist Welcome Scheme’ makes it a perfect spot for cycling adventure.