As a lawyer specialising in Company Law I am quite often pulled to one side by an anxious looking director or shareholder who asks me whether he or she will be personally liable in the event that it all goes wrong.
Media reporting on the so-called Panama Papers has focused on the tax affairs of wealthy individuals and international organisations, but the hacking of client files at Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca has implications for every business.
The use of pilots, independent skilled master mariners with specific practical and personal local knowledge, to assist and advising a vessel’s Master in ensuring a safe passage of a vessel within the area in which the Pilot operates is now a statutory requirement for most ports, but derives from a very old and widely established custom, which has saved countless lives and vessels over the years.
With one-off new builds currently in the doldrums due to the current economic climate, and a steady stream of hitherto copper bottom manufacturers getting into financial difficulties, one consequence has been that the remaining concerned would be purchasers, ever more mindful of the financial risks of commissioning a new build, even if stock craft, have been seeking expert legal advice with a view to creating bespoke contracts which protect their interests by minimising their financial exposure.
The cost of securing accessible accommodation in London has now become so prohibitive that many people are now looking at innovative alternative solutions. One of the traditional alternatives has long been the use of a barge or other relatively spacious vessels, permanently moored alongside one of Thames many Wharfs. The problem is that those have become increasingly rare (as Wharf Operators have tended to go in for other more profitable operations for their plots) and there is consequently an extremely limited range of suitable live alongside mooring arrangements in the lower reaches of the Thames. Those who are able to acquire a vessel with a permanent right to moor in such areas are extremely fortunate, but the values that they pay reflect the scarcity of such opportunities. If you are therefore fortunate enough to find yourself able to look at such an option, then it obvious pays to focus attention on precisely what mooring arrangement is available to you, and the security of tenure on the site. Simply put, a good site effectively now represents a significant proportion of the value of the purchase, and whilst it is difficult to put a figure, some vessels that come complete with such moorings, are probably worth a fraction of the value of the mooring option itself.
Purchase paperwork comes in many forms, but principally we are all used to the British Marine Federation standard form document and the Mediterranean Yacht Brokers Association version.
Over the last 40 years there has been a quiet revolution in the manner in which most Yards and Marina transport and store vessels. Whilst there remain a small number of Yards still using traditional marine railways, tractor/bomb trolley combinations, affording owners the choice of either a mud berth or inside or outside storage in a draughty shed, ever more options are now presented as to how and where boats are to be stored in the off season, and with those options, a bewildering variety of specialist vehicles have been introduced to achieve the task.
10% deposits are continuing to be demanded as the norm on most transactions, and few purchasers appear to be looking carefully at the wording of the purchase contract to ascertain who exactly they are paying the money to, where it is being held, and in what circumstances it is capable of being forfeited or refunded.
With the recent dramatic passing of Storm Imogen it was interesting to note at least two large cruisers firmly wedged against the high water springs point in Bosham Channel a couple of days back indicating either that their mooring had parted or that they had dragged their ground tackle such was the strength of the wind even in the comparative shelter of Chichester Harbour. Fortunately both were promptly retrieved on the next tide, hopefully without damage.
Nobody wants to contemplate their own demise, but the tax man benefits from a failure to do so, so let’s face the unpalatable reality that, unlike some Vikings and Egyptians, we are not going to be able to take our boats into the afterlife.