– Owner – Contracts of carriage

Matthias du Verle, from Wolfgang Pro, discusses the development of a new digital platform that could simplify the process …

The contract of carriage was presented as a solution to the clarification by the French government of its position on the VAT exemption for deliveries of goods and services related to commercial yachts. The resulting bulletin in 2015 was expensive and complicated for superyachts in the Mediterranean. The requirement that charter contracts be fully taxed in Europe, including fuel, APA, provisions and services, results in a reciprocal increase in the cost of operating a superyacht in the region. Since then, captains, managers, lawyers and owners have navigated a complex system.

Former Captain Matthais du Verle, along with Patrick Danis and a small team of industry professionals, began working with the French tax authorities on a new framework for the yachting industry’s business operations and developing a framework for managing passenger tax contracts; based on the Athens Convention of the IMO and the European VAT framework for the carriage of passengers by sea.

“It was a hell of a legal revolution when contracts of carriage first hit the market.” explains du Verle. “But although they are very smart from a legal standpoint, they were poorly designed for use by industry; they were complex contracts.” du Verle went on to clarify the issues further: “They needed a lot of information that brokers didn’t necessarily have, they needed tools and knowledge that were not common in the industry.”

The rigidity of the legal framework that underlies transport is also at odds with the operational profile of a typical superyacht, as du Verle extrapolates: “One consideration with the current contract of carriage is that the service provider, which is the owner of the yacht in many cases must be the one who defines the cruise. This may sound basic in principle, but in fact it has complex implications. In the yachting industry, we don’t go on a cruise with MSC, with a set itinerary and ports of call. “

As a relative layman in the world of financial law, du Verle took the time, when we spoke, to make an analogy to the situation, which I will paraphrase. When Uber arrived in France, they stumbled head first against a convoluted regulatory system. The law stated that you could only rent a car on the street if it was booked in advance, with a pre-planned route. However, Uber managed to get around this by proving that a smartphone made the reservation in real time, allowing Uber to stay within the current legal framework but to operate with more freedom.

Du Verle believes that he and his team have developed a system that will help ships regain freedom during charters and remain within the scope of the contract of carriage, namely the digital contract platform Wolfgang Pro, as further explained in detail of the Verle. “You want to keep flexibility and choice obviously, so you want the passengers / owner to decide on the trip. For example, one of the aspects that we have developed is the mapping tool, which is completely live. tool, the captain, after the client has suggested they want to go to another destination or want to spend more time in a different place that was not planned, then can update the contract live . “

As du Verle reminds me, he was an active superyacht captain in the region until a few months ago and is keenly aware of the complexities and issues surrounding shipping contracts. He and the team at Wolfgang Pro tried to integrate all the common issues that were highlighted. “This is why we have developed this interface where everything is collaborative, and captains, as soon as they board, can connect to the platform and update the charter. If there is a change in the guest list or the itinerary they can update details and waypoints and continue with the security of knowing that the contract of carriage still complies with the law. “

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