Ask the Flag

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An unprecedented panel of major international flag state registries was assembled by the U.S. Superyacht Association during this year’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Seven top Flag State experts from Cayman Islands, Marshall Islands, France, Malta, Bahamas, Jamaica, and the United States flag registries offered information to enhance the business and working knowledge for more than 100 USSA members, their clients, yacht industry leaders, yacht captains, and other associates.

The USSA “Ask the Flag” Panel: Navigating Regulatory Waters with Expertise was held at Bahia Mar Resort and Marina on October 25, 2023. The panel and audience participation covered valuable topics to ensure the seamless operation of superyachts worldwide including maritime regulations, compliance, safety standards, and the regulatory landscape.

Michael Reardon, founder and president of Reardon Yacht Consulting, brought his 30 years of experience in operation and management of luxury yachts to moderate the panel of experts including:

Peter Southgate, Cayman Islands Registry; Peter Chesla, IRI/The Marshall Islands Registry Mark Farrugia, Malta Transport; Dylan Vloebergh-Lair, French International Register; Larez Pinder, Bahamas Maritime Authority; Laura Knoll, Alley, Maass, Rogers & Lindsay, P.A. and Seymour Harley, Maritime Authority of Jamaica.

The panel covered many issues with the following being the largest discussion topics: Implementing a Certificate of Electronic Registry, STCW, minimum manning requirements, support vessels and the Small Yacht Code and the U.S. Flag

They agreed that most flag states are using, or in the process of implementing, a Certificate of Electronic Registry. Cayman Islands, Malta, and France may implement the program by next year; Bahamas is working on it; the United States is not yet creating the program; Jamaica currently issues an electronic version; and Marshall Islands has had electronic option for nearly five years.

All of the attending flag registries conform to Standards of Training and Certification of Watchkeeping (STCW).  The mentioned that Belgium is one of the few that does not conform.

Although most insurance companies often mandate manning, most flag states do not have minimum manning requirements for private or recreational yachts. Most vessels follow STCW guidelines. The United States has its own manning requirements found in the Code of Federal Regulations.

Handling large yacht tenders and support vessels was also of key interest to the crowd. It was explained that the Small Yacht Code is used by most for vessels under 24m and insurance companies often lead the way with requirements. Most of the panelist agreed to having a separate registration for tenders, especially if they are towed.  Marshall Islands explained that they can get a statement of compliance and Jamaica offered that if the tender is on the list of equipment they also wouldn’t need a separate registration.

An update was provided on the status of the U.S. Flag.  The U.S. government mandated a U.S. flag option more than five years ago but, to-date, compliance is a challenge and the flag has not been implemented as expected.

The audience walked away with a vast knowledge of the latest regulations as well as updates on medical requirements, having more than 12 guests on a private yacht and the Yachts Engaged in Trade scheme, and benefits to each flag state registry.

To be a part of future educational seminars, discussions, and panels, please visit U.S. Superyacht Association at

This Year’s Panelists:

Ask the flag panel on stage
French Register logo
Logo Malta Registry
US Flag

Meet the Panel:

Moderator: Michael Reardon, Reardon Yacht Consulting

Headshot Michael Reardon<br />

Peter Southgate, Cayman Islands Registry

Peter is a shipbuilder, naval architect and marine surveyor with nearly 40 years in the maritime industry and is a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects. Starting his career at UK shipbuilder Vosper Thornycroft as an apprentice shipwright/metalworker and later as a naval architect in the ship design department.

After a period with Lloyd’s Register specializing in yachts and passenger ships, Peter worked with the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency where he was involved in the implementation and expansion of the large yacht code and directly responsible for the development of LY2. He joined the Cayman Islands Shipping Registry as a marine surveyor where he was instrumental in developing the Register as the world leader in large yacht registration and more recently has played a lead role in the development of the REG Passenger Yacht Code, first published in November 2011.

Peter is a regular panelist at innumerous maritime events and regularly contributes to articles on regulatory matters in industry publications. He is a well-respected authority on matters related to the construction and regulation of ships and large yachts.

Peter has a Law Degree from the University of London and completed the LPC with the University of Law and has subsequently been involved in the development of legislation and providing advice on international maritime regulatory matters.

Peter founded Southgate Maritime Inc in 2018 and is currently serving a Regional Director, Americas  for the Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands and is responsible for the Authority’s technical operations in the region.

Peter Chesla, IRI/Marshall Islands Registry
Senior Technical Manager, Yachts
Ft Lauderdale, Florida

Mr. Chesla joined International Registries, Inc. and its affiliates (IRI), which provide administrative and technical support to the Republic of the Marshall Islands Registry, in August 2013 as Safety & Technical Assistant Manager, Yachts. He was promoted to Safety & Technical Manager, Yachts in October 2014, and in January 2021 was promoted to Senior Technical Manager, Yachts. Prior to joining IRI, he spent 13 years with Murray & Associates, LLC, where he gained experience as a Naval Architect in the retrofitting and building sector for yachts. Mr. Chesla holds a B.S. in Ocean Engineering from the Florida Institute of Technology and is a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of Florida for Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.

Headshot Mark Farrugia

Mark Farrugia, Malta Transport


Mark Farrugia – Assistant Registrar of Ships within the Merchant Shipping Directorate of Transport Malta.  I am responsible for the Registration of Merchant Ships and Super Yachts under the Malta Flag. 

This is my 22nd year at Transport Malta and I have seen the Super Yacht Registration sector develop from a couple of yachts in 2008 to over 1100 Super Yachts up till September 2023.  I look forward to develop my expertise in Super Yachts in the coming years. 

Attending Yacht Shows all over the world and seeing lots of yachts bearing the Malta Flag is definitely something which makes me proud and gives me motivation to keep striving to see Malta maintain its position as one of the leading Flag States for Super Yacht Registrations.



Larez Pinder, Bahamas Maritime Authority

Larez is a Bahamian Chief Engineer who began his maritime career as an Engine Cadet in 2008. He later transitioned to attend the California Maritime Academy, completing the Marine Engineering Technology program and commenced sailing as an engineering officer on bulk carriers internationally, along with tug boats domestically. He most recently completed his MsC in Maritime Affairs at the World Maritime University in 2021, landing him in his present position at the BMA as a Technical Officer in the Inspections & Surveys department.

Headshot Laura Knoll

Laura B. Knoll, Alley, Maas, Rogers & Lindsay, P.A.

Laura B. Knoll is a partner at Alley, Maass, Rogers & Lindsay, P.A., in Palm Beach, where her practice focuses on yacht transactions. Laura represents clients who are buying, selling, building, and chartering yachts and advises on related matters, including regulations, registration, finance, insurance, taxes, and crew.

She is a graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy and received her law degree with a Certificate in Admiralty Law from Tulane University Law School.

Laura previously litigated cases involving collisions and allisions of vessels, barge breakaways, seaman personal injuries, and pollution, and served as in-house civilian counsel for the U.S. Coast Guard Eighth District Waterway Management Division.




Seymour Harley, Registrar General of the Maritime Authority of Jamaica

Seymour Harley is the Registrar General of the Maritime Authority of Jamaica with oversight of the administration of the registration of ships in Jamaica and the welfare of both Jamaican Seafarers and Seafarers onboard Jamaican ships. The holder of a Bachelor of Engineering Degree from the University of Technology, Jamaica, he had a tangential shift in career to transportation where he has remained for over twenty years, earning graduate qualification (MSc) in Port and Maritime Management. He has served the Maritime Authority of Jamaica for most of this time in the administration of the registration of ships and yachts. He has a passion for the satisfaction of the yacht owners and stakeholders and lives the commitment of the Jamaica Ship Registry (JSR) in this regard


Headshot Laura Knoll

Dylan Vloebergh-Lair, French International Register

Dylan Vloëbergh-Lair is a Maritime Affairs Officer (Navy officer working for the French Ministry for the Sea) who has been working for the French flag’s international register office (RIF) since 2022. Within this public service of the French Government, he has 2 missions. Firstly, to share his expertise with shipowners on the management of crews (labor law, seafarers training and health, social protection…) on board vessels registered in the RIF under the French flag. Secondly, to take part in all international events to promote the French flag.

Dylan is a graduate of the Political Sciences Institue of Lille (Sciences-Po Lille – master’s degree in public administration, 2019), the University of Nantes (master’s degree in maritime law, 2022), the Naval Academy of Brest (officer in charge of watchkeeping course, 2021) and the Maritime affairs Academy of Le Havre (maritime public policies management, 2022).