Buying or Chartering a Yacht Using Cryptocurrency: How Cryptocurrency Interacts with the Yachting World?

Cryptocurrencies have already been used in yachts’ purchases and charters, which are mainly paid in bitcoins. In particular, such payments were made in bitcoins, but were afterwards converted into fiat currency.

In fact, the number of companies now accepting payments in cryptocurrency is enormously growing. They use third-party platforms specialized in cryptocurrency’s exchange, such as CoinBase. Denison Yachting was one of the first companies which accepted payments in bitcoins, it started with purchases in 2016 and then, in 2018, it extended the acceptance of payments in cryptocurrency to yachts’ charters as well. In particular, fees are paid in the Denison Yachting’s wallet using the platform BitPay and then are usually converted into euros. It is also possible to pay in cryptocurrencies for yachts’ construction (e.g., there are some Canadian shipyards who accept such payments), for yacht designers’ services and yachts’ registration (e.g. Singapore Registry).

Big names in the yachting industry are not only accepting payments in cryptocurrency but are also investing in NFTs[1]. In particular, designs of NFTs’ yachts were presented at the 2022 Palm Beach International Boat Show. A NTF yacht, called Metaflower Super Mega Yacht to be used in The Sandbox metaverse, has been sold for about USD 650 thousands. Furthermore, the Owner of Benetti superyacht “VIANNE” has announced that he will accept NFTs as payment for its sale and/or charters.

Despite the acceptance of payments in cryptocurrency is becoming more and more popular in the yachting industry, such transactions still do not represent the majority and it may be motivated by the fact that they are risky due to the high fluctuations of cryptocurrency. Although there are some relevant risk factors, this trend cannot be ignored, and the industry needs to adapt in this regard. In fact, the advantages of this kind of transactions regard their convenience and their speed, because there is no need to worry about business hours, intermediaries and manual operations.

In light of the spread of such transactions, we will indicate some useful recommendations for lawyers and brokers involved in purchases or charters of yachts paid in cryptocurrencies.

What lawyers and brokers should do when they are dealing with cryptocurrency transactions?

The trend of accepting payments in cryptocurrency is undoubtedly growing, therefore both lawyers and brokers need to adapt in order to ensure the protection of their clients from possible risks.

Specifically, lawyers and brokers are recommended to perform a full screening of their customers with particular attention to sanctioned and high-risk countries and to carry out the following activities:

a) perform a complete due diligence on customers by:

  1. Collecting information regarding the relevant natural or legal persons involved. The ultimate beneficial owner should be always identified by requesting personal data (name, personal address which must be duly proved by providing utility bills);
  2. Verifying that the collected information is correct, such control may be either automatic or manual;
  3. Requesting and obtaining the documents needed in order to conduct the customer’s risk analysis;
  4. Constantly monitoring the relevant transaction with specific reference to the blockchain;
  5. Adverse media screening.

b) control that their clients are using a platform which is duly registered with the supervisory authority of the relevant country. Please note that such requirement may differ from one country to another. In particular, this requirement is mandatory for platforms established and operating in the EU, Monaco and Italy as well. In addition, the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance has issued a decree on January 13, 2022 which obliges cryptocurrency’s service providers and wallet providers to register with the relevant Registry (e., OAM)[2];

c) the lawyers and the brokers in charge of dealing with cryptocurrency transactions are not obliged to register with any registry, however, as stated above, they shall perform an appropriate due diligence, such as KYC in compliance with the national AML legislation;

d) in cryptocurrency transactions, it is very important to have knowledge on the matter in order to avoid any of all the possible risks. Therefore, brokers, who are new to the market, are recommended to use a trusted third-party. In fact, there are a lot of third-party’s entities who may help in the relevant payments and in carrying out the appropriate KYC/AML procedures;

e) in particular, before contacting a third-party entity, it is important to check the expertise and the reputation of such company;

f) in order to check if a transaction is clean and safe, brokers may use screening tools which determine the risk score and identify the direct sender.

The above activities, specifically the KYC ones, are important because cryptocurrency should build trust in both users and governmental bodies. KYC is fundamental for the prevention of criminal activities, thus avoiding easy transfers of money and it is important in order to reassure customers regarding the fact that their funds are effectively protected.

[1] NFTs are non-interchangeable units of data stored on a blockchain, which differ from cryptocurrency because they are not interchangeable.

[2] As of today, the registered companies operating in Italy are the following:  Anubi Digital srl, Binance Italy srl, Bitpanda Gmbh, Blockera srl, Chainside, Checksig srl, Cls srl, Conio srl, Cryptosmart srl, Platypus srl, Tesora srl, The Rock trading srl, Tinaba spa and Young Platform spa.