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Old 15-01-2008, 10:16   #1
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Non EU Vessel in a EU Port

Hi all, I done a search on this question, but no readily available answers... How long can a Non-EU yacht, stay in a EU Port. When I say Non-EU, it could be a US flagged boat, or a Eastern European Flag. I have heard something about 180 days, but I saw that over on another forum, but cant find the thread. Thanks for any info.
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Old 15-01-2008, 10:30   #2
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The rules have changes over the past few years. The current rule is 18 months. That is for the boat. Often a person can only stay 90 days.
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Old 15-01-2008, 11:13   #3
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As far as I know, you are entitled to remain in EU waters as a non-EU yacht with non-EU owner skipper on board without paying VAT as long as said yacht has been in EU waters for less than 6 months.

As to whether, in practice, you will be able to ramble about from port to port/ EU country to EU country and have anyone pay a blind bit of notice of the fact that you may be around for longer than 6 months I do not know. Some countries and some port authorities will no doubt be a lot more vigilant and pernickety than others.
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Old 15-01-2008, 12:46   #4
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I've read elsewhere, from folks in the EU, that this varies with the port of entry and the nation you are visiting. Cross the line and your boat may be seized unless you pay the VAT assessment, which can be stiff. (And also varies by country.)

Your best bet? Contact the authorities in the nation you plan to visit, to be sure you have the right current information. And remember, laws often change on the first of the year.
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Old 16-01-2008, 02:56   #5
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The rule is currently 18 months for the entire EU. But different countries, ports and officals decide how to enforce it. In some countries (France for one) they want to go through your log for proof that you have been in the EU less than 18 months (we also kept marina receipts, etc. to prove our visit outside the EU). In other countries no one seemed to care. There is no official number of days you must be outside the EU before you can return. What many non-EU cruisers in the Western Med do is to visit Morocco (that is what we did this past September) for a few days. In the Central Med Tunisia is a common non-EU destination and in the East, Turkey.
If you would like more information, one of the best sources is Jack Tyler's website (Jack is the current President of the SSCA): Whoosh

The bigger issue we have found in 2 years of EU cruising is the 90 day visa issues for non-EU citizens and some countries (Portugal for one) take this seriously.
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Old 16-01-2008, 03:24   #6
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Thanks for the different input so far.

For me personally, the Visa issue is a non-issue as I hold a European Passport.

However, I am in the process of looking for a boat, and there are a number of variables:
  1. Tax paid
  2. Tax non-paid
  3. Flag of the Vessel (EU or Non-EU)
  4. CE Certification
The problem I want to understand fully is with 1,2 & 3. Lets say I have a flagged boat from a non-eu land, however it is in a EU country's marina (lets say Portugal). What happens? Do they demand the EU Tax? etc etc.

Point 4 brings up an additional problem.
Lets say the boat was manufactuered by a EU company (late 80's), but has been 'outside' the EU (non-eu flag) for some years, and now it returns to the EU, does the boat now have to be inspected?

Any similar experiences would be appreciated.

Tim
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Old 16-01-2008, 11:15   #7
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Tim,

When a boat with a non-EU flag arrives in any marina or port that has a customs office near there is a chance they will come by and talk with you. For us, it only happened a few times, but you never know when. They have always been very nice, talking about sailing, looking around the boat, etc, but I know they are trying to make sure you are not an EU citizen and then if you have been in the EU longer than 18 months. We meet the rules and every other non-EU boat I know has also qualified, so I'm not sure what would happen if we were over the 18 months.

I understand they also visit EU flagged boats and ask for proof of VAT paid, and from second hand knowledge, have heard that they will hold a boat until the tax is paid, but I am not sure if that is true.
The second question about CE certification, if the boat is registered in an EU country it must meet the CE certification rules (some older boats do not have to, but I think it's much older than the 1980's). For us, being American Flagged, we are only required to meet the USA rules and not CE rules, even while in the EU. (this includes radio licenses, etc.)
But my knowledge is based on an American Flagged vessel. It's possible that if you are a Swiss flagged boat maybe that does change things?
Another possibility that I know EU citizens have done is to buy a boat with VAT not-paid and then register it in a country with the lowest VAT rate.

Jim
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Old 16-01-2008, 11:25   #8
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Jim-
"have heard that they will hold a boat until the tax is paid, but I am not sure if that is true."
The concept of "arresting the boat" is standard in maritime law, even here in the US. Typically a boat was placed under arrest and a notice nailed to the mast, one hopes they would something less intrusive on aluminum these days.<G> There's some latin legal name for it, but since I'm neither Latin nor a lawyer, I don't care.

"For us, being American Flagged, we are only required to meet the USA rules and not CE rules, even while in the EU. (this includes radio licenses, etc.)"
Not quite! There are ITU reciprocity treaties/regulations, and you are operating under the laws OF THE VENUE YOU ARE IN. If they are ITU members, they will have a reciprocal use agreement with the US, but the terms are not always 100% the same for all radio services. They might be, but it pays to be sure.
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Old 16-01-2008, 11:43   #9
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"the terms are not always 100% the same for all radio services. They might be, but it pays to be sure" .... Thanks for the information...I just went to the ITU site and realize there is no hope that I can figure it out! I know my HAM license is OK in Europe, but I assumed I did not need an EU VHF license, which for the countries I know requires 8 hours of classroom and passing a test. Do you know of a site that I can understand that will tell me if I need to do anything special to be legal in the EU?
Thanks!
Jim
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Old 16-01-2008, 17:40   #10
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Jim is the Man

Jim has it right and seems to be imho the most knowledgeable poster on this subject:

The rule is 18 months within the EU, regardless which EU-country. Period, Basta, Dacors, Das wars. Your flag btw does not make a difference; nationality, more precisely permanent residency of the owner and operator does. Even an EU-flagged boat is exempt on the VAT payment for 18 months as long as the owner and operator resides outside the EU.

Of course you must somehow provide evidence that you have not yet exceeded your 18 months-window. Accepted proof is:

1. official clearing out documentation of your last non EU-country prior entering the EU.
2. if you do not have this it becomes more tricky: Keep Marina- or gas/diesel receipts from countries outside the EU that bear a date and logically require your boat's presence; a restaurant-bill or rental-car-agreement will not qualify.

Anytime your boat leaves the EU, even for 1 day the 18-months clock resets as long as you can show you left.

Different countries enforce this with different ferver. The French are rather hot after violators, so are the (Northern) Italians. Authorities of both countries have raided Marinas and checked on foreign flagged boats. The Italian "Guardia di Financa" (those grey speed-boats and ships) are quite resolute. If you did indeed violate the 18 months rule AND YOU ARE CAUGHT you will pay the VAT of the country you are in (different rates in different countries, all hovering around 20%) on the current market value of your yacht and a penalty which is again different from country to country. Your boat will be confiscated until you pay up (the proverbial chain).

A totally different issue is the max. time allowed for non EU-citizens to visit the EU (or any other country for that matter): again Jim got it right: most countries allow for an uninterrupted stay up to 90 days.

I know that most American sailors find this all very restrictive: they should know and/or compare American laws governing entry of foreign flagged pleasure-craft under the command of a foreign National into the US... the EU is very hospitable by comparison.
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Old 17-01-2008, 02:34   #11
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Hello Morski,

Regarding "the EU is very hospitable by comparison."... you are absolutely correct!

Other differences I have noticed in the countries I have visited is that the officials are (so far!) really nice and understanding and really do seem to look at things realistically and not just "by the rules".

Once, when we checked into a marina in Portugal and the police and customs people checked our passports and found that I was "Illegal" because I had been in the country more than 90 days they took us into another room to question us. The head customs man, rather than talking to us, took our passports and left, saying we needed to come to his office later.

We went to his office, not knowing what was going to happen. He was sitting behind his desk, looking through our passports and he asked me again, "Where have you come from?" I started to repeat what we had already told everyone, the name of our previous stop. He then said, "I don't think so.." Which really scared me. But he continued, "I think you have just arrived in Portugal from the high seas. Welcome to Portugal and he stamped my passport..giving me another 90 days.

We have really enjoyed our travels in northern Europe and are looking forward to our travels in the Eastern Med and especially Croatia!

Jim
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Old 17-01-2008, 06:44   #12
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@ Jim

Glad you have a good time in Europe. It would appear you are now approaching "my" area of sailing. "Nepomuk" currently lies in Tunisia and got there from Slovenia via Croatia, Montenegro, Italy, Sicily and Malta.

If you would like some recommendations (and warnings), I'll send you an email.
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Old 17-01-2008, 08:42   #13
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Jim-
"He then said, "I don't think so.." Which really scared me. "
Sounds like the way I became an international secret agent. Crossing from Belgium into France, I asked the man in the booth to stamp my passport. He feigned not understanding, then refused, and finally shut himself into his booth--all closed up. Leaving me no choice but to enter the country illegally, without a stamp of entry.

I suppose I should have known better, probably he was ashamed to admit that he had run out of stamp pad ink or something equally embarassing and mundane.<G>

Once upon a time, these things were supposed to be important. Hasn't the world changed?
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Old 17-01-2008, 16:41   #14
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Jim-
"He then said, "I don't think so.." Which really scared me. "
Sounds like the way I became an international secret agent. Crossing from Belgium into France, I asked the man in the booth to stamp my passport. He feigned not understanding, then refused,

Once upon a time, these things were supposed to be important. Hasn't the world changed?
Sorry, but you were not mistaken for 007 (who as a EU-citizen would not be checked anyway) unless your crossing occured before 1974. The poor Belgian guy does indeed not have stamps, pads or other b/s anymore. Belgium and France both are EU-countries, Belgium moreover is landlocked within the EU, no external borders at all (like Luxemburg and Austria) only under particular circumstances (ie. hunt for some fugitive) will anyone control anything when crossing internal EU-borders. Once you are in you are in, nobody will ask your passport when crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge from New Jersey into Pennsylvania either.

A different affair are EU external borders (Aussengrenze), where one could arrive from a non-EU country; say you enter Malta. Sure you may come from Italy (also EU country, no control) but you may come from Tunisia, not an EU country therefore control. These external EU borders are more heavily guarded than one might think, I could tell a few stories about surveillance. Oftentimes those EU-countries without any or few external borders (Belgium, Germany, Austria) will actually send their officers to those countries with a lot of external borders, primarily Italy and Malta to assist them.
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Old 17-01-2008, 16:50   #15
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"nobody will ask your passport when crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge from New Jersey into Pennsylvania either."
Pre- or post-EU, NJ and PA are part of one same nation. Belgium and France aren't, even if they have (very much later than 1974!) agreed to loosen up their concepts of sovereignty.
Last time I checked, the US Department of State, which issues US passports, said that the passport should be kept in the possession of the issuee, period. But as we all know, various officals and even hotel desk clerks have often retained passports, as required by their own local laws.
Laws? Flip the coin, it can or can't be both heads and tails at the same time.
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