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Old 19-04-2013, 14:33   #1
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Import and Register boat in Belize

Hello everyone!

We are thinking about bringing our 32" catamaran to Belize, San Pedro, and were curious if anybody knows how it works with the importation permit (we want it as permanent and with as long duration as possible, and also we are not planning to use the catamaran just for private use but for business, so I guess that makes it all different!?) and how do they calculate the importation taxes? Heard it's bases upon the value of your boat but from where is that value decided, from the Bill of Sale or do you have somebody make an inspection to decide the actual value?
Does anybody know anything about re-registering the boat in Belize, what does it cost etc? Currently it is US registered and flagged.

Thankful for any kind of help or advice!!
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Old 20-04-2013, 04:52   #2
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Re: Import and register boat in Belize

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, coraltours.

You might ask the Belize Customs and Excise Department, or the Chamber of Commerce, for guidance and/or direction.

Belize Customs & Excise Department

The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry - Taking Care of Business!
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Old 20-04-2013, 06:07   #3
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Oh're in for a fun time...

Pop quiz for new arrivals in Belize...what is the number one source of revenue in Belize? Tourism right? WRONG -- Customs Duties!

Thus...the standard import duty on a boat is about 35% of hull value. Yup, as in $35K per $100K -- ouch! This is why no one imports their boat...unless they work something out under the table, but typically you need to have been around a while to do that...or have an "ally" in Customs as they say in Belize. For example, there used to be a corrupt surveyor who would give a low ball valuation to his buddy in customs but he is dead now. To my knowledge no one has yet stepped in to fill this market niche.

A few things to consider/investigate:

Foreign Vessel Registration. For boats in the charter fleet there is an annual foreign vessel registration. I dont think they will grant one to boats not in an established charter fleet, but no harm in to Port Authority in Belize City about this. The annual fee is several times higher than the normal Belizean vessel registration (about BZ$1,000 as I recall). This registration is also not intended to be forever, but that is generally not enforced.

Retirement program: if you come in under the retirement program then you should be able to import the boat duty free.

Temporary import: you can post a bond and keep the boat in country longer than the standard 90 day cruising permit, but this is not intended to be permenant...I dont recall the time limits though. Try and discuss this w Customs. However something you will learn is that generally Belizean officials are surly and unhelpful...even if they know the answer they are unlikely to explain it to a foreigner. I know people who have done this, but handing cash over to a Belizean authority and expecting to ever see it again would concern me.

Port Authority. Port Authority in Belize City is somewhat of an exception to the surly officials in Belize. Ive usualy had good experiences working w them. Also, it is worthwhile to bring Port Authority officials to your boat away from Belize City...they are decidely more "flexible" sitting in the privacy of your boat.

Run to the Rio. An option to dealing w all the headaches and expenses of trying to import/register the boat in Belize is to simply bring it under a normal cruising permit and then run down to the Rio Dulce at the end of the permit period. This is what cruisers do of course. Also, this is where you want the boat to be for hurricane season anyway. will probably need a "Belize Break" can be a very frustrating country. Guatemala officials are wonderful and make this transition easy.

Boat Masters Liscence. If you are going to operate a boat in Belize as anything other than a transient cruiser then you will need one of these. There are restrictions on issueing these to foreigners so they can be a challenge to come by (Ive seriously considered enlarging and framing my Belizean Commercial Catamaran liscence...just because of all the crap I went through to get it) Talk w Port Authority for the current rules. Note: Belizean officials do not care what other liscences or qualification you may have.

Valuation. Is whatever Customs decides it is, but they typically require a survey to establish value.

Recreational vs Commercial Use. Does not change the import/registration hassles much, but establishing a business in Belize as a foreigner is a huge PITA. And even once establihed the hassles continue...especailly if it involves a foreign boat "pon we sea".
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