Oh boy...you'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
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 asking...talk 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.
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. And...you will probably need a "Belize Break" anyway...it 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".