I am often asked by people for advice on importing a boat from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). My answer is always to exercise caution because what at first may seem to be a very cheap boat may well become an expensive nightmare.
Firstly, I think that we all know that VAT of 23% must be paid on boats that are imported from outside the EEC, in addition to this there is an import duty of 2%. These two taxes are based not on what you paid for the boat but on the estimated value of the boat in Portugal, the valuation of the boat is the responsibility of the Customs in Portugal.
Boats imported into Portugal are now required to comply with the EU Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) and to have a CE mark to show that they have been inspected and that they do comply with the RCD. This is something that we take for granted when we buy a fridge, a TV or a DVD.
A boat must comply with the RCD requirements from the moment that it is offered for sale in Portugal or from the moment that it is first used in the water after June 16th 1998. This means that used boats that were built before this date but imported into Portugal after June 16th 1998 still must comply.
Production boats that have been built outside the EEA for export into Portugal normally do comply and are CE marked, an identical model not built originally for export to the EEA will usually not comply. In the case of boats built in the US or elsewhere for the US market this is because they have to comply with US Coastguard regulations, which are very different from the RCD requirements. This will be particularly noticeable with gas and fuel installations.
This can all become something of a bureaucratic nightmare, but for the determined boat importer there are certain steps that must be taken. This involves having a boat surveyed to show that it complies with the RCD. This is known as an RCD Post Construction Assessment, which will also involve the compiling of an owners manual, a declaration of conformity and a technical construction file. Following this process the boat will be marked with a CE mark. Most people who are thinking of importing a boat will be importing one from America, and in which case get in touch with www.CEmyBoat.com who will arrange everything for you in the States. Their service includes: DOC (Declaration of Conformity) in several languages, production of Technical files, CE owner manual in several languages, CE Survey, Stability test, CE Plates, control of engine emmisions and exhaust. They can also provide transport, shrink wrap,cradle, trailer and 220 volt transformers.
If you are going to have your imported boat registered in Portugal and therefore have a Portuguese Ensign, it will also have to be inspected by the Portuguese authorities. There are five different categories of boat for the purpose of this inspection. Categories 1, 2 & 3 must have their assessment carried out by the Instituto Portuario e dos Transportes Maritimos in Lisbon, categories 1 & 2 must have their registration completed by the IPTM, category 3 must have their registration completed by their local Capitania. Categories 4 & 5 have their assessment and registration completed by their local Capitania.
Categories 1 to 5 have nothing to do with the size of the vessel but are related to how far the vessel may go from a Port of Refuge. Most of the regulations for these categories are related to the safety equipment that must be carried on board. A list of these requirements can be obtained from any Capitania. The categories are as follows:
Category 1 has no limit as to how far a vessel may go.
Category 2 vessels must stay within 200 nautical miles from a port of refuge.
Category 3 vessels must stay within 60 miles of a port of refuge and within 25 miles from the coast.
Category 4 vessels must stay within 20 miles of a port of refuge and 6 miles from the coast.
Category 5 is for vessels that intend going to sea in calm weather and close to the coast or in inland waterways and harbours. Sailing and motorboats in this category must stay within three miles of a port of refuge.
In order to apply for registration of the boat in any of these categories the owner of a boat must have a builders certificate and a manual and show his or her passport and supply the authorities with their fiscal number. In addition an owner must obtain from the customs in Portugal a ‘Prova de Desalfandegamento’ if the vessel is being imported from outside the EEA, if the vessel is being imported to Portugal from within the EEA you will need to obtain from the customs a ‘Prova Comunitaria da Embarcacao’.
All the above seems very complicated, but taken step by step is not as bad as it looks. During my visits recently to both the Capitania in Faro and the Instituto Portuario e dos Transportes Maritimos in Lisbon, I found the staff to be very helpful and on both occasions there was someone who was able to speak to me in English.
I am occasionally asked by people for advice specifically on importing boats from America where they are much cheaper than in Europe and in fact I went over to New Orleans recently to inspect a beautiful 60 foot ketch called ‘Drogheda’, the boat was in wonderful condition, the owners were asking a very reasonable price BUT all the vessels shore powered and generator powered systems were 110 volts. Enquiries into the cost of a suitable transformer so that the boat could make use of 220 volts shore power in Portuguese marinas and run 3 separate airconditioning units, proved to be a very expensive exercise. Changes necessary so that the boat would comply with the RCD added still more to the price, then the vat and import duty added a lot more and finally delivery of the boat to Portugal either by ship or with a delivery crew added even more to the price. Needless to say my clients did not take long to decide that to buy a boat locally would be in fact cost them much less.
Smaller boats however can now be imported from the States at a very reasonable cost, providing the work involved with CE marking etc is carried out on your behalf by www.CEmyBoat.com .
Martin Northey - Yachtmaster Examiner/Instructor for Sail and Power
The Iberian Sea School - RYA Sailing, Motor Cruising and Powerboat School
Apartado 1039 - Vilamoura,
8126 - 912 Quarteira,