Duncan Bateson Partner
Bulletin 7 - When and how European countries are opening up to yachting
This week, as countries start to ease restrictions and open ‘for business’, we take a look at what guidelines are in place in key European yachting centres. With information changing almost daily and each country approaching it differently it has not been easy to stay abreast!
While the EU is encouraging a coordinated approach each European country is making its own decision on the best way out of lockdown resulting in a patchwork of regulations and guidelines.
Thank you to our international colleagues and network who have kept us informed of what is happening ‘on the ground’.
[Information current as at time of publication]
Croatia never fully closed down but yachting did slow down as people stopped arriving from the EU. However, as of last week all yachts over 24 meters are able to arrive and berth in Croatia. They will also be able to embark guests and crew. They will need to follow Covid-19 safety instructions (keeping distance, wearing a mask, washing their hands etc.) but interestingly there is no isolation or quarantine.
Anecdotally, we are hearing from brokers in Croatia that the first charter guests are arriving next week (from the UK) and more people the following week too. They can cruise freely along the Croatian coastline but trips ashore for shopping, sightseeing and restaurants are not encouraged.
There are no restrictions moving around Croatia by car and the airports are open but it is difficult to get flights. International ccommercial flights are very limited. Flights are running twice a week between Frankfurt and Zagreb and occasionally between Brussels and Zagreb. Domestic flights are available and from 2 June and they are expecting more flights from other European hubs. Private aviation is permitted to/from any destination.
We have heard that surveyors are arriving this week to begin surveying boats and carrying out sea trials.
Authorities in France have extended a nationwide state of health emergency until at least July 10 to combat coronavirus. However lockdown has gradually started to lift from 11 May. The Mediterranean has been reopened to yachting, although the activities are limited. Private vessels are now allowed to move about under certain conditions, for example, they must remain within 54nm (100km) of their home port and must not carry more than 10 passengers. Disembarking of passengers on land must comply with land measures (in particular the 100 km rule from home), except in an emergency. Vessels arriving from a foreign port must declare their health status. Therefore it is a safe bet that the port authorities of the Mediterranean ports will refuse access to any vessel not complying with these restrictions.
French air and land borders will remain closed until at least June 15; most travellers will be denied entry, and travellers with a valid reason for traveling to France will be required to fill out a declaration form before entering. Repatriation flights will continue. Travelers arriving from the EU, the Schengen Area, or the UK will not be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
This will be reviewed again on 2 June when, it is widely thought, more restrictions will be lifted.
The Gibraltar Port Authority is allowing crew changes subject to certain conditions.
For crew to disembark via Gibraltar, the vessel must be within the Port Limits, whether at anchor or alongside. Before leaving the vessel, the crew must confirm that they have been free of COVID 19 symptoms for 14 days. This confirmation must be verified by an official declaration from the Captain or Master of the vessel.
Disembarking crew cannot depart Gibraltar until incoming crew have boarded the aircraft / crossed into Gibraltar via the land border with Spain (if Spanish). Spain is currently not allowing non-residents to transit through Spain so all crew who are not Spanish nationals would have to depart Gibraltar by air. If embarking crew are unable to board a flight the disembarking crew must return to the vessel and be accepted back by the Captain / Master. They will not be allowed to stay onshore.
Local companies are undertaking yacht surveys (and they have been throughout) and surveyors can travel to Gibraltar as long as they are cleared in advance and they have the requisite documents in their possession to board aircraft / cross the border.
Greece is steadily transitioning out of a lockdown with several sectors of the economy still closed and not expected to reopen until the effects of the initial lifting of the lockdown have been assessed.
Sea transport to the Greek islands remains restricted to permanent residents and seasonal workers only but a full lifting of transportation measures is expected by the end of the month, if not earlier, which would open up the islands to the general public.
The Greek yachting sector, coming off a particularly successful year in 2019, has remained marginally active throughout the lockdown with repairs, surveys and sea trials taking place, subject to authorization by the port authorities and taking all necessary precautions for crew safety. One of the proposed measures to ensure passenger and crew safety going forward is operating at 50% capacity and a one cabin per crew member policy. The latter will apply to passenger cabins as well, unless the passengers are members of the same family.
Coronavirus-related uncertainty on a global scale and the interconnectedness of yachting to the rest of the tourism industry have created a difficult challenge for professional yachting in the vulnerable communities of Greek islands with reports of up to 90% cancellation rate for the early season charters. There is, however, cautious optimism for the latter part of the season from July until September, bolstered by the pledge of the Greek government to waive the 24% VAT charge for 2020 and potentially even 2021 in the hopes of a quicker and smoother recovery.
In Italy, new legislation came into effect on Monday 18 May, covering how restrictions are to be eased from now until 31 July. Two key phases are to be identified: from 18 May until 2 June, and from 3 June onwards.
Until 2 June - It is possible to go to Italy for work reasons as long as certain requirements are met. For example, surveyors with no symptoms will be allowed to enter Italy for work, without being quarantined, for 72 hours, which can be extended of further 48 hours in certain circumstances (i.e. totalling a maximum of 5 days). In practice, we are seeing that, where the surveyor comes from a neighbouring country such as Monaco, having returned to the country of origin, the surveyor can then come back to Italy for further 5 days and so on. They will have to communicate the position to the health authorities and of course notify them should they develop any COVID-19 symptoms.
The same framework applies to members of crew coming from abroad. A foreign crew will be allowed to go to Italy and embark on a yacht, as long as the crew leaves Italy within the same 3 + 2 days’ timeframe. In practice, we understand that this is happening in the context of delivery of new builds registered under a foreign flag, where the yacht is entitled to leave the country.
Since Monday, leisurely sailing is permitted in Italy, within the same Italian region, with social distancing rules applying on board in the same way as on the mainland. It is now also possible to charter a yacht to sail within the same region; checks have to be carried out on the charterers as well as on the skipper/crew (if any). Ports and marinas are subject to new procedures to ensure compliance with social distancing and sanitary measures.
From 3 June onwards, it will be possible for travellers from a specified list (which includes EU, Schengen countries, UK and Monaco) to enter Italy freely without being quarantined, and people based in Italy will be allowed to move between Italian regions, and to travel to countries from the same list. Sailing will be allowed with no limitations within the Italian territory and it will be possible to sail abroad (subject to any restrictions imposed by the country of destination).
The current restrictions of 72 + 48 hours will continue to apply, until at least 15 June, to people arriving in Italy for work from countries not falling into the above list, or upon those that travelled to any of those countries in the 14 days preceding the entrance in Italy.
Should the pandemic worsen again, the rules set out above may be restricted. It should also be noted that the various Italian regions are provided with a certain degree of autonomy in implementing the government guidelines and stricter requirements may be applied by the local authorities. For example, Sardinia is currently imposing a 14-day quarantine to travellers coming from outside the region (but this is always subject to the exceptions set out by the general law).
Given the current travel restrictions, no one is able to move in or out of Malta; this includes crew. Yachts are not allowed to enter Malta, but we understand that this might change in the near future on condition that certain precautions are taken (14-day quarantine for crew on board, confirmation that no one is sick on board upon entry etc).
As for yacht surveys, we have heard anecdotally from a local surveyor who advised that inspection work has been considerably limited given the restrictions. If a yacht is in Malta then the inspection can go ahead but no surveys are being held on board. We understand this will change once measures start to ease.
Transport Malta have recently introduced remote survey procedures with respect to Maltese-flagged commercial yachts. The new procedures allow for the Certificate to Trade as a Commercial Yacht (CoC) and related statutory certificates to be extended or postponed by carrying out remote surveys.
The remote survey procedure may only be used in exceptional cases that is when a surveyor cannot physically attend on-board. It allows for the postponing of the CoC’s periodical survey’s due date, together with the surveys relating to the statutory certificates (these could be annual, intermediate or renewal) by a period of up to 6 months.
The procedure is applicable as from 1st May 2020.
Lockdown has been slowly lifting since 4 May. The Ports du Monaco website advises that private vessels moored in Monegasque ports have daily authorisation to leave port and return to port between 9am and 8pm. However people must sail with Monegasque waters only.
Checks are being carried out at the border between France and the Principality since 4 May. Police Officers are checking that motorists coming from France can show proof that they are entering the Principality for necessary business.
The Spanish Government’s plan is to ease lockdown through a series of phases.
Yachts are allowed to move within the regions now as they are in ‘phase I’ (other sectors are still in ‘phase 0’). In general, this means that a yacht can travel no farther than 12nm from port, 50% of the maximum certified passengers is allowed (unless living together, in which case can reach 100%), it is not necessary to respect time slots for sailing, etc.
We have heard, anecdotally, that yachts are entering Spanish ports from the Caribbean and are being processed and managed efficiently. Surveys and sea trials are allowed to proceed under authorization by the Government delegation in the region.
The contact we spoke to hoped there would “be some charter season in the Balearics and Spain but not expected before beginning of August”. Phase II is due to commence on 25 May and Phase III (where there will be no restrictions) from 8 June.
It therefore appears that the Eastern Med is opening up to yacht cruising and particularly charter faster than the Western Med. Local day cruising for owners appears to be the most common yachting freedom across the Mediterranean. However, close attention must be paid to the local regulations, guidelines and application so everyone would be well advised to check the latest positon before contracting, travelling or cruising. As they always say “check before you travel”!