In the last years there has been a considerable increase of medium and small vessels registered and flying Belgian flag due to the privileges and facilities granted by the Belgian Ship´s Registration to vessels owned by Eu residents. However that is close to pass away.
The main advantages that had flying Belgian flag were: no limit on the distances of navigation, being the limit the one designed by the category of the vessel (A, B, C or D), limited security team, no technical inspection and the most important was that the vessel could have any port base without any obligation to sail to Belgium waters as long as the owner was resident in EU, not being necessary to be resident in Belgium.
Due to these rather easy and cheap procedure to obtain Belgian registration lots of Europeans decided to change ship’s registration registry and so you can see in our Balearic waters a lot of Belgium flags small and medium pleasure crafts.
However, this situation has ended with the Belgian Loi relative à la Navigation de Plaisance (Pleasure Craft Navigation Act) from last 5th of July of 2018 , which enacts as from January the 1st 2019 a new system for the registration of pleasure boats in Belgium. Until now, 2 types of registration coexisted: a register for the use of the boat in Belgian internal waters (document d´matriculation ) and a register for the use of the vessel at sea (lettre of pavillion). From January 2019, when said Law enters into force these two systems are unified, so that only one registration document remains (lettre d´enregistrement ). To get a registration letter, the ownership of a vessel she must be at least 50% in the hands of either individuals with Belgian nationality or with residence in Belgium, or registered companies in Belgium. These aspects shall be proofed by the owners with the correspondent certificate of Belgian nationality or residence.
Valid Belgian Ship´s registration unfulfilling said regulations will maintain its validity until date of expiration but will nor be renewed. This implies that if you do not have Belgian nationality or residence you can not renew the 5 years valid Ship Registration when it reaches the expiration date.
If you are in such situation you have mainly two options. First option would be renew the Belgian Ship´s Registration, r that you currently have, regardless of the remaining term of validity. That option is especially interesting if you want to legalize a for example change of engine, which is much more comfortable under Belgian flag. This way you have still 5 years ahead in which many things can happen. I advise you if you have up to 2 or 3 years until the expiration date of the pavilion letter. The second option is to change the Ship´s Registration.
Carlos Espinosa – Solicitor & Tax Adviser
+34 627 41 32 01