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Passenger yachts allowed to charter in Spain

On May 27th, 2019 the General Directorate of Merchant Marine signed Service Instruction number 7/2019 allowing commercial ‘passenger yachts’ (able to accommodate more than 12 guests) be used in Spain for recreational purposes, such as charter activity. This was already announced last May 17th, 2019 in a conference held at the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce of Palma by Mr. Benito Núñez Quintanilla, Director General of Merchant Marine, jointly with ANEN.

The aforementioned agreement has been the result of the strong emphasis made by ANEN, where I am the legal and fiscal advisor, in relation to this matter. The main concern of the ‘Service Instruction” is the regulation of the zones where those yachts will be allowed to anchor, in order to fully preserve Posidonia meadows and nature in general. So far, unlike France, Italy or Greece, in Spain anchoring was not allowed to those yachts, which could only overnight sailing or remain duly moored in ports, being this a severe and unjustifiable restriction to its commercial operative.

The procedure has been  implemented in a very simple way. The yacht will have to communicate the harbor master’ offices their intention to sail the waters under their competence (e.g. Balearic Islands). Once received the communication, the maritime authority will communicate back the existence of restricted or conditioned areas for navigation or anchorage, having the maritime ecosystems protection as an absolute priority.

It is also necessary to emphasize that those vessels will not be required to apply for a charter license as the navigation of those ships (considered as merchant ships) for recreational purposes constitutes already a liberalized activity all over the European Union, hence, not subject to authorization.

From a fiscal perspective, VAT will be applicable in the same way that it is currently applied to ‘commercial’ yachts chartering in Spain, as far as the true nature of the activity is the navigation for recreational purposes and not the transport of passengers from point A to B. Consequently, the Spanish standard VAT rate at 21% (currently no possibility to apply lump sum reductions when navigating outside EU waters) will accrue only when the vessel is actually put at the disposal of the client in Spain, according to article 56.1 of the VAT Directive.

Certainly, this is good news for the Spanish yachting and touristic industry, which plays a vital role in an increasingly diversified economy, basically through the generation of income, added value and high-quality employment.


Miguel Ángel Serra Guasch

Partner of Albors Galiano Portales

Legal&Tax advisor to ANEN