In order to progressively coordinate the release of the lockdown, of the limits to the freedom of movement of people and the recovery of economic activity, the Spanish government approved last Tuesday April 28 the so-called “Plan for the transition to a new normal” (PTNN), which have been drafted in accordance with the principles defined last April 16, 2020 by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Such PTNN will consist of 4 phases, with a minimum duration of two weeks each, and will be carried out gradually and asymmetrically, depending on the control of the epidemic in each region, determined according to several objective indicators, especially of an epidemiological and health nature.
The total duration of the PTNN should in principle not exceed June 30, when the ‘new normal’ (with new life habits) is expected to be achieved, however, this will clearly depend on the need or not to temporarily extend any of the phases in the event of new Covid-19 outbreaks.
Although necessary, these kinds of plans are by nature too abstract and, consequently, they cannot address the immense diversity of personal circumstances and, therefore, neither the particularities of each specific industry. This is the reason why ANEN, of which I am a legal and tax advisor, submitted a request to the General Directorate of the Merchant Marine (DGMM) for clarification on the authorized nautical activities in the different phases of the PTNN.
Last April 30, the DGMM published its answer to the questions raised and, briefly, the main conclusions that can be drawn from the document in relation to yachting and charter activity are the following:
- From next May 11 -estimated commencement of second phase- pleasure navigation or charter activities can be performed as are assimilated to ‘active and nature tourism for limited groups of people’ but having the geographical limitation of a specific province (in Spanish mainland) or island (Balearics and Canary Islands).
- From next June 8 -estimated commencement of fourth phase- it is foreseen that the geographical limitation of a specific province or island will disappear.
Obviously, all necessary disinfection measures will need to be adopted and health and hygiene standards must be reinforced in order to minimize the health risk both for clients and crew members. To this respect yesterday May 6 the Protection and Prevention Protocol against Covid-19 was released to recover activity in the yachting industry, which has been agreed with the main Spanish yachting associations, including ANEN, and is part of the various protocols agreed with the Spanish Tourist Quality Institute (ICTE). It can be already consulted but will be officially published mid-May, and logically will follow the recommendations of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the General Directorate of Merchant Marine (DGMM) in relation to professional crew
The above is absolutely good news, nevertheless, there are still some ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’, let me explain:
- The EU borders remain closed now until next May 15 and internal Schengen area borders controls have been temporarily reintroduced by different EU countries
This could imply, on one hand, limitations to relocate the yacht in Spain if not based there and, on the other hand, could impede foreign clients reaching Spain.
Within the Schengen area, Spain have only introduced temporarily land border controls but not sea and air borders. Anyway, reaching Spanish territory from abroad does not only depend on Spain but on the departure or scale territories.
In relation to external EU borders, the EU is in discussions with the member states on how to proceed after May 15, most likely will be also asymmetrically depending on the degree of control of the Covid-19 outbreak. We’ll see it in the very following days.
- Ports and airports in the Balearics and the Canary Islands remain closed since last March 17 by State Transport Ministry orders.
Such closure is planned until the end of the current state of alarm, extended May 6 by the Spanish Parliament until May 24. The extension requires immediately to amend the Ministry of transport orders to allow yachting in the Balearic and Canary Islands in the same conditions as the rest of Spain, even more when the pandemic is more controlled in the islands than in most of the rest of Spain. The amendment has already been requested today May 7 by the main Balearics and Canary Islands ports and marinas associations.
- Spanish Administration work allowing charter activity must be resumed
All is fine if a yacht pretending to charter in Spain already holds clearance from the respective Harbor Master office and, in the case, regional ‘charter license’ required.
Otherwise there may be some delays in order to be ready to operate as far as the Spanish police foreign offices to obtain Foreign ID numbers (NIE) are still closed and also tax offices assigning yacht owning companies’ Spanish ID numbers are also closed so that it is not possible right now to file with them the original documents. Also, some harbor master offices are not moving forward with the clearances, which is really incomprehensible considering that the full process works online.
Notwithstanding the above, it is expected that everything rolls on again in the very short time, therefore, it is important to contact with your lawyers and agents to put documents together in order to be immediately ready when reopening.
Based on the above, it is clear that the Spanish Government’s PTNN and the note issued by the DGMM were necessary to determine the de-escalation process and its practical application to the yachting industry. But it is not enough as there are still those EU, Spanish Ministry and Spanish Administration issues that needs to be addressed in the following days.
Considering that the downward trend of the outbreak continues and there are not significant second waves that prevent from having the pandemic under control -which may provoke delays in the step forward to successive phases of the PTNN-, I’m still optimistic in relation to a good yachting and charter season in Spain, although somehow shorter than usual.
After all, I can’t think of a better place to enjoy and minimize the risk of contagion of my own and others than to spend a few days aboard in the Mediterranean with our friends and loved ones.
Miguel Ángel Serra Guasch
Legal and tax advisor of ANEN
Partner at Albors Galiano Portales
 It is expected that the protocol to be approved in short in agreement with the touristic authorities allows the maximum 12 charter passengers within the ‘limited groups of people.