Boatability Tips - Going Abroad in Your Boat

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Paperwork Required in Accordance with The ICC

A quick trip across the channel to France, Belgium or Holland might leave you thinking that you don’t need anything extra to take your boat abroad, and having been a few times, you may even consider going without your passport, but what happens when you do meet the “by the book” official, who wants to see your paperwork in full. Do you have the correct papers ready to satisfy a foreign customs official or do you risk the possibilities of your boat being impounded and significant fines?

When you are sailing a UK registered boat from the UK to any other country, you will require papers both for the boat and for the crew on board. There is a core set of paperwork - your ship's papers – which, together with your passport, any other personal paperwork and any country specific documentation or publications you may required to carry on board, should enable you to satisfy a foreign customs official, if required.

Ship’s Papers
Your Ship’s Papers must all be original documents and are comprised of:

Registration Document
Registration of non-commercial pleasure craft is not compulsory for a UK Citizen who keeps their boat in the UK, but it is compulsory if you wish to take your boat abroad. This applies both to boats which are sailed or driven to a foreign port and to dinghies, ribs, sports boats and PWC etc. which are trailered to other countries. You must be prepared to present the original registration document - photocopies are not acceptable.

Ship Radio Licence
Under the International Radio Regulations a UK registered vessel must have a Ship Radio Licence if it is to install or use radio equipment (including a VHF or DSC radio, Radar, Active Radar Target Enhancer, EPIRB, PLB etc). This also applies to vessels predominantly moored in UK waters (including craft which are not registered). The licence, which details the equipment covered, must be carried onboard.

Insurance for boats is more or less compulsory nowadays and many European countries will ask for evidence of insurance cover. Some countries specify minimum levels of cover and others require a translation which your insurer should be able to provide. It is important to check the territorial limits of your cover before undertaking any trip, as you may need to extend the cruising limits.

Proof of the VAT status of the vessel
EU residents may only use a boat within the EU if it is VAT paid or deemed to be VAT paid. Therefore, although proof of the VAT status of the vessel is not actually part of a ship's papers, it is needed to prove that the boat is entitled to free movement throughout the EU. A customs officer is entitled to ask you to prove the VAT status of your boat and your boat could be detained if its VAT status is in doubt.

If your vessel was built or imported into the EEA after 16th June 1998, you will also need proof that your vessel is RCD Compliant.

Personal papers
Every crew member on board requires a passport. If you are cruising outside the EU you may also need a visa. It is advisable to check well before you intend to leave the UK as these can take time to procure. NB within the EU if you have a non-EU citizen onboard the vessel, you will need to declare them, even if the vessel itself is entitled to free transit. You should also check if they require a visa.

Certificate of Competence
In UK waters the skipper of a UK registered non-commercial pleasure craft under 24m in length is not required to have a certificate of competence or licence, unless the vessel is over 80GT, this is however not necessarily the case in the territorial waters of another country. The requirements vary from country to country so you should establish what is required in advance. It is advisable to carry any certificates you hold (just in case) even if they are not a requirement. The International Certificate of Competence (ICC) is increasingly the certificate that is requested.

Maritime Radio Operator’s Certificate of Competence and Authority to Operate
The International Radio Regulations stipulate that a maritime radio may only be used by the holder of a Maritime Radio Operator’s Certificate of Competence or by someone who is under the direct supervision of such a holder. The minimum certificate of competence required is the Short Range Certificate for VHF/DSC (or the old Restricted VHF Operator for the old style VHF only sets). It is permitted to monitor the radio for safety purposes or to use it to request assistance in an emergency without a Certificate of Competence and Authority to Operate.

Country Specific Documentation and Publications
In addition, a country may specify requirements such as a crew list or specific publications that must be carried (e.g. a local almanac / International regulations for preventing collisions at sea). Vessels navigating the European inland waters are generally required to carry a copy of the local rules (which may be written in the native language of the country concerned). It is important to ensure you are aware of all such requirements.

For Europe, comprehensive country by country information is available in the Foreign Cruising Guides which can be purchased through the RYA Shop. Members will find summary country by country information for some of the more commonly visited countries in "Boating Abroad for Members".

Courtesy flag
It is customary, but not obligatory, when visiting the waters of another country, to fly the maritime ensign of that country as a mark of courtesy. This is a signal that you acknowledge that you are in their waters and claim protection from the law of the seas. NB In some instances – such as the UK – the maritime ensign is not identical to the national flag.

Red diesel
Although it is still legal to purchase red diesel in the UK for use on pleasure craft, until 1st November 2008, this is not necessarily the case elsewhere in the EU. You should therefore keep receipts for your fuel purchases and log them together with your engine hours, in order to demonstrate, should you be asked, that your red diesel purchases were legitimate.

Contact us to see how we can help you obtain your ICC Boat License or CEVNI.
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Give us a call if you are thinking of taking your boat abroad  02392 346075 / 07985 089973.

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