Importing a non-CE boat into Europe: how to import a boat into the EU 

All private-use boats flying the non-EU flag can sail freely in EU waters within a maximum period of 18 months, i.e. discharge deadline, beyond which they incur an obligation of definitive importation with payment of customs duties and VAT.

The discharge period is interrupted in the case of vessels kept in storage, as long as they comply with the following conditions:

  • the place where the vessel is stored shall be notified to the local customs authority attaching the navigation license with request for affixing seals;
  • the vessel shall remain in storage for at least three consecutive months;
  • at the end of the storage period, the same customs authority will remove the seals and return the navigation document.

Therefore, is it possible, given the aforementioned conditions, using them permanently in EU waters?

The answer is yes, provided that the following requirements are met:

  • Regularization of import at a maritime customs bureau;
  • Payment of fees provided for by customs declaration;
  • Submission of the request to a maritime bureau, in order to sanction the successful nationalization.

In such cases, VAT must be paid upon importing recreational crafts of foreign origin or flying the flag of a country outside the European Union, and shall be paid directly to the customs of entry, on the basis of the customs document.

Import VAT is verified by means of a customs bill issued by the customs offices.

Importing a non-CE boat into Europe: what is CE certification for boats?

Another essential condition for the nationalization of non-EU recreational crafts and for sailing in European waters is that the vessels carry the CE marking.

Otherwise, it will be necessary to prove that they had been marketed or built in the community area before 1998, that is when vessels were built and enabled for navigation on the basis of the technical criteria established by Law 50/71.

Directive 2013/53/EU provides that newly built boats, up to 24 meters in length and which are used for recreational and sporting purposes, shall carry the CE marking for the purposes of free trade within the European Economic Area.

The CE marking process for recreational boats guarantees owners and shipyards that their yachts meet the highest safety standards, and as a result it contributes to strengthen their commercial and qualitative value throughout their life span.

Importing a non-CE boat into Europe: How are import taxes calculated? 

Starting from the  principle according to which VAT is applicable to all imports made by anyone, VAT due for all goods introduced into the territory of a State and originating from non-EU territories is to be considered in view of the same principle. 

In this specific case, importing a recreational craft flying a non-EU flag is to be considered subject to Italian VAT, to be paid directly to the customs of entry by virtue of the customs document.

It is common ground that mere temporary admission is not considered importation, with consequent total exemption from import duties and taxes, and the same applies to import of goods that are non-taxable for VAT purposes, such as rental vessels or commercial yachts.

Under these conditions, in terms of calculation, taxes shall be applied on the value of imported goods, increased by the amount of customs duties due and forwarding costs, unto the place of destination within the EU.

VAT tax is verified by means of a customs bill issued by the customs offices.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.