by Des Ryan
As we reported in January, the Greek Government has delayed the implementation of the new vicious tax on visiting yachts. However, some of the damage may have already been done.
Sailing Greece - idyllic but could be expensive - photo by Stamatis
The Greek Marinas Association (GMA) has reported a number of departures of foreign-owned yachts due to the new charges imposed since the start of the year on recreational vessels.
The increased taxes (see http://www.sail-world.com/Cruising/NH/Those-aspiring-to-sail-Greece:-new-Greek-taxes-delayed/118644!Sail_World_story!new), a grab for the government's share of the income generated by foreign yachts cruising Greece, threatened to make visiting Greece an expensive affair.
The new regulations received much attention from cruising sailors and international organizations, associations and unions active in the maritime tourism domain informed their members about the new increased taxation Greece has imposed on yachts.
The GMA has also been informed about certain strong foreign associations, which have many members on their registers, that may resort to the competent authorities of the European Union to protest the tax hike.
International reports also cite the possibility that Greek tax and customs authorities could bar yachts from leaving local marinas if their owners are unable to pay the additional charges. In that context they note that unless the charges are paid this year, the obligation for their payment will be carried over to next year.
According to GMA data, yacht owners mostly from the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Germany and Austria have taken their boats from Greece to marinas at rival maritime tourism destinations such as Croatia, Montenegro and Turkey.
In comments about the new taxation, owners say that it constitutes a counterincentive for sailing into Greek waters, that Turkey will benefit and that there will be some revenue loss for local economies and marinas as well as for the country in general.
The association further noted that when Italy applied a similar tax policy of high charges in 2012, it witnessed the departure of some 30,000 yachts. That development, it added, led the Italian government to exempt foreign owners of private boats from the payment of the additional charges.
Earlier the local authorities in Sardinia had also applied high charges on boats, but that decision was withdrawn when owners resorted to the European authorities asking for compensation, GMA reminded.
However, amid all this conjecture, complaint and the fleeing of some boats, there is no clear picture of when, if ever, the new taxes will be implemented.
'The tax on yachts was a much-debated subject prior to being sent to parliament for approval,' explains Mike Brewer, agency manager at A1 Yachting in Greece. 'The Ministry of Economy, ignoring all speculation, decided to go ahead as it was deemed a necessary source of income. They were warned of the possible illegality of the law and Italy and Sardinia were mentioned. The law was passed and printed in the Government Gazette but until now has not been implemented.'
While it is evident that tax and fees for yachts in Greece might be increasing in the near future, the notion that this will dramatically effect yacht activity is still a matter of some conjecture as Greek waters still remain substantially cheaper to cruise in than at least some of its European neighbours.