Yachts heading for the Med would be well to research the country they intend to spend most of their time or berth for the winter.
Italy's recent tax on yacht berthing (see Sail-World story) is likely to have the same effect as the 2009ax on yachts in Greece active since 2009. It has compelled about 4,000 Greek yacht owners to pull their yachts from circulation, not including foreign yachts which instead chose Turkey Montenegro or Croatia.
These figures, from the Greek Coastguard, combined with a 50% drop in pleasure craft since 2008 (according to an ICAP study) and the 25 percent decline in boats moored at Greek marinas, paints a rather depressing picture for the country’s yachting sector.
According to the president of the Greek Marinas Association, Stavros Katsikadis, 'over the past three years, the Greek state has missed out on revenues amounting to at least 120 million euros because of the slump in activity in the yachting sector.' However, he adds, 'this downward trend made its appearance with the enactment of Law 3790/2009, which imposed a special tax on private and professional pleasure craft, through which more emergency taxes were levied on boats of over 10 meters in length.'
For example, an engine-powered craft of 20 meters flying a non-European Union flag and berthed at a Greek marina will be charged 5,000 euros a year in mooring fees and basic services, while paying an additional 2,500 euros in taxes and other charges.
The combination of high value-added tax and extensive red tape, meanwhile, is another disincentive for seafarers, as in Greece mooring fees and services are charged 23 percent VAT, which comes on top of emergency levies and special taxes. Vessels sailing under a non-EU flag, moreover, are charged according to their length. In contrast to Greece, Turkey does not charge VAT for mooring foreign private pleasure craft, the process for checking that all permits and documents are in order is much simpler, and visitors’ visas are issued immediately.
The picture is not all bleak, however, as there are some points that continue to make Greek marinas attractive. 'They are competitive in terms of pricing, offer much fuller technical support and are staffed by very experienced personnel,' said Katsikadis. 'Some Greeks who tried Turkey for permanent mooring have returned,' he added.
However, according to the head of the Hellenic Professional Yacht Owners Association, Antonis Steliatos, 'the total number of 19 marinas in a country like Greece is quite low compared to our competitors in the neighborhood. In Turkey, meanwhile, there has been an orgy of marina construction.'
Another issue that is of serious concern to professionals in the sector is that pleasure craft sailing under non-EU flags and with a capacity for under 49 passengers are subject to cabotage restrictions, as a recent law ostensibly lifting cabotage does not cover all pleasure craft.
'The result,' says Steliatos, 'is that big yachting operators prefer marinas in Turkey for homeporting, and they can still enjoy the Aegean and the Greek islands. However, this means that the Greek state is losing out on significant economic gains.'