European Yacht Restrictions

6 May 2020 By Laura Dunn

Yacht restrictions are in talks to soon be lifted in several countries, including Italy, Monaco, Malta, Spain, and Greece.  

On April 20, Lorna Titley and Alison Singhal from Quaynote Communications Limited hosted the webinar, “Yacht Restrictions in Ports During the COVID-19,” which consisted of a moderator and five panelists from the aforementioned countries. The diverse panel discussed yacht restrictions, shipyards, and how the pandemic has changed yachting. Notably, there seemed to be growing optimism.

Monaco and France
The global pandemic forced increasing numbers of port authorities across Europe to adopt strict controls to limit or bar movement. At the time of recording, the two countries had been on lockdown since mid-March and would remain so at least until May 4 (Monaco) and May 11 (France).

However, on April 29, Janet Xanthopoulos, head of the yacht division at Rosemont Yacht Services & Management, spoke directly with Dockwalk, revealing that lockdown would likely be imposed until June 2 — although the situation evolves daily. “If nautical activities still remain prohibited, beaches remain closed at least until [the] beginning of June, and international borders until at least July,” she says.

There were temporary closings for the majority of shipyards around the Mediterranean at the beginning of March. Movement restrictions were implemented to forbid all nautical activities and access to ports. Only yachts with long-term or seasonal berth contracts are accepted. “They will be working only at around twenty percent of their capacity because we have to consider the tremendous measures they will have to put in place in order to allow their staff to work again and in order to protect their health is going to be really difficult,” Xanthopoulos says. These measures include wearing masks and gloves, taking the temperature of people working aboard yachts, as well as sanitizing the yacht, equipment, and everything else before leaving.

Alison Vassallo, head of yachting at Fenech & Fenech Advocates, says she knows that the Maltese authorities want to open ports for commercial operations while also keeping people’s health at the forefront. Before they can resume operations, Vassallo says the country is waiting on the superintendent of health to say it’s safe. As for chartering, she sees a lot of positive thinking: “…The industry is doing its utmost even to encourage people to consider chartering over the next month,” she says, adding that, “There have been discussions from various brokers and leaders saying that the hope is for a part of the season to be salvaged.” As a result, contracts and addendums are being considered to encourage this hope.

Spain stayed in lockdown until May 3, with restrictions progressively lifted on May 4. According to Miguel Angel Serra, partner at Albors Galiano Portales, yards were forced to stop work between March 30 to April 12; at which time they were at about 30 percent capacity. At the time of the April 20 webinar, Spain had opened all of the yards in Barcelona, Palma, and others.

He reported that in Madrid, there had been a lot of lobbying to resume chartering ASAP — which greatly impacted their economy without it. And it paid off: On May 4, after much lobbying to resume chartering ASAP, there was talk that charters might be authorized starting in June — depending on how the pandemic evolves.

They hope to get back to normal once the outbreak measures are de-escalated. This is likely the sentiment of crew, as well: In Spain, a lot of crewmembers are in lockdowns on yachts and are aching to leave confinement as soon as possible.

While there’s nothing formal in place, Jennifer Timinis, communication director at Oceda, reported that the authorities started discussing relaxed measures beginning May 10. She predicted the yacht restrictions would likely be lifted mid-May — which is important since the lack of it is having massive economic impact on tourism in Greece.

Though shipyards are operating normally, delays are expected due to some subcontractors not working or difficulty getting boat parts. “But for the time being, the shipyards are operating, which is great because assuming we do lift the restrictions in mid-May, many of the yachts will be set to go.”

Ezio Vannucci, partner at Moores Rowland Partners, reported that restrictions would be lifted on May 3. At the end of April, several boating industries under restrictions in all Italian territories reopened. Since refit and maintenance aren’t under restriction, any yacht is free to complete a refit in Italy. “The lockdown regarding new shipyards is not the same in all the Italian territories, so it’s important to check region by region,” Vannucci says.

Long-Term Consequences
As for the pandemic, Vassallo thinks its forever left its mark — measures like social distancing and limited gatherings are likely stay in place a while. “So, all the rules [that] apply on land would, to an extent, be applied to people who are on boats and come ashore,” she says.

She also believes that if this cooperation between the authorities and the practitioners continues, they’ll need to streamline procedures to minimize contact between crew, customs, officials, etc. As for Malta, “Importations, which already can be carried out remotely, will be strengthened ... to mak[e] them as smooth as possible for the yacht to come in and leave with minimal physical interaction and [to] make use of all the technology we have available.”