In the weeks leading up to the 2014 Mediterranean Yacht Show, a new legislation applying to charter yachts in Greek waters was introduced, we took the opportunity to get the experts take on the changes and what effects it will have on the charter market.
The new ‘Touristic Yachts and Other Provisions’ legislation was published on the 14th April and featured a number of significant changes that would potentially change both the process of and price of chartering in Greece. The implementation of the law is still in very early stages, but the proposed amendments vary from the removal of the requirement for yachts wishing to start and end the same charter in Greece to be in possession of a valid Greek charter licence and the creation of an online “Registry of Touristic Yachts and Small Vessels”.
Aris Drivas of Aris Drivas Yachting noted the infancy of the new law in a tourist industry that is still recovering from the economic downturn and political unrest in Greece over the last few years, commenting: “This new law needs some changes. The people who have created don’t know about yachting. At the moment it is just acting as red tape but in time I believe it will be changed in a way that benefits the yacht industry.”
Previous to this new legislation five-year charter licences issued to yachts in Greece were compulsory for commercial yachts to be able to embark and disembark passengers in Greek waters, however yachts were permitted to do one of the two without a licence. The charter licences were also allocated only to EU flagged yachts, something that will end should this new law be enforced. It will mean that EU commercial flagged yachts and non-EU commercial flagged yachts of over 35m can now charter from Greece (embark and disembark passengers) by opening a Branch Office or by appointing fiscal representative (TBC) and registering online with the 'Registry of Touristic Yachts and Small Vessels.
To get a better insight of what effects the new law may have, both positive and negative, on the future of yachting in Greece we asked four of the founding members of the Greek Yachting Association their own interpretations.
As a MYBA board member I believe in open waters. I believe that all waters should be open for the European yachts as long as they pay their cruising permit.
George Pappas, Big Blue Yachting
“Well it is good for the European flagged yachts as it pretty much opens up the waters for them. Which is the way it should be, we are an open market. As far as the non-Euro flag yachts over 35m go the old permit still applies – they can only pick up and drop off. I have noticed a European trend of trying to disqualify the non-European flagged yachts from chartering illegally in other European nations….As a MYBA board member I believe in open waters. I believe that all waters should be open for the European yachts as long as they pay their cruising permit. I think it is a good set of regulations, it is not 100% there, I would say 50%. But eventually it will all open up for the simple reason that the country needs the income – this country’s biggest industry is tourism so they need to open it up to all of the flags of the world because that is what will produce income. It may not be next year or the year after but it will happen in the next few years, five as far as I am concerned when the laws will be in place and they will be able to enforce them and the waters will be open.”
Spiros Galanakis, Athens Yachts
"I think this will only be for the good of the market. I am not a lawyer, I have had some good advice and have some knowledge but I am not a lawyer so I can only say to you what they say to me. We heard that the new law had been announced so yes, why not? I think it will be good for the market because, for example if a six star yacht wants to come here and we want to go from a five star to a six star then it is good for, say, our crews for example. They see other crews, they see another mentality, they see other tactics, so it is best that we see other people and we improve ourselves. So I think the law will only have a good affect, we are open, we love competition – it makes you better to have some healthy competition of course so yes we do want them."
I think what really drives the client is whether he feels that that particular territory during that particular time is what will fulfil his needs.
Stefanos Macrymichalos, Cape4 Yachting
“Money is always an issue but it’s not what is going to determine whether a client charters in Croatia or in Greece. VAT is not going to deter someone from chartering a yacht if they want to charter that yacht in that specific location….. OURANOS was chartering in Croatia in 2013 for the better part of the season and clients were happy to pay the empty runs in order to relocate the yacht to these areas, so I don’t feel that VAT will be the main factor in the decision making of the client. I think what really drives the client is whether he feels that that particular territory during that particular time is what will fulfil his needs. What is creating an issue is the licensing changes in Croatia whereby you have to license your commercial yacht and it has to be of a certain size, plus you need to permission to go there. They also have a clause that means that for a vessel to acquire this license then it must be inspected and surveyed to see that it fulfils certain requirements. That it is not a simple task, it is not a case of a surveyor going in from Lloyds register and just issuing a certificate to say that everything is in accordance. It requires a bit more, and this something that is creating a bit of confusion. I think this is going to benefit Greece as not as many yachts will be able to charter in Croatia as in the past, and it may also benefit Turkey as they are still in turmoil.”
It is clear that there is still some ambiguity surrounding the finer details of this new legislation but it seems there are arguments on both sides to influence it will have on Greek charters in general. It remains to be seen how the new legislation will continue to be implemented and enforced when in practice.
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