Trailing a boat abroad in 2022

Be aware of new changes to trailing a boat.

A boat is being towed by a car

The RYA was contacted recently by a member who was stopped by French customs when trailing a boat to France. We understand that the boat was being taken into the EU on a temporary basis and member was fined for not having made a customs declaration. 

At present we do not know what format the customs declaration should have taken. We are looking into the incident and if necessary, our advice, which is published on the Entry and Exit Formalities page will be updated. For the moment our advice remains unchanged, but we are seeking clarity from the European Commission. 

If you are trailing your boat abroad, you should be aware that you need to make a customs declaration on arrival in a foreign port. We recommend that until the customs formalities for arrival in other countries are clarified you use the ‘red’ channel (as opposed to the ‘green’ one).  The guidance for arriving in the UK on your return may be different to this, as in certain circumstance the green channel can be used when arriving in the UK. 

You may be asked for an inventory of the goods you are temporarily importing (which might include, as applicable, the make, model, engine number, registration details) together with a written undertaking to re-export or the document mentioned above. Further information can be found on the Entry and Exit Formalities page 'Travelling  to the UK towing a boat (for non-commercial purposes)'.

If you enter the EU with the boat under temporary admission you are undertaking to re-export the boat when you leave instead of paying import duty and tax. You may therefore need to show a return ticket to support that intention and you should notify customs if you need to leave the EU without the boat. The boat must leave the EU within 18 months in the same condition as it arrived in although repairs and maintenance to maintain the boat or to ensure compliance with technical requirements for its use are allowed.

Don’t forget, if you have a GB sticker, cover or remove it before driving outside the UK. You now need a UK sticker or your number plate includes the UK identifier with the Union flag unless you are travelling to Spain, Cyprus or Malta when a UK sticker is required irrespective of what’s on your number plate. This doesn’t apply if you’re driving in Ireland.  Further details can be found on the GOV.UK website. 

The RYA Cruising Team would welcome feedback on experiences (good or bad) if you travel abroad towing a boat (for non-commercial purposes). It would be helpful to know whether you travelled by Eurotunnel, Le Shuttle or your ferry route and carrier, as well as details of any contact you may have had with customs officials. Email using the subject trailing abroad feedback.