Scope

The information provided by the RYA is written as a guide for a UK flagged Pleasure Vessel operated by somebody who is established (resident) in the UK. It may not be applicable to boats registered in other Flag States, those who are established elsewhere and vessels that are operated commercially. 

If you are boating abroad and you find something is different or come across something new, please let us know by emailing cruising@rya.org.uk

New UK - EU Relationship in 2021

You should expect greater scrutiny, changes to procedures and new requirements to report on arrival and departure, when moving between the UK and the EU, EAA and/or the Schengen area by recreational boat. 

Ship's Papers

When you are sailing a UK registered boat from the UK to another country, you will require papers both for the boat and for the crew on board. 

There is a core set of paperwork - your ship's papers - which, together with your passport, any other personal paperwork and any country specific documentation or publications you may be required to carry on board, should enable you to satisfy a foreign official, if required.

The following documentation should be carried:

 Vessel Skipper and / or Crew

Registration document

Evidence of Competence (requirements vary by country)
Ship Radio Licence Authority to Operate Maritime Radio
Insurance documents (requirements vary by country) Passport or other recognised travel document
Voyage Log GHIC / EHIC and insurance cover for medical care abroad and repatriation to the UK
Evidence of eligibility for relief from VAT and import duty (to facilitate your return to the UK)  

 

Your Ship's Papers should be original documents.

Registration Document

Registration of a vessel is not compulsory for a UK Citizen who keeps their boat in the UK, but it is essential if you wish to take your boat outside of UK Territorial Waters. This applies both to boats which are sailed or driven to a foreign port and to dinghies, ribs, sports boats and PWC etc. which are trailered to other countries. You should always be prepared to present the original registration document - photocopies are often not acceptable.

Carrying additional evidence of ownership such as a bill of sale is also recommended, especially if the vessel is registered on the UK Small Ship Register (SSR - Part III of the register). 

Tenders should be marked T/T [name of the mother ship]. If the tender’s use extends beyond ship to shore transport, some jurisdictions may treat the tender as a pleasure craft in its own right and the registration requirement and other rules outlined here may apply to the tender independently of the mother ship.

If the owner of the vessel is not onboard, in some countries the skipper will need documentation (for example a letter authorising use of the vessel) to ensure the use of the vessel is not seen as illegal chartering.

Registering a boat in the UK

In the UK boats are registered with the UK Ship Register, which is part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The Register has four parts; which part is applicable depends on the boat's usage. For private recreational use, the choice will usually be between part 1 and part 3. 

Part 1

The primary register for British ships is Part 1 of the Central Register of British Ships. Part 1 of the Register provides evidence of nationality, evidence of ownership, confers a unique name and registration number (Official Number) and offers the capacity to register marine mortgages. British citizens are eligible to register a vessel on Part 1 of the Register regardless of where they live or how much time they spend in the UK (owners who are not normally resident in the UK are required to appoint a representative person who is).

Part 3

Part 3 of the Register (the Small Ships Register (SSR)) is only intended to provide evidence of nationality in order to enable the vessel’s skipper to demonstrate which flag state has responsibility for the vessel (particularly for the purposes of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982) when voyaging outside UK territorial waters. Part 3 of the Register was formed in 1993 to provide a cheap and simple means of demonstrating British nationality aimed at UK boaters wishing to undertake short foreign voyages from the UK.

Eligibility and how to register

Information regarding boat registration in the UK for RYA members.

Eligibility criteria published by the UK Ship Register

Register a boat guidance on gov.uk.

Trailer Registration

From 28 March 2019, all trailers over 3,500kg and commercial trailers over 750kg must be registered before being towed through countries that have ratified the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. Further information on the countries registration is required for and how to register a trailer is available on the gov.uk website.

Where trailer registration is required, trailers will need to:

  • display their own registration plate (separate from the vehicle towing them)
  • be able to show the trailer registration certificate to a foreign authority on request

 

Maritime Radio Licences

It is a requirement under the International Radio Regulations that all transmitting stations have a licence.

All maritime radio equipment (including VHF or VHF DSC radio, radar, EPIRB or PLB, AIS etc.) must be covered by a Ship Radio Licence and operated by (or under the direct supervision of) a holder of a maritime radio operator certificate.

Ship Radio Licence

If radio equipment is installed or used on it, a UK registered vessel must have a Ship Radio Licence issued by OFCOM. The licence, which details the equipment covered, must be carried onboard. A Ship Radio licence provides you with an International Call Sign and (if applicable) a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number for the vessel. 

In the UK a handheld VHF can be licenced by a Ship Portable Radio Licence to allow the equipment to be used on more than one boat.  The Ship Portable Radio Licence is intended for use in UK territorial waters. In place of an internationally recognised call sign, the Ship Portable Radio Licence has a T (reference) number, which is not recognised internationally. The details of a Ship Portable Radio Licence are not sent to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the licence states that it, "covers the use of the radio equipment in UK territorial waters". A Ship Portable Radio Licence is therefore not sufficient when boating outside UK territorial waters.

A handheld DSC VHF can normally only be licensed on a Ship Portable Radio Licence and cannot therefore be licensed for used abroad.  RYA members can access additional information about adding a handheld DSC VHF to a Ship Radio Licence. 

Authority to Operate Maritime Radio

The International Radio Regulations require that a maritime radio station is controlled by an operator holding a certificate issued or recognised by the government to which the station is subject. For a UK recreational boater operating a DSC VHF radio this is usually the RYA issued Short Range Certificate (SRC). 

RYA members can access information about the validity of the SRC overseas and other UK maritime operator licences.

Insurance

Insurance for boats is more or less compulsory nowadays and many European countries will ask for evidence of insurance cover. Some countries specify minimum levels of cover and others require a translation which your insurer should be able to provide. Be aware of the territorial limits of your cover. 

Evidence of eligibility for relief from VAT and import duty

If you take your boat abroad, on your return to the UK, you may be asked to evidence that your boat is eligible for relief from VAT and import duty. 

For a short trip abroad, this will usually mean being able to evidence that:

- the boat had UK domestic status when it left the UK (i.e. it was VAT paid)

- the same person is importing the boat as exported it

- the boat is returning to the UK within 3 years of its export from the UK*

- the boat has undergone no more than running repairs that did not increase its value whilst outside the UK*

see the VAT Guide for information regarding the status of boats which were outside the UK at 2300 UTC on 31 December 2020. For further information on how to report your arrival in the UK see Entry & Exit Formalities

Voyage Log

Although there is no legal requirement for a UK flagged pleasure craft to keep a log of its voyages, it is good practice to do so, especially when on longer trips.  It is not unknown for foreign officials to request to see the log.

Evidence of Competence

A UK pleasure vessel (a vessel that is used for the sport/pleasure of the owner as is not operating commercially or carrying more than 12 passengers) which is either less than 24m load line length or less than 80GT is exempt from the Merchant Shipping Manning Regulations. This means that unless a UK pleasure vessel is 24m load line length or longer and 80GT or more, the UK Government does not require the skipper to have a certificate of competence or licence.

This is not necessarily the case when in the territorial or internal waters of another country. The requirements vary from country to country so you should establish what is required in advance. It is advisable to carry any certificates you hold (just in case) even if they are not a formal requirement. The International Certificate for Operators of Pleasure Craft (ICC) is increasingly the certificate that is requested whilst cruising abroad.

Where UK certificates have been valid in the past because the UK was a Member of the EU, acceptance of UK certificates may change in 2021.  

Passport (or other recognised travel document)

Every crew member on board requires a recognised travel document such as a valid passport. Check whether a visa is required or if there are any restrictions on how long you can stay in a particular country or group of countries at https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

As well as checking the passport expiry date you need to check its validity for travel to the country you are visiting. It may not be valid for travel even though it has not expired, in particular if it is valid for more than 10 years. Check the validity of your passport for travel to the EU, EEA or Switzerland

The Schengen Area

The Schengen states have a single set of common rules that govern external border checks on persons, entry requirements and the duration of short stays in the Schengen Area (comprised of 26 countries  - Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland).

Third country nationals (which from 2021 will include British citizens) can travel to countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. British citizens will be able to travel to countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa for purposes such as tourism. This is a rolling 180-day period.  If you enter the dates you are thinking about being in the Schengen Area in the calculator of travel days remaining provided by the European Commission, you will be able to see whether your plans are possible within the 90 days in any 180-day period restriction.  

British citizens will not need a visa to visit as a tourist, to visit family or friends, to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events, or for short-term studies or training. 

Overstaying, even inadvertently, could result in a fine or a ban on entering any of the member states of the Schengen area. It is important that you seek permission to entry the Schengen area on arrival and clearance on departure from the Schengen area to ensure that you are not considered to be in the area when you shouldn’t be or when you aren’t. This may could necessitate adjusting your ports of arrival and departure to ones where you can obtain the necessary clearance. 

To stay for longer, to work or study, for business or for other reasons, you will need to meet the entry requirements set out by the individual country. This could mean applying for a visa and/or work permit. 

The RYA does not provide advice on immigration matters including longer stays, visas and residency. Please refer to the information for the relevant country at  https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

GHIC / EHIC and insurance cover for medical care abroad and repatriation to the UK

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) and appropriate medical and repatriation insurance (2021)

See healthcare for UK nationals visiting the EU for the latest information on the validity of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). 

The GHIC / EHIC has limited applicability and does not replace travel insurance. Appropriate medical and repatriation insurance is recommended. Guidance on travel insurance can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/foreign-travel-insurance

When selecting medical or travel insurance for a trip which is to include boating, care is needed as many policies either limit or exclude boating from the range of activities covered by the insurance. Some policies exclude boating if this is the main purpose of the trip, which might make such a policy unsuitable for example for a yacht charter holiday. If the policy includes limits on the extent to which it covers boating, you should check that the limits are clearly defined – for example, the term “coastal” is frequently used in insurance paperwork but has no common legal definition; clarification of such a limitation, if required, should be sought from the insurer.   

It is recommended that you check https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice where information is provided about the health risks for different countries. Even within Europe additional risks such as tick-borne diseases are present and it is important to be aware of such risks and their associated prevention advice. 

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