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New law set to positively impact yachts and the charter market in Spain

Posted: 06/11/2023

This article was originally published on Onboard Online in October 2023.

With the aim of boosting the charter market in Spain, a change in the law has repealed two out of date rules concerning yacht charter and the dispatch and clearance of yachts when entering and exiting Spanish waters. It has also introduced a simplified charter licence.

All of this bodes well for yacht charters in the Balearics and mainland Spain.

Previously, only yachts under 14 meters with an EU flag were permitted to charter in Spanish waters, but this became problematic in light of Brexit, prohibiting UK flagged yachts under 14 meters from chartering in Spain.

The recently published Royal Decree Number 186/2023, dated 21 March 2023, repeals the Ministerial Order of 4 December 1985 and also ends the old Vessel Clearance Regulations of 2000.

Charter licences

In practice, this means non-EU flagged yachts, including British ones, regardless of their length, may now engage in charter, complying with the same obligations that apply to EU flagged yachts.

Additionally, a new simplified dispatch and clearance regime is due to come into effect on 1 July 2024. The process will be facilitated through the submission of an electronic declaration or affidavit, eliminating the requirement to obtain prior and express authorisation – commonly referred to as the ‘charter licence’ – in person at the Harbour Master’s office.

The electronic format will simplify the enrolment and unenrolment of crews to alleviate congestion, especially during holiday periods, and reduce delays in preparing yachts for charter and leisure activities.

Yachts under charter and/or with a professional crew, will be authorised to commence their activities immediately upon the submission of the declaration or affidavit of responsibility, along with the crew list.

New applications and renewals

Yachts seeking a charter licence for the first time must provide a specific set of documents, including safety certificates, crew lists, endorsements, and insurance, among others, ensuring electronic records for future reference.

Yachts with a valid charter licence have the option to transition to the new simplified procedure upon the expiration of their existing charter licence.

Temporary Navigation Permits

The new regulation is also interesting because it modifies the Royal Decree 685/2010 of 20 May 2010, which regulated the granting of Temporary Navigation Permits for yachts. These permits are a useful tool for shipyards, construction companies, dealers and distributors of yachts, allowing them to carry out sea trials and to exhibit yachts at boat shows without the need to register them.

The new Royal Decree improves the conditions of these temporary permits, which can now be extended for up to five years from the granting of the first temporary permit.


The Spanish legislature has shown a commitment to depart from antiquated regulations and adapt to the evolving demands of the dynamic yacht charter market, and it warrants a favourable reception from the yachting community.

With its exceptional coastline and favourable weather, the new regulation provides a welcome boost for charter operations in Spain and an important catalyst for the local economy.  

Carlos Ara, President of the Spanish Superyacht Association, says, “We are in a very preliminary stage after the new regulation to know what the real impact in the charter business will be, but it is always good to have new laws that try to support the charter industry in Spain.”

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