Captains of yachts entering Italian ports have, in the past, been subject to strict arrival and departure procedures that necessitated detailed and lengthy communication to local maritime authorities. In 2010, rules on these procedures were introduced, but following a number of reports of the rules’ varying application by Italian ports, Italy’s Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport released a circular with a view to clarifying the procedures. In the two months since its publication, has been speaking with the Italian maritime industry to determine the benefits of the circular which have, unfortunately, been met with speculation.

“The principal points of the circular are: all European and extra-European flagged pleasure yachts are exempt from the harbour master’s formalities for arrival and departure; European flagged commercial yachts are [also] exempt; extra European [non-EU] flagged commercial yachts must carry out the arrival formalities at the first port of arrival and departure formalities in the last Italian port. In the other Italian ports visited, only a written notice is necessary,” explained Ezio Vannucci, partner at Moores Rowland Associati, who have summarised the clarifications in a document that can be viewed here.

Venice is a popular port for the Italian maritime industry. Credit: Thierry Ameller.

“It is important to underline,” added Vannucci,” that the above simplifications concerning the communication of arrival and depature to the competent maritime authorities are not extended to other measures concerning health, taxation, customs matters and police matters.”

And as such, this so-called clarification’ has not been welcomed by those at the helm of these vessels.

“Italy is a beautiful country, but also one of the most complicated countries in terms of laws and bureaucracy. Unfortunately our politics are not able to consolidate the hundred of thousands of laws we have, and even when they try to do it, there is always the need of extra explanations,” explained Captain Massimo Marras of Vulcan 46. “The purpose of this document was to set a standard interpretation to the topic from several laws issued since 1942 and to make it easier to comply with these requirements. It may look like it finally will not be necessary anymore to have an agent in every Italian port to prepare the paperwork, but unfortunately this is not the case. In fact, none of existing procedures required by customs, immigration or health and environmental offices were modified, so not much has been improved.”

Captain Carlo Summonti of motoryacht Nataly, added: “According to the mentioned note, the arrival formalities for Italian harbours are now compulsory only for commercial yachts flying a non-EU community flag, but these yachts are still required to submit the following as per article 179 of the Italian Navigation code: arrival information note, declaration of departure and in case the motoryacht is sailing towards another Italian harbor they must have on board the original copy of the Italian Sea Passage.

Viareggio - one of Europe's superyacht hubs. Credit: Justin Ratcliffe.

“But be careful. This does not mean that captains of pleasure yachts or commercial yachts flying an EU flag are exempt to produce all other compulsory documents like pre-arrival notice, crew list, insurance policy and ISM/ISPS/MARPOL declarations. So it is not completely right to say that pleasure yachts or commercial EU yachts are exempt from arrival formalities; they only have a reduction on paperwork to be presented to the local Coast Guard office.”

For Italy’s captains, then, this clarification has been a sideways rather than forward step, serving to confuse rather than improve.  “To all captains visiting an Italian harbour I strongly recommend to contact a local agent in order you do not run into any misunderstanding,” advised Captain Summonti, whilst Captain Marras concluded: “Unless you know how to move in the labyrinth of the Italian bureaucracy, in particular for a commercial yacht, despite the flag, it is advisable to continue to use a local agent, at least until the issue of the next clarification letter.”

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