Members of the European Committee for Professional Yachting (ECPY) have raised the alert surrounding the alleged farcical circumstances about to damage the yachting industry on the Côte d’Azur.
According to a recent press release, already a large number of superyachts have disappeared from French waters to cruise and winter in more yachting-friendly locations, and the trend is gathering momentum.
“The implementation of new regulations, the resurrection of old regulations affecting legal, fiscal, employment and environmental issues, in addition to customs procedures in France are hampering the development of the yachting industry and forcing yacht owners to flee the Côte d’Azur to other European countries with less restrictive and penalising laws,” the announcement reads.
To be more specific, the ECPY blames the increasing problems on procedures within certain sectors. With commercial yachts now facing VAT charges, an applicable 33-per-cent withholding tax on client funds transiting through service company accounts, excise duty on petroleum products and French employment regulations applied to crew employed on foreign-flagged yachts, the region is not as appealing to superyachts as it used to be.
The talk of increased anchorage restrictions for environmental reasons, and a greater number of areas where a pilot is required on board yachts over 500gt, is further reason for yachts to be detracted from the South of France.
While the wording of the press release could easily be interpreted as scaremongering, Sussie Kidd, charter broker at Camper and Nicholsons, agrees that there is good reason for concern. “I would have to say that they are not being alarmist: the EU council and local regulatory bodies are making yachting in France completely untenable,” she explains.
“More so if they proceed with anchorage restrictions in St Tropez and closing down the beach restaurants in Juan Les Pins and some other areas. They are making things so complicated that neither owners nor charterers want to be bothered with dealing with all the regulatory restrictions. The Caribbean may really blossom again soon due to very few regulations and no inhibitive taxes.”
Admitting that he has seen a significant reduction in the number of yachts anchored off Villefranche, Cap Ferrat and St Tropez this summer, Nick Hill, partner at Hill Robinson agrees that, in essence, the ECPY’s message is accurate.
“The situation in France for superyachts is not one that is repeated in its neighbouring countries,” he says. “The facts and figures are clear; boats are being deterred from coming here as captains become more nervous and stressed with the various obligations. It is all because the French authorities are interpreting EU regulations differently.”
On a positive note, however, Hill points out that, with the exception that certain yachts with a non-EU owner and a non-EU Flag may be subjected to withholding tax, professional management companies can help owners and captains navigate through most of the various issues with very little trouble.