In January 2013, reported on a case in Italy where agents from the Guardia du Finanza boarded a number of superyachts berthed in the Sanremo’s Portsole Marina for failure to pay fuel duty. Reports stated that the searches and documentation demands were ‘to identify foreign vessels that have bought duty-free fuel in the past five years.’ The incident was representative of the confusion surrounding the correct bunkering procedures due to a failure of the Customs Authority to communicate what is expected of superyachts operating in Italian waters. speaks to Ezio Vannucci, partner at Italian law firm Moores Rowland Associati, who reveals that clarification on the situation is in the process of being made.

In Italy, commercially operated yachts have historically been able to undertake duty-free bunkering but, according to Vannucci, this law has recently been called into question. “Commercial yachts are having problems with interpreting when it is possible to undertake duty-free bunkering because there has not been a clear decision from the Italian Customs Authority to clarify the proper procedure for duty-free bunkering,” explains Vannucci, adding that there are currently appeals taking place in various Italian courts regarding these matters. “We hope to have a decision from the court and an official circular that can explain the situation in April, before the start of next season,” he says.

Portosole, Sanremo

“The Italian Customs Authority has extended its controlling activities fro Sanremo to other areas of Italy,” adds Vannucci. “They are checking and auditing all documents regarding any duty-free bunkering conducted in past years.” But Vannucci believes that the appeals that are currently taking place will have the desired outcome for the owning companies; “We are sure that we can demonstrate that the duty-free bunkering procedures in question were correct and complied with what was the normal procedure in every harbour in Italy.”

“So we are confident about what has happened in the past,” Vannucci assures, “but what is more relevant is that we need to agree on what the correct procedures are for the future. At the moment, if you buy duty-free fuel, for example, in Genoa, it is not the same procedure that you have to follow in Sardinia because the interpretations of the local custom authorities are different. So it is necessary to have national clarification.” will follow the outcome of the court hearings and notify readers when a decision on future duty-free bunkering procedures is reached.

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