Portuguese Requirements on Safety Equipment

Published by RYA March 2013

Portuguese recognise RYA concerns that application of national safety equipment regulations to foreign flagged vessels is impractical.

The RYA has received confirmation from the Portuguese maritime authority that UK-flagged vessels staying less than 180 days in Portuguese waters, will not be expected to comply with domestic requirements on the carriage of safety equipment. This situation arose when a number of members reported to us during the 2011-2012 seasons that they had been detained and in some cases fined by the Portuguese Navy and the Maritime Police for (1) not having the correct equipment; (2) equipment being out of date; or (3) not having paid the correct taxes. In response the RYA took legal advice on the situation and discussed the issue with the Director General of the Autoridade Marítima.

Practical difficulties

The situation had arisen because Portuguese law allows Portuguese domestic regulations to be applied to EU boats in Portuguese waters. However, following our representations to the Portuguese the Maritime Authority (Captain of the Port and Maritime Police responsible for the law enforcement) and the Maritime Administration (DGRM, responsible for law making) recognised that this position caused practical difficulties.

Policy decision made

As a result they made the policy decision that for pleasure craft Portuguese rules should only apply to vessels that stay for longer than a total of 180 days in a 365 day period. (NB This has since been clarified and means a total of ANY 180 days in a “rolling” 365 day period.)  This is in line with the criteria for non-nationals to become responsible for property taxes payment in Portugal. This decision does not apply to pleasure craft in Portuguese waters engaged in any locally based commercial activity like boat rentals, cruises, fishing or diving (for which special rules and licensing apply).

Safety is paramount

In announcing the policy decision the Director General does stress that “Regardless of this clarification and of the different flag rules that may apply to boats visiting, it is undisputable that safety must always be on every mariners mind and the Portuguese Maritime Authority strongly recommends that all boats carry on-board the appropriate safety equipment.”  The RYA members who had been affected were mostly cruising through the Algarve where officials were checking that safety equipment, in particular liferafts, flares and fire extinguishers, were in date.  Liferafts were expected to have a 1 year service interval and fire extinguishers were required to be dated rather than have the green / red indicator. UK-flagged vessels should not experience any further problems of this nature now, provided that they have not been in Portuguese waters for 180 days or more in a 365 day period.

If any members do experience problems please let us know at boating.abroad@rya.org.uk

Article Published: February 27, 2013 14:05