Bringing your Yacht to Thailand

The government of Thailand in 2003 designated the resort island of Phuket as one of Asia’s major Yachting & Marina destinations. This was brought about by the growth of the tourism sector in Thailand and the high value property sales in Phuket. Phuket’s yachting industry developed after this. Today the country hosts a number of sailing regattas such as the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta.

In 2011 Phuket was also host to the annual Phuket International Marine Expo (PIMEX)— which is the biggest boat show in South-East Asia. The Thai government when making the decision to designate Phuket as a major yachting destination in Asia had made it clear when it also reduced the luxury import tax on yachts brought into Thailand. This was brought down from the previous rate of 200% to zero percent. Since then there have been many yachting resort complexes and marinas developments.

With that as a background, let’s now look at process of importing a yacht into Thailand and related formalities.

Importing Your Boat into Thailand
Firstly note that in order to import the yacht into Thailand you need to look at the tax implications of doing this. Even though the Customs duty has now been set at 0%, value-added tax (VAT) of 7% must be paid on the CIF value of the yacht you are importing into Thailand (cost + insurance + freight). The Thai Customs officer has the right to question the declared value of the yacht being imported as if he feels that the value has been set too low he can reject it. He is not required to accept the declared value even if it is supported by a Deed of Sale or receipt. If the vessel is not new, there may be room, however, to negotiate its value depending on the present condition of the boat.
The next stage in the process of importation procedure in Thailand for your yacht is to obtain an import permit from the Thai government for any telecommunications equipment that may be on board before the vessel is imported. The documents you are required to have at this stage include details about the communications equipment such as a photo of the equipment; an invoice showing the price of the yacht being imported; a copy of the yacht’s registration (or the builder’s certificate); and also a copy of the importer’s identification papers (Thai ID card, passport or company incorporation documents). Time required for this stage in Thailand is 4-6 weeks.
At this stage of the process the yacht may be brought into Thailand. You as the importer should have the Original Port Clearance from the last port of call; the Crew List with all their passports; and the Passenger List with passports. The Declaration of Import must be made within 24 hours of berthing in Thai waters.
After the arrival of the vessel has been declared, customs import formalities must be completed, and for this the following documents need to be presented: invoice with names of buyer & seller; details about the vessel, its value, weight, engine; inventory list of equipment on board; Bill of Sale; vessel registration or Builder’s certificate; photographs of vessel; and identification documents of importer (individual or company). If documents are complete, the process can be finished within 3 days.
Note that you must then proceed to the Thai flag registration process which requires another 5 days if the application paper work is complete. At this final stage, we will need: the import license; the Customs Declaration form; the original VAT tax receipt; the form indicating registration in another country has been cancelled (if applicable); the Thai vessel name; and other documents submitted earlier at previous stages.

Note: should a Thai company be the importer into Thailand, a minimum 70% of the shareholders of the company, and over 50% of its directors, must be Thai nationals.

Other Certificates

There are other certificates which would be needed such as the boat inspection certificates as well as the  license renewals as well as the license re-registrations. Any boat name changes are similarly prepared which needs to be submitted to the Thai Marine Office. This is then followed by a visit from a boat inspector from the government and eventual approval. If however the inspection raises issues about the yacht that need to be remedied then a follow-on inspection will be scheduled to confirm the issues have been resolved to the satisfaction of the boat inspector. Note that the Marine Office can also receive applications for certificates for foreign national skippers as well as renewal of seamen’s book and also the application for new seamen’s book or a substitute book (if the original was lost); and transfers of boat registration.

Professional Assistance:

Given the processing of documents for yachts and other vessels can at times be complicated, it is recommended you retain experienced, Thai professional assistance. G.A.M. Legal Alliance, a Bangkok-based firm, has a branch in Phuket that specializes in services to the yachting and marine sectors