Bringing your Yacht to Thailand – The Legal Formalities
In 2003, the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand decided to designate the southern resort island of Phuket as one of Asia’s major Yachting & Marina destinations. This decision has driven the growth of the tourism sector in Thailand and spurred world-wide interest in Phuket’s yachting industry. Thailand today hosts a number of sailing regattas, foremost of which is the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta, celebrating this year its 24th anniversary. And Phuket will also host in early January 2011 the annual Phuket International Marine Expo (PIMEX)—the biggest boat show in South-East Asia. The boldness of the Thai government’s decision to designate Phuket a major yachting destination was made clear when it reduced the luxury import tax on yachts brought into Thailand from the previous rate of 200% to zero percent. As a result, yachting resort complexes and marinas have sprung up, most prominently in Phuket (on the Andaman Sea), as well as Koh Samui and Pattaya, in the Gulf of Thailand.
With that as a background, let’s now look at process of importing a yacht into Thailand and related formalities.
Importing Your Boat
- In order to import the boat into Thailand, we must look at the tax incurred. Although the Customs duty is now set at 0%, value-added tax (VAT) of 7% must be paid on the CIF value of the vessel (cost + insurance + freight). The Customs officer has the right to question the declared value of the vessel, if he feels it is too low, and 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 first stage in the importation procedure is to obtain an import permit for any telecommunications equipment that may be on board before the vessel is imported, if this was the case. Documents required at this stage include details concerning the equipment; a photo of same; an invoice showing the price of the vessel; a copy of the vessel’s registration (or the builder’s certificate); and a copy of the importer’s identification papers (Thai ID card, passport or company incorporation documents). Time required for this stage: 4-6 weeks.
- At this point, the vessel may be brought into Thailand, following normal procedures. The importer should have the Original Port Clearance from the last port of call; the Crew List with the 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.
- We must then proceed to the Thai flag registration, requiring 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 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.
Boat inspection certificates, license renewals, license re-registrations, boat name changes, etc. are similarly prepared, submitted to the Thai Marine Office; followed by a visit from a boat inspector; and eventual approval. If the inspection raises issues that need to be remedied, a follow-on inspection will be scheduled to confirm the issues have been resolved to the satisfaction of the inspector. The Marine Office can also receive applications for certificates for foreign national skippers; renewal of seamen’s book; application for new seamen’s book or a substitute book (if the original was lost); and transfers of boat registration.
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