Greek boating regulations have had a bad name in the recent past both for obscurity and variability of application, this has created situations where owners (especially non-EU owners) have been fined because they were unaware of the law. However, this situation is improving as Greece is simplifying and updating her maritime laws and procedures. In addition, Greece is a member of the Schengen zone so Schengen rules and procedures also apply. The list of regulations here are those which will affect private pleasure boats and yachts visiting Greece.
When arriving in Greece by private boat (i.e. not on a ferry) it is not necessary to make your arrival at an official port of entry, regardless of were you are coming from. The actions you have to take on arrival do however vary depending on where you are coming from, this may require a visit to the port police (look for a blue sign of crossed anchors).
If you arrive from another Schengen zone country (Italy, for example) you may arrive in Greece at any port and you do not need to visit the port police unless you need to obtain either a DEKPA or a Transit Log (see the permit to cruise section). You must however have an accurate crew list on board and be able to produce it at any time during your stay in Greece should the port police ask to see it.
Note: It may cause some confusion if you use the Pleasure Boat Document (PBD) as your crew list since this document is designed to be used only by arrivals from non-Schengen countries. Such confusion can probably be avoided if you use the older Greek crew list document, a copy of this can be dowloaded from here or via the link at the bottom of this page.
If you arrive from a non-Schengen zone country (Turkey, for example) you may arrive in Greece at any port but you must contact the port police before your arrival and ask for instructions. You will probably be directed to a port with a port police presence as your first landfall, or advised to visit a port with a port police presence as soon possible. As well as your passports (see the immigration section) you must also present a completed Pleasure Boat Document (PBD) which can be downloaded from here or via the link at the bottom of this page. The PBD must be handed in to the port police when you leave Greece.
Note that, confusingly, the Pleasure Boat Document is also known by some government agencies as an ESA. So if you are asked for an ESA they mean a Pleasure Boat Document (PBD).
For a list of the Schengen zone countries see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schengen_Area and for a list of the EU countries see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union#Member_states.
When you arrive in Greece you may need to visit the port police for immigration purposes.
If you arrive from another Schengen zone country (Italy, for example) there are no immigration procedures you have to follow, however the port police may want to see your passports to verify your status.
If you arrive from a non-Schengen zone country (Turkey, for example) you must visit the port police and they will want to see your passports. Nationals of Schengen zone or EU countries do not need a passport stamp, nationals of all other countries should insist on a Schengen visa/entry stamp. Without such a stamp non-Schengen/non-EU nationals do not have free circulation ashore, so you will be unable to leave the country by air or ferry and you may be treated as an illegal immigrant if you are involved in an incident whilst ashore. A Schengen visa allows a stay of up to 90 days in 180 days within the entire Schengen zone and costs €60, although nationals of certain countries may get a reduction.
When you leave Greece.
If you are leaving for another Schengen zone country (Italy, for example) there are no immigration procedures you have to follow (though the port police may ask to see your passports to verify your status). Note: If you have a Pleasure Boat Document and/or a Transit Log these must be handed in to the port police.
If you are leaving for a non-Schengen zone country (Turkey, for example) then non-Schengen/non-EU nationals who have a Schengen visa/entry stamp in their passports should visit the port police to get an exit stamp from the Schengen zone (and stop the 90 days in 180 days clock). Note: If you have a Pleasure Boat Document and/or a Transit Log these must be handed in to the port police. As far as we can establish there is no requirement for EU nationals to check out of Greece (we are currently trying to establish the definitive rule on this). In practise members are reporting that they are being instructed to visit immigration control with all passports and an accurate crew list, immigration will stamp this crew list (they may also take a copy). They are then being instructed to visit the port police who want to see the crew list with an immigration control stamp, the port police will also stamp it (and may also take a copy).
Visiting yachts of any flag are rarely bothered by customs officials in Greece. As a courtesy you should fly the Q flag on entry to Greece but it is unlikely that any customs officers will visit you. The following exceptions to this apply:
EU flagged boats, and non-EU flagged boats owned by an EU resident, may be required to prove that VAT has been paid or that the boat is exempt. Under EU law non-EU flagged boats owned by non-EU residents should be allowed temporary importation relief within the EU for up to 18 months, if the boat remains in the EU for more than 18 months it must be imported into an EU country and VAT paid. The 18 month period can be extended by placing the boat in bond (i.e. beyond use) or by leaving the EU for a short period and then returning. Note: At present Greece appears not to be implementing the EU rules on temporary importation of yachts properly (see the relevant part of the permit to cruise section). EU law on VAT is complex, if in any doubt you should seek professional advice.
If you are carrying firearms you must report them to customs on arrival.
If you have SCUBA equipment on board then you must not also have spear fishing equipment on board (fishing with SCUBA gear is prohibited). Note that SCUBA diving is subject to permission in some areas (mostly archaeological sites).
Codeine is an illegal substance in Greece. It is not clear whether a prescription issued in another country would allow its importation.
All recreational boats in Greece must carry a permit to cruise (i.e. DEKPA or Transit Log) this can be obtained from the port police on arrival. You will need to present the following documentation:
Passports (and a Pleasure Boat Document if arriving from a non-Schengen country or a crew list if arriving from a Schengen zone or EU country - see the arriving in Greece section).
Yacht registration certificate (original, photocopies may not be accepted).
Certificate of insurance, with a Greek language translation and showing the following minimum levels of cover:
i). Civil liability for bodily harm or death of the passengers and third parties because of collision, crash, sinking or any other cause. The insurance sum is fixed to fifty thousand (50.000) Euros per passenger and cannot be less than five hundred thousand (500.000) Euros per event.
ii). Civil liability for material damage of the passengers and third parties because of collision, crash, sinking or any other cause. The insurance sum is fixed to one hundred and fifty thousand (150.000) Euros.
iii). Cause of sea pollution. The insurance sum is fixed to one hundred and fifty thousand (150.000) Euros.
If your insurance policy document does not list these amounts you should contact your insurance company and ask for a new policy document that does. All insurance companies are aware of the recent change to these amounts and there should be no problem getting an updated one. Recent experience has shown that the port police do want to see these amounts in your policy document.
Very rarely, other documents (ICC, radio licence etc.)
EU flagged boats over 7m LOA will be issued with a “Private Pleasure Maritime Document”, this is commonly known as a DEKPA, from it's Greek initials (ΔΕΚΠΑ). This costs €30 but there may also be a €15 processing fee. The DEKPA has an indefinite life and only expires once all the stamp sections are full, it does not have to be handed back on leaving Greece. However, it is only valid if it contains a stamp issued within the current calendar year (or possibly in the last 365 days, this is not yet clear). The stamp will normally be obtained when the TPP tax is paid (see the cruising tax section). Note: If you re-enter Greece using an existing DEKPA (which you can do) you are still liable to pay the €30 fee, although very few ports seem to insist on this.
Non-EU flagged boats can be temporarily imported into the EU without VAT being paid. The boat will be issued with a Transit Log which is valid for 18 months anywhere in EU waters (including Greece). This can be extended, on application, to 24 months after which time the boat must either leave the EU or be imported into an EU country (and the appropriate taxes paid). There are no rules on how long a boat must remain outside of EU waters before returning for another 18 month Transit Log. Evidence of having left the EU (a marina receipt for example) will probably be required. If the boat is 'laid up', which usually means placed in customs bond, the 18 month (or 24 month) clock stops until the boat is put back in use. The TPP will also have to be paid (see the cruising tax section). Greece resumed these EU-wide temporary importation rules on 1st October 2015 and scrapped the 6 month in 12 month rules.
Note that non-EU flagged boats owned by an EU resident are not eligible for temporary importation into the EU. In this case the boat will be issued with a Transit Log for one month after which it must be either imported into the EU (this will probably mean that VAT and other duties must be paid) or leave the EU.
Note that the DEKPA and Transit Log details are entered onto an online database so that the port police in any port can check that all visiting vessels have a valid permit to cruise without having to speak to the boat. This system will also be used to check on TPP payments (see below).
As long as all crew have been through immigration and customs procedures (where required) and a valid DEKPA or Transit Log is carried it is not necessary to visit the port police at all, you are free to come and go from any port without informing anyone. However, the port police may ask you to visit their office (for any reason) and you must attend (usually within the hour) and take all relevant documentation with you. It is very rare for the port police to ask you to attend, they generally have little interest in private recreational boats unless there are problems.
In January 2014 a cruising tax (known as TPP) was introduced payable by all vessels over 7m that cruise in Greek waters (of any flag). The collection of this tax has not yet been implemented (November 2014) and there is no indication when (or even if) it will be.
The amount payable is calculated from the LOA of your vessel as shown on the registration document, rounded up to the nearest tenth of a metre. Boats stored ashore do not have to show that this tax has been paid (for the period they are ashore). There are no rebates on leaving Greek waters or on hauling out.
Boats with an LOA of 12m or under pay a single yearly* fee, either when they arrive in Greece or on launching, these fees are:
a). 7.1m to 8m = €200 per year
b). 8.1m to 10m = €300 per year
c). 10.1m to 12m = €400 per year
Boats with an LOA over 12m can elect to pay either per month or per year*, the fee calculations are:
a). Per month = €10 per metre LOA
b). Per year = €100 per metre LOA
For boats that spend more than 11 months in Greek waters a 30% discount is available on the yearly rate. (This is equivalent to paying 7 monthly fees to stay in Greek waters for a year).
If you are unable to prove that you have paid the TPP you will be required to pay the tax immediately, plus an additional one year fee, appropriate to your LOA, as a fine. So effectively you will have to pay double the tax.
*Currently the term 'year' means a calendar year but it may be that when the TPP is finally introduced a year will be a rolling 365 day period. 'Month' currently means a calendar month but it may be that when the TPP is finally introduced a month will be a rolling 30 days.
Port fees (the fee for staying in a port) are collected by the municipality in which the port lies (and not by the port police*). Some municipalities have leased the management of their port to a third-party, in these cases slightly different fees may apply (see below). There will usually be a port official (Limeniko Tameio) who will visit your boat sometime after mooring to collect the appropriate fee (see below). To ensure that you are paying the genuine port official always insist on receiving a formal stamped VAT receipt showing the full amount you are being asked to pay. In Greece you are not obliged to pay if you do not receive a proper receipt.
*In some smaller ports and islands the municipality has agreed that the port police are the appropriate port official, so don't be surprised if it's the port police who ask you to pay in the smaller places (you should still ask for a proper receipt of course).
Ports where the fee collection is managed by the municipality use fee rates that are standard throughout Greece. The fees for private pleasure boats are listed below (the full list can be downloaded from here or via the link at the bottom of this page):
1. For mooring stern-to or bows-to the quay:
a. Private “small” boats/yachts:
of LOA up to 7m = €0.03 per metre per 24 hour period*
b. Private pleasure boats/yachts:
of LOA from 7,01m to 10m = €0.41 per metre per 24 hour period*
of LOA from 10,01m to 15m = €0.47 per metre per 24 hour period*
of LOA over 15,01m = €0.55 per metre per 24 hour period*
2. Alongside berthing is subject to 25% surcharge.
3. All above fees are also subject to VAT (currently 23%).
*The 24 hour period runs from midnight to midnight, so that a one night stay is two fee periods. In practice most ports apply common sense and will charge a single fee period for a one night stay. However, those ports that do charge two fee periods for a one night stay are entitled to do so.
Ports where the municipality has leased the port management to a third party are known as marinas, even though they may offer no additional facilities apart from a wall to tie up to. Marinas are allowed to charge whatever they think the market will stand, they do not have to stick to the standard rates. The full service marinas with which we are all familiar have always charged their own rates of course.
In practice a port that is now a marina will usually offer extra facilities (lazy lines, water & electricity, toilets & showers, etc.) but they don't have to. If you are in any doubt about whether a port is or is not a marina you should ask the relevant port official what the mooring charges are at your earliest opportunity, and be prepared to leave if you think they are too high.
It is apparent that more and more municipalities are leasing the management of their ports to third parties, so these “marinas” might well become more widespread than they are now.
Beware! Major ports where larger ships are regularly berthed often employ Union Harbour Staff, these freelance warp handlers typically charge around €50 per task. Make very certain you do not throw lines to one of these people!
There are no charges for anchoring in Greece, there are however rules relating to anchoring in the vicinity of swimming beaches.
It is illegal to anchor or manoeuvre under power within 1,000m of a "designated beach". In practice this means that if swimmers (or locals) complain that boats are anchoring too close to a beach, the port police are obliged to investigate, usually they will ask you to move on. There are rare reports that boats have been fined for anchoring too close to a beach. In areas where visiting yachts are common, this rule is often ignored. If lines of buoys have been laid across a beach, never anchor (or allow the boat to swing) inside the buoys.
There is no need to seek port police permission when hauling out or when launching and there is no additional tax to pay (the €0.88 tax that used to apply to haul-out and launching has been abolished). Only those formalities required by the marina or boatyard are necessary.
When the owner of the vessel is not on board and someone else is using the boat with the owner's consent there is a danger that the port police may assume that it is an illegal charter.
If this is likely to be a regular occurrence the owner and the skipper who will be in charge of the boat should visit a port police office (with both passports) and get the name of the skipper added to the DEKPA. Another possibility is to get a regular skipper added to the registration document as a co-owner (this is particularly easy if the boat is on the SSR).
If this is a one-off (a delivery, say) ensure that the skipper carries a letter of appointment from the owner. Experience has shown that even this can lead to a minefield of affidavits, translations, and wasted hours with the port police.
If the port police become aware that a boat has a problem, either by hearing a radio call for help (especially if you issue a PAN-PAN) or if they see you being towed into port, they are required to log the event and detain the boat until it has been deemed to be seaworthy.
How a boat is determined to be seaworthy depends on the regulations of the country in which she is registered. The responsibility for determining the seaworthiness of a British registered vessel under 24m LOA rests solely with her crew. It is they, or the vessel's insurers if they are involved, who decide whether any remedial work is necessary to make the vessel seaworthy. Unfortunately, the British embassy in Athens seems not to be aware of this and when the Greek port police ask the embassy for the appropriate British regulations the embassy responds that "the vessel should be certified by a surveyor who would satisfy Lloyds Registry".
Under Greek regulations only a marine surveyor on the Greek registry is authorised to determine whether a boat in Greek waters is seaworthy. The cost of engaging the services of a Greek registered surveyor can be high, €400 to €700 for a sailing yacht for example (it generally depends on the LOA) yet the actual survey is often perfunctory and casual. It is not unusual for it to take several days before a surveyor is able to visit your boat and they only work normal business hours. You may also be charged for any travelling costs incurred by the surveyor, the cost of any remedial work that is required, and of course for the time the vessel is in the port.
In addition, under Greek law if someone on board is injured*, and especially if a Mayday or Pan Pan call is made, the port police have a legal obligation to pass on all details to the public prosecutor who will decide whether the captain has been negligent and whether legal proceedings should be brought against him or her. Apparently local Greeks know that they need to be careful when calling for help to avoid this unwelcome problem. The legal process in Greece takes so long that this may occur many years after the event. Keep all paperwork relating to the event for a minimum of 6 years.
Do not allow yourself to be towed into port unless it's absolutely necessary and be careful how you call for help (a mobile phone may be better than the VHF radio).
*The port police must be informed of all injuries suffered on board any vessel in Greek waters.
Greece's territorial waters extend for 6 nautical miles from the coast (although Greece claims 10 nautical miles), so sailing outside of this limit means that you have left Greece. However, some Greek islands are more than 12 nautical miles apart so that to sail from one island (or the mainland) to another might mean that technically you have left Greece and re-entered. For example, it is impossible to reach the island of Crete without leaving Greek territorial waters and re-entering. In practise the Greek port police usually ignore this technicality, an exception to this might occur however if you enter the territorial waters of Turkey on the way.
Greek law specifies the safety equipment that must be carried aboard Greek flagged vessels, but vessels of a foreign flag should follow the rules of the flag state. The UK has no rules on what safety equipment must be carried aboard vessels under 13.7m LOA so it will be up to the skipper to decide what safety equipment is required. (For UK flagged vessels over 13.7m LOA see the MCA regulations here). Regardless of the flag-state regulations it is a legal requirement in Greece that all safety equipment on board a foreign-flagged vessel is in proper working order, is in-date, and has been serviced according to the manufacturer's instructions. So flares must be in-date and life rafts must be within the recommended service interval for example. In practise it's highly unlikely that the coastguard or port police will take an interest in your safety equipment, but they could.
There are no special arrangements existing between Greece and Turkey to facilitate the easy movement of vessels between the Greek islands and Turkey (or vice-versa).
If you leave Greece for Turkey you must exit Greece in the normal way (i.e. leaving for a non-Schengen zone country) and non-EU flagged boats must hand in their Transit Logs (and Pleasure Boat Document if you have one).
If you return to Greece you must enter the country again in the normal way (i.e. from a non-Schengen zone country).
This information is up to date as at October 2015. Further updates will be published on member's pages and through CA Mednet newsletters
Content written by Tony Cross