Sailing private pleasure craft ― customs clearance and reporting requirements

Produced by Tolley
Sailing private pleasure craft ― customs clearance and reporting requirements

The following Value Added Tax guidance note Produced by Tolley provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • Sailing private pleasure craft ― customs clearance and reporting requirements
  • Background
  • The Schengen agreement
  • Pleasure boats arriving in the UK
  • Clearance procedure
  • Declaring goods
  • Importing a boat
  • Immigration requirements
  • Transferring residency to the EU
  • Temporary admission
  • More...

This guidance note provides details of the customs arrival and departure requirements for private individuals who sail a pleasure craft to and from the UK and within the EU waters. A private pleasure craft is defined as a vessel which is used for private recreational purposes when it arrives in the UK or departs from the UK.

This guidance note does not cover the Sailaway boat scheme and more information on that scheme can be found in the Sailaway boat scheme (VSWB) guidance note.


HMRC and the UK Border Agency (UKBA) is responsible for managing the regulatory, fiscal and enforcement activities at UK frontiers. HMRC has overall responsibility and the UKBA has responsibility for enforcing HMRC’s procedures and policies and for preventing smuggling of restricted or prohibited goods into the UK.

The UKBA is required to undertake checks on pleasure craft and it will select a small number of vessels on an intra-EU voyage to confirm that they have sailed from a port in another EU member state. The Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 (CEMA 1979) grants the UKBA with powers to stop, board and search a vessel as well as to question those on board. These powers are applicable regardless of whether the vessel has entered UK waters from a non-EU or EU port.

If the vessel is carrying cargo that will be used for industrial or commercial purposes then the rules outlined in this guidance note are not applicable as this is not a pleasure craft and Notice 69 explains the relevant procedures.

The Schengen agreement

A number of EU member states have entered into the Schengen agreement under which any border controls between the countries have been abolished. The UK is not party to this agreement and any UK travellers going to / from a Schengen agreement country will be subject to border checks. The following countries that have coastlines have signed up to the Schengen agreement.



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