Chartering in Costa Rica for International Vessels is Allowed!
In April 2021, the Costa Rican Congress approved law 9977, “Ley de Impulso a las Marinas Turísticas y Desarrollo Costero,” published in La Gaceta on April 23, 2021. This law has legally opened the door for international vessels’ chartering services in Costa Rica. Before this amendment of law 7744, “Concesión y Operación de Marinas y Atracaderos Turísticos,” foreign vessels were allowed to use Costa Rica’s marina facilities. However, the chartering service was prohibited. Hence, it was unattractive for international boats who are in the entertainment industry, looking to satisfy the needs of modern and luxury tourism.
How is the chartering service going to work?
Chartering service, as defined in the law, is an activity in which a vessel (24 meters or greater in length) with an international flag is the object of a leasing contract. The chartering includes all the crew members, supplies and logistics needed. Thus, a third party leases the vessel services to enjoy various activities, including tourism, fishing, and scuba diving.
The chartering license will be issued by the ICT (Instituto Costarricense de Turismo), per Article 5 of the reglementary dispositions; these are the steps to follow and documentation requirements:
- Complete the application form available on the official website of the ICT, https://bit.ly/3DnjBVo (annex documents). This document must be signed by the owner or legal representative of the vessel.
- A copy of the seaworthiness certificate “certificado de navegabilidad.”
- Affidavit manifesting the vessel has a valid insurance policy that covers all the activities part of the chartering.
- Have an executed lease agreement with a fully opened and authorized marina in Costa Rica, such as Los Sueños, Marina Pez Vela, Flamingo Marina, Marina Papagayo, or any other marina approved by the government.
The ICT will analyze the application within 15 calendar days to issue a resolution. The chartering license, if approved, is valid for one year and could be renewed. Vessels destined for commercial freight transportation are not qualified to apply for a chartering license.
How long legally does a vessel with chartering licenses remain in the country?
The chartering permit will be valid for one year; it can be renewable for the same period. The vessels with an approved chartering license can leave the country without losing it, as long as the license remains valid.
How long does a vessel without a chartering license legally remain in the country?
Suppose a foreign vessel is just under contract with a marina (not doing chartering). In that case, the ship can apply for a “temporal import status” of the vessel, valid for six months with the possibility to renew for another six months, for a maximum of two years. When that term is attained, the vessel has to leave the country for at least 90 calendar days, then come back and stay for the same period following the same process for the “importación temporal.”
Obligations and crew members’ migratory status
The fee for the chartering license will be 2.5% over the gross income of the service and is paid by wire transfer to the bank accounts of DGME (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería). The 2.5% gross income payment will be verified against the leased contract the vessel has in the marina for chartering, and an affidavit has to be submitted along with the payment to DGME.
The captain (or another legal representative assigned) is the person who represents the vessel and its crew members; therefore, the legal capacity to deal with government authorities relies on him.
If the vessel obtains the chartering approval, the crew can apply for the “Special category for chartering workers,” detailed in recently modified article 30,t bylaw 9977, allowing them to stay legally in Costa Rica for up to one year. It can be renewed upon the compliance and good standing of the chartering license.
As a tourist destination, Costa Rica benefits from this law allowing owners of international vessels to enjoy our pura vida lifestyle with reliable and substantial experience in the marinas within a precise regulation from a legal perspective.
It is no secret that the new Flamingo Marina in Flamingo Beach, Guanacaste, will be the main attraction to foreign investors looking to build a project, buy a home, or retire here.