Anchor Tax Abandonned

Anchor-Tax Abandonned

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It is a great relief for all of the yachting community in France ! The Senat has rejected the amendment voted at the National Assembly which would have created a tax on anchoring in Marine Protected Areas.
In addition, the Minister for Decentralisation and the Civil Service, Mrs. Marylise Lebranchu, has stated that the French government had decided not to submit the tax to the Assembly again. This decision was apparently taken in order to end disruptive rumours spreading about the new text and facing a strong opposition from all sides of the boating community in France. Boats and yachts of all sizes will therefore be able to drop anchor freely this summer.
 
The issue of preserving the seabed remains however. If the government has abandoned the concept of a tax, perhaps will it search for alternatives, such as the installation of “buoy fields”, in the coastal waters’ sensitive areas, particularly for yachts over 24 m (80’). These larger yachts could then perhaps benefit from more practical, cost-efficient and environmentally friendly ways of mooring off the France’s coastline.
 
 
 
MooringSpot, June 2015.
 
 
 
 
France's New Anchor-Tax and Reactions on the Riviera
 

A tax on anchoring is currently being debated at the French Parliament. It is naturally causing concern amongst boat owners and yachting professionals, in areas such as the PACA region and the French Riviera. France’s yachting industry, represented by the FIN (Fédération des Industries Nautiques) is lobbying the authorities. In addition, various institutions, like the Nice Côte d’Azur Chambre of Commerce are petitioning MPs.
Should you wish to sign the CCI’s petition, please follow this link.
 
Though many articles and signs of dismay can be found on the web, we have found it difficult to obtain useful and reliable information for the 2015 season, as this bill could come into force in middle of this summer. What are the facts so far?
 
The French National Assembly (equivalent of the House of Commons in France) has voted, on the 3rd of March, an amendment to the NOTRe Law (a bill on the reorganisation of France’s territory), which would enable the creation of a tax on anchoring in Marine Protected Areas, under the administration of local authorities.
Tax rates reaching 20€ per metre per day have been mentioned (e.g.: 300€ per day for 15 m boats or 500€ per day for 25 m yachts), but it seems now that the tax would only be a tenth of these amounts. Otherwise, it would become extortionate to have a boat in France and it would not be surprising to see yachts fleeing to other Mediterranean destinations. At this moment, nothing is certain yet as the bill is still currently being debated at the Senate.
We have read the draft amendment in question, article 18A of “Loi NOTRe”, which you may also consult on the following link on the National Assembly’s website, on pages 141 and 142.
 
Three aspects of this bill must be underlined :
  • The tax is only applicable in Marine Protected Areas
  • It is only applicable during the high season (from 1st June to 30th September)
  • This tax is applicable at the discretion of the local authorities (“collectivités territoriales”) who are in charge of these Marine Protected Areas
 
In addition, the rates and the collection process of this tax would only be determined by decree, and the income generated would have to be allocated to preserving and restoring the ecosystem and sea life in marine protected areas.
 
In practice how is this tax going to affect us ?
Those of you used to cruising along the Côte d’Azur may be wondering where exactly these Marine Protected Areas are. There are many types of maritime areas, with various statuses and regulations which make the overall marine protected areas. The map below is the most up-to-date one we could find. It shows in red, the Natura 2000 protected sites. Therefore, if you enjoy mooring between the Cannes Islands, in the Golfe Juan, or the Bay of St-Laurent to the east of Cap Ferrat, it seems that one day you may have to pay for this privilege. However, anchorages such as Villefrance would appear to be anchor-tax free.
 
Map of the Protected Marine Areas on the French Riviera where mooring and anchoring may one day be taxed.
 
How are we going to pay the new anchor-tax ?
There are still no clear directives on the subject, as the bill is still subject to changes. We have contacted the French Maritime Affairs to ask if for instance, every day, each Marine Protected Area would be kept by people on ribs collecting the tax from each boat as it anchors. The people there kindly explained they had no additional elements they could give us.
 
If the amendment goes through, as the PACA region is essentially politically represented by the French right wing, perhaps we could expect locally elected politicians (i.e. the local authorities) to spare boat and yacht owners, this season, and implement the tax gradually, reasonably, over time, without causing a drastic impact on the local yachting industry, which has some weight in the Riviera’s economy.
 
Communication
In 2006, Sardinia had created a similar tax. The amounts perceived were not particularly deterring - considering the means of the yacht owners who anchor off Porto Cervo in July and August – but the information about the tax was very confusing. It was so challenging to know what to pay and where to do so, that many people chose cruise elsewhere. It is not the tax itself that ruined Sardinia’s season that year, but bad communication and the lack of clear information.
Like many in the yachting industry, we fear that the French anchor-tax could have the same impact on the French Riviera, unless the authorities communicate more clearly in order to reassure the yachting community.
 
Solutions ?
Let us not forget the purpose of this amendment: To preserve the ecosystem in Marine Protected Areas. We must admit that gradually, over the decades, the number of boats (as well as their size) anchoring off the Riviera has increased. Though we all know that one should drop anchor where the sea bed is sandy, rather than in the vegetation, it has become more and more difficult to find a spot of sand available at the peak of the summer along in the popular coves of the Côte d’Azur. Anchors, by their sheer number, rake and damage the underwater vegetation, disturb the species that live and reproduce there, and modify the balance of the ecosystem. The decline of the area’s indigenous biodiversity is a contributing factor for the proliferation of jellyfish, for instance, which appear more nowadays along the coastline than they used to.
Sustainable solutions must be found to preserve our favourite anchoring locations, but the solution cannot only reside in taxing boat owners for the damage caused to the environment.
Measures along those lines are being taken in the Var for instance. Just off the highly popular beach of Pampelonne (5 miles West of Saint-Tropez), a project to install swinging moorings (“buoys” or “beach moorings”) is currently being reviewed and studied, so that yacht and superyachts may visit this location without having to drop their anchors. The local authorities have appointed the companies MDL France, Fugro, Innosea and Jifmar who should be submitting a their conclusions and a mooring layout in the near future.
 
 
 
MooringSpot, May 2015.

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