Wintering a boat in Norway - not all plain sailing
Yachting Monthly have in the last year run some rather flattering articles on cruising in Norway (David Lomax oct 2008 and Solfrid Surland February 2010). We would like to provide some further information on the issue of leaving a yacht in Norway for extended periods of time.
It is quite correct as the authors point out that Norwegian Customs in many locations will look favourable on a request for wintering a boat in the country. This relates particularly to the West coast and Northern Norway. It should however be emphasized that this policy is not supported by central authorities at Customs and Excise office in Oslo. Members of the Cruising Association who have approached central authorities in recent years are told VAT exemption can be granted for 12 months, but only if the boat is placed in bonded store. For all practical purposes this is a circumscriptive way of saying "No, we will not allow it".
An exception seems to be made if the boat owner stays with the boat for 10 ½ out of the 12 months. This practice appears to be based on regulations that apply to foreign nationals bringing their car to Norway. The wording may make sense for a person with work permit, who wants to leave a car in Norway while visiting his native country on holidays. Applying the same law to boats seems a serious case of confusing apples with oranges.
Two problems arise:
1. Living in your boat in Norway in wintertime is cold. Few long distance cruisers will want to subject themselves to this experience. Local yachts go in winter storage and there is no logical reason anything else should apply to foreign yachts.
2. Immigration authorities will grant foreign visitors a 3 month stay. This also applies to those who do not require a visa. So while one set of rule insists owner of boat stays with the boat 10 ½ months in a 12 month period, another set of rules will allow same crew 3 months with the boat. Catch 22! We know of at least two examples where foreign live-aboards have had trouble with authorities over this issue.
There is some information in English at the official websites www.toll.no and www.udi.no. The Cruising Association home page (Baltic section) and the e-book www.norwegiancruisingguide.com both have more information on the issue.
Norwegian yachts cruising the EU are generally granted 18 month VAT exemption. As a non-EU country Norway appears surprisingly eager to adjust to EU legislation on many issues. In this regard the formal attitude of Norwegian Customs and Excise to long distance cruisers is surprising. Norwegian yachtsmen would love to see more sailors from the UK in our waters, and Norwegian boat yards would welcome the business opportunity provided.
We have on several occasions pointed out the serious flaws in the current practice of the central Norwegian Customs and Excise Office. There is an increasing interest in the issue among Norwegian yachtsmen. It would be of interest to learn of any negative experience UK sailors have had in dealing with Norwegian customs on the issue.
Hans Jakob Valderhaug
Cruising Association HLR Oslo
Norwegian correspondent www.norwegiancruisingguide.com
Seems nothing has changed since the 90s
Whilst it was a while ago (1993-5) I kept my boat in Norway and lived onboard in the Oslo area including 1 winter onboard. I had continuous problems with Norwegian customs and eventually left Norway because of them.
The issues were caused by very obstructive (and officious) officials, complicated rules that did not fit the situation, a complete lack of ANY understanding and no willing to try an address any issues. It completely spoilt my experience of the country. The attitude seemed to be ‘we are so great and wonderful you should be grateful to be here and do whatever we dictate.
Seems from you post nothing has changed.
I have been trying to encourage UK yachtsman to visit North-west Norwegian coast.
I have even tried to set up a coastal 'help-line' for visitors.
The question alway arises VAT/MVA bond!. Some of those I have spoken to, who have come. It seems that if you are straight with TOLL regarding your cruising plans, you may get little problems. But now and again you do get "jobs-worth". Or more it can depend on where you first land!
But I agree its along way (and expense) to come from UK to only find out when you get here, how long you can stay for!
I also agree that Norway is eager to adjust to EU regs. (as long as the regs brings income for the Goverment beneifit, ie taxation).
The attitude "we are so great...etc" is not one I have experienced. I found it more, "what the hell do you want to come here for? But we are pleased to you made the effort"
A greater understanding of 'modern' cruising by the Norwegian authorities would help and attract more 'tourist income' ie MVA.
I have a medium term plan for trip from Scotland via Shetland to Norway, then on through the Swedish canals to the Baltic and back via the English Channel, to be done over several years. Is Sweden easier for overwintering, do you know?
Originally Posted by hans
Hi, I'm no expert in these matters, but since Sweden is a EU country I think normally there will be no problem to overwinter a UK yacht here. Might be different though, if the original VAT has not been paid or if the yacht is very new.
Here in Norway (Ålesund) anyway. We have in our marina overwintered boats from UK, France, Switzerland, Sweden and Germany, with no problems.
Regarding VAT/MVA. Here you have to pay Norwegian MVA even if VAT has been paid in another country.
Is it refunded again on permanent export?
Originally Posted by Viking
I would be surprised if VAT refund was given to a privately registered yacht. Regarding wintering a yacht in Sweden this should present no problem as stated above, since Sweden is in the EU. The Cruising Association "Baltic Lay-up Directory" will have detailed information.
One of the essential overwintering items in the Bergen region this year has been the chainsaw...
And for the speedboat brigade, a car
Originally Posted by hans
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