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Argentina, Ushuaia – Customs Levy Fines on Foreign Flagged Yachts

By Sue Richards last modified Sep 16, 2010 12:33 PM

Published: 2010-09-16 12:33:35
Countries: Argentina

The following report pertains to the problems currently being experienced by the owners of a number of small, privately owned sailing vessels which have been recently moored in Ushuaia Bay, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.

It has been brought to our attention that customs in Ushuaia are levying "fines" on foreign cruising yachts who according to them have not followed the “correct procedures” according to the law. The details of this “law” is a very grey area and it appears they are referring to laws which pertain to the importation of goods into the country. Very current information should be sought before venturing into Argentina waters.

Customs in Ushuaia now state:

No vessel may be left unattended in Argentine waters without the written application to, and consent of, the local customs authority.

A power of attorney must be granted to a resident living within a certain radius from the boat and a notarized letter produced to communicate this information to customs and coast guard. The penalty for infringement is 1% of the value of the vessel.

Many cruisers who have often left their vessels here in the past report that they have never been informed by anyone until now about this piece of paper. This includes people who have wintered their boats in Ushuaia for over 10 years.

No vessel may breach the terms of their conditions of entry into the country by using their boats for commercial activities while in Argentina.

If a yacht is deemed to be chartering in Argentina waters by customs, they are liable to a fine of 30% of the value of the vessel. Remember, even if you make a voyage in Argentina waters with people paying costs aboard, you could then be construed to be a charter vessel.

Reports are that charter yachts are stopping in Argentina to refuel, resupply and picking up their passengers, then leaving to Antarctica, South Georgia etc. Some do trips in Chile to Cape Horn and Glaciers.

Further Possible Fines

Digging deeper, these new rules are very much open to interpretation and it has been reported that even local lawyers are not willing to give statements in writing, so unclear is the situation.

The local customs have come up with all sorts of ways one could be considered to be breaking the rules. This includes but is not limited to:

Modifying or repairing the boat, purchasing goods or equipment locally, leaving the vessel and traveling overland, even purchasing fuel can be considered an infraction without going through the laborious process of completing paperwork. Any infraction could lead to boat arrest and a spot fine of 1%.

It appears these new requirements were introduced without warning and therefore a number of owners who were out of the country (and some are still) were presented with the fine on their return. Those that have been forced to pay have left and are not coming back.

Both cruising yachts and charter yachts have been and are being investigated and fined. Currently 11 sailing vessels are detained, the majority of them cruising yachts. They are barred from moving until the results of a customs investigation for possible infractions of customs law are revealed.

Cruisers involved in this situation advise the following;

“Before sailing to Argentina, check with the Argentine consulate with regards to what one needs to do with regard to exit and entry papers, leaving the boat, hauling your vessel, having work done on your vessel, or anything that may create a potential problem with customs. If you can get this in writing, even better.”

Permits for the Falklands, South Georgia and South Orkneys

Recently, Argentina has reasserted their claim to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. They have also always claimed a section of the Antarctica Peninsula as part of their territorial waters. All vessels intending to sail to or from the Falklands, South Georgia and South Orkneys must apply for and obtain permission from the Argentine government or they will be fined $7000USD upon arrival in Argentina, or risk impoundment of vessel. All vessels must apply, cruisers or charter vessels.


As a result of all this, Puerto Williams – the Chilean alternative port – is totally full as yachts either bypass or leave Ushuaia. If a stop in Ushuaia is unavoidable a local shipping agent may be able to assist with the paperwork and avoiding heavy fines.

Our thanks to all the cruisers who contacted noonsite with information about this situation.

(Editors Note: Noonsite sent this report to the Argentina Consulate in London who advised contacting customs direct in Argentina. We have done so, requesting confirmation of the exact rules for visiting yachts, and are awaiting a reply.)