Good News if Planning a Cruise to Norway

Published 13 years ago, updated 5 years ago

October 2011 – The Situation has now been clarified

As from October 2011, the situation of owners wishing to spend at least two seasons cruising the Norwegian coast has been made clear. There is now a form which can be downloaded, Application for the Temporary Storage of a Vessel from the official Customs website.

It is still very important that this application is made prior to laying up the boat. See official website (in English) for more details.

Again, our thanks to Osmund Iversen for sending us these links to the Norwegian Customs website.


Sept 2010 – A FURTHER UPDATE – if wishing to leave a boat in Norway for the winter

There is now good news for those cruisers wishing to take more than one season to explore the delights of Norway.

Due to the concerns raised by Noonsite and others, the mayor of the district of Solund, together with the manager of Solund marina, went to Bergen to discuss with the Customs department, the position of foreign cruisers wishing to leave their boat in Norway over the winter in order to continue their cruise the following season. Happily, it has now been established that “bona fida foreign sailors who interrupt their journey in Norway to continue it later will, by furnishing the information in advance, have no difficulty leaving the boat for 6 months, and to extend this period if required.”

This position has been strongly confirmed by Bjarte Engevik, the manager of Solund Marina and they have had no problems securing permits for any of their customers. See Solund Marina for contact details.

Our thanks to Osmund Lind Iversen for obtaining this information for us.


Original Report – Last updated May 2010

Confusion over Norwegian Regulations

In recent weeks Noonsite has received several queries regarding the regulations affecting yachts visiting Norway. In addition, there has been widespread reporting of the plight of a Swedish couple who left their yacht in the county over the winter and who ended up paying a substantial fine.

The Tax Position of Boats Left Over Winter

Due to the high rate of VAT (25%), Norway has a problem with boat owners trying to buy a boat cheaper elsewhere in Europe and then illegally importing it.

As a consequence of this, visitors who wish to leave their boat over winter in order to enable them to continue their voyage the following year, MUST advise the Customs of their plans and follow their advice on the correct procedure. This usually entails the boat being placed ‘in bond’, but, from previous correspondence received by Noonsite, it seems that not all Customs officials either understand or are aware of this procedure.

Failure to do so will land you in serious trouble and will involve a substantial financial penalty. The Swedish couple, whose plight was reported in the Nordic press, ended up paying 200,000 NOK because they failed to follow the correct procedures.

It is advisable, even if leaving the boat only for a few weeks, to contact Customs and advise them of your plans. Six weeks is the maximum time a yacht may normally remain in Norway without its owner.

UPDATE – The latest Changes to the Tax Rules

If you make arrangements with a boatyard to have repairs done to your boat and make an application to Customs, a VAT exemption will be granted for up to 2 years. (May 2010).

Customs officers may not have experience with this new regulation, therefore in your application to Customs, it may be worthwhile using the words “overhaul and repairs at xxx boatyard during xxx (e.g. October 2010 to April 2011). It is recommended that you make these arrangements prior to arriving in Norway, as the bureaucratic process of dealing with this issue once in the country could be daunting, at least initially.

Our thanks to Phyllis Nickel of Norwegian Cruising Guide for this update.

Certificates of Competence

By convention, foreign leisure sailors only have to conform to the requirements of their home country with regard to certification of competency, if any.

However, as more and more countries now require, by law, leisure sailors to have such a certificate, many port officials expect foreign skippers to be able to produce one too. It may cause difficulties if you cannot do so.

The regulations in Norway, introduced this year, requires all Norwegian leisure skippers, born after 1980, to hold a Certificate of Competency. Previously, leisure boats under 15m were exempt. It appears that this same law can be applied to foreign skippers too, although quite how this can be effected nobody appears to know.

This Norwegian certificate will NOT be an International Certificate of Competence as Norway has not signed up to the UN European Resolution 40 and is, therefore, unable to issue such a certificate.

One piece of advice which has been passed on to Noonsite, is that if your boat is involved in an ‘incident’ which might result in an insurance claim, then it is worth checking if the other skipper has a Certificate of Competence (a “Båtførerbevis” in Norwegian) as it might help your case (assuming you were not to blame!).

Reporting Requirements

There are, indeed, new reporting requirements which came in force in December 2009 which state:-

“Vessels that plan to arrive in the maritime district of a local council (“kommune”) shall if possible at least 24 hours before arrival report to the harbourmaster.”

BUT, and this is crucial, they go on to say:-

“These rules do not apply to naval vessels, leisure craft and Norwegian fishing vessels with maximum length below 20m.”

The normal reporting requirements in Norway are no more onerous than in other European countries; i.e. Foreign yachts must clear in with Port Authority, Custom and Immigration when first entering the country and must do so at a Port of Entry. Similarly when leaving Norway’s waters.

This is the legal requirement, but in practice, it may not be so strictly applied – but that is the same in many places in the world.

What Norway does encourage, when it is practical to do so, is for a yacht to advise a Port Authority (if there is one) of their plans when leaving (or arriving at) a port while cruising within the country. This is primarily for safety reasons. It is NOT a legal requirement. The U.K. offers the same service, although there it is the Coastguard which is notified.

Special Sailing Permit

In April 2010, new rules were published which indicate that visiting sailors now require a ‘Special Sailing Permit’ to be able to cruise Norwegian waters and that plans detailing the ports to be visited must be lodged two months prior to the visit. Any other port may only be entered in the event of an emergency.

See Norwegian Immigration website for more details. Part of this site deals with visas and these details are already published on Noonsite on the Norway/Immigration page.

Norwegian Immigration has indicated that this Special Sailing Permit is not required by yachts arriving from another Schengen Area country or by citizens of the EU, but the English version of the published information does not specify this.

We have also been advised that the advance notification is not required unless a visa is being applied for, but again the Immigration website does not say this. In fact, the form to be filled in on clearing in, whether or not a visa is needed, requires a list of ports to be visited together with arrival and departure dates as well as a photograph of the boat!

This is most unusual for a European country and appears to be rather draconian. So we are waiting to see how this will be applied in practice and whether it will be modified in future.

Noonsite will be updated as soon as we have further confirmation of the situation.

Special Sailing Permit – The Latest Information (May 24th 2010)

Having been sent a (translated) reply from the Norwegian Immigration Department ( Utlendingsdirektoratet (UDI), it would appear that it is the English version of the website which is the cause of this concern. According to the UDI, once a boat has entered the Schengen Area through a regular Port of Entry, no EU or Schengen Area citizen requires a ‘Special Sailing Permit’.

The other area of confusion is caused by using the words Sailing Permit when referring to two different situations.

One refers to the information required when completing the normal clearance at a Port of Entry when a list of Harbours to be visited is required. These Harbours actually mean Harbour Districts, which in Norway, are very large areas. They DO NOT mean every port you wish to enter! This is, of course, not at all clear on the (English) form provided.

The other Permit refers to the special permission required if you expect to cross the border into Norway at a place remote from an Immigration office. In this instance, PRIOR permission must be obtained and a Permit issued by the local Police Station. There has to be a very specific reason why this would NOT be granted. You will then be informed of the location as to where you must visit Immigration.

Hopefully, the Norwegian authorities will soon correct the English versions of their website information in order to remove all this confusion and misinformation.

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