Chaos over boat licensing delays

By DAISY SAMPSON [email protected]

Commercial boating companies, from luxury charters to small fishing trip operators, have been left unable to trade as a new body responsible for issuing licenses has failed to keep up with demand, leading to a backlog in applications and delays in issuing essential documentation.

As of June 2009, all maritime tourist operators must be registered with the RNAAT, the national register of tourism agents, part of Turismo de Portugal and not with the port authorities.

According to the decree law: “This new framework is intended to stimulate private investment and facilitate the relationship of the entrepreneur, steam lining procedures, eliminating unnecessary steps and reducing administrative burdens while increasing the quality and diversity of recreational tourism.”

However, the process does not appear to have been “streamlined” as numerous operators in the region told the Algarve Resident, although none wished to be named for fear of reprisals from the licensing authorities.

A spokesman from a diving company told the Algarve Resident: “We have applied for our licence but have still not heard back and we have been told that we cannot have a temporary licence to be able to trade.

“Over Easter,we had our first chance to make some money after terrible weather this winter, however, we were unable to trade fully as we could not go out on our boat.  With the country in such a financial mess, you would think that the authorities would give us a chance to make some money.”

The new decree law 108/2009 establishes the conditions of tourism companies and maritime tour operators and applies to all boats used for tourist trips, rental of boats with or without a crew, river taxis, fishing tourism companies, jet ski or small boat rentals and towing services (water skiing, parasailing and banana boats).

Once an application for registration has been made to Turismo de Portugal then a receipt of the application will be sent to operators to confirm the decision of the process within 10 days.

A spokesman for a commercial boating company in Vilamoura said: “Nobody notified us that there were going to be changes to the licences.  Everyone we have spoken to at the tourism board has been very helpful but the changes have cost us money as we had thousands of brochures with our licence number printed that will have to be changed as they issue us with a new documentation from a different entity.”

“We have already sent in our paperwork,” said a spokesman for a Lagos boating company.  “I have heard that Turismo de Portugal are having real difficulties in coping with all the paperwork and the delays caused by this will certainly affect our season.”

He added: “The situation is made more difficult because they want you to do everything online and there is no direct contact with the people issuing the licences so everything takes longer to sort out.”

A spokesman for Turismo de Portugal told the Algarve Resident: “The transition period between the new legal regimes has created a large backlog, which Turismo de Portugal is currently trying to address in the quickest time possible.”

The spokesman added: “There are no temporary licences available for operators but this is open for consideration after requests from some companies.

“Without a valid licence from RNAAT, tourist boats are not able to operate, however, for those who were already registered before the decree law was issued and have made an application for registration with RNAAT, there may well be a more flexible understanding from the authorities in regard to permission for activity.”

The application for a license can be obtained from  (only available in Portuguese).  For further information about the commercial boat licenses, please call 211 140 200 or email [email protected]