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Registration Requirements for a Boat and Licensing Requirements for a Boating Business

Let’s register your boat!

In Costa Rica, all boats must be registered through the National Registry of Ships, as stated in article 3 of the Regulations of the Costa Rican Naval Registry and article 38 of the Regulations for the Public Registry of Personal Property.

Before carrying out the registration procedures with the National Registry, the technical review of the ship must be completed and subsequently approved by the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation’s Directorate of Navigation and Security or the corresponding Capitanía de Puerto. The technical review must be formally requested to either entity. Once the inspection has been completed, the Directorate of Navigation or the corresponding Capitanía de Puerto issues a technical review report card. This report card is the first step to get your boat registered: once you have it, the next step is to present the report card to the National Registry of Ships housed within the National Registry of Personal Property. There are several requirements, such as:

  • Only Costa Rican citizens, national public entities, companies established and domiciled in Costa Rica, and shipping representatives can register ships. Foreign citizens who wish to register ships of less than 50 tons dedicated to private use only are exempt from this rule.
  • Documents that prove the ownership of the ship, either by the transfer of titles of domain, a lease or charter, must be presented.
  • Name, qualities, and full address of the owner, if he is a legal person. If it is a company, the  Certificate of Incorporation, its legal status and certification of shared capital must be provided.
  • For high-altitude ships, and for all those over 50 tons, the certificates issued by the ship classification society are necessary, and they must include the International Freeboard, Tonnage and Class Certificate. For national ships of less than 50 tons that provide maritime cabotage and inland water transport services, and in the absence of international certificates, they must have the inspection certificate issued by qualified personnel of the Directorate and submit to periodic inspections carried out for this purpose
  • Safety Material Certificate for all ships and their respective passenger capacity.
  • Hull material, main dimensions, number of bridges, decks, masts and chimneys, and updated plans according to which the ship was built or renovated.
  • Place and date of construction of the ship, class, service to which it will be dedicated, frequencies and autonomy.
  • Net registration tonnage, gross registration tonnage, deadweight tonnage, transport capacity in tons and total description of the propulsion equipment. In the case of the engine, the type, horsepower and brand must be indicated.
  • Current name of the ship, if it is not already adopted by a national ship and the previous names of the ship, indicating also its previous nationalities; and
  • Any other data or document that the Directorate and the Port Authority deems appropriate.

The flagging or granting of registration will be carried out after a technical opinion is issued by the General Directorate of Water Transport, housed in the Ministry of Finance (as established by law number 12, dated October 22, 1941).

In sporting and recreational fishing boats, it is important to request a suitable document issued by the Tax Administration, to verify the payment of the property tax (article 9 and 13, Law 7088) and request the Value Seal issued by the Taxation Department.

In passenger boats, and since they are not subject to the payment established in articles 9 and 13 of Law 7088, no documentation will be requested to verify their activity. The declaration before the Tax Administration will be verified by the Port Authority when the certificate  of seaworthiness is issued.

The Port Captaincies will be responsible for managing and maintaining the National Registry of Minor Vessels, which will include national vessels with under 50 tons of gross register tonnage. For those registered in their area ports, index books and registration cancellation books will be required.

Once the National Registry of Ships issues the property title, it is necessary to once again visit the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation’s Directorate of Navigation and Security or the corresponding Harbor Master’s Office to request the Certificate of Navigability. This document allows any vessel or naval artifact to set sail from ports and carry out its activity legally, and is obtained through an annual inspection.

Regardless of nationality, no ship of any size may navigate freely in national waters until the indicated registration procedures are completed. Likewise, the relevant navigation permit will be canceled for those vessels that do not undergo periodic reviews by qualified personnel of the General Directorate of Water Transport.

What are the licensing requirements for a boating business, specifically for people who want to do tours?

If you are a thinking of or planning to go into business with your boat in activities such as tours or fishing tours you may want to get informed about the requirements or steps to follow:

1- Be Costa Rican or a Costa Rican legal company.

2- Be registered with the National Registry of Ships

3- Have an up-to-date Certificate of Navigability.

4- Have a Safety Material Certificate for all ships and their respective passenger capacity.

5- Comply with the Civil Responsibility Policy.

6- If you want to carry out fishing tourism activity, you must comply with the requirements established by the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA) and apply for the following licenses: a) sport fishing; b) tourist fishing.

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