SeaHelp asked the Croatian Ministry of the Interior in Zagreb what has changed concretely by the accession of Croatia to the Schengen area on 1.1.2023 in terms of border controls at sea – and what not. The statement we have now received confirms facilitations in border traffic. Vignette and tourist tax obligations will continue to apply. Crew lists are required exclusively when carrying out border controls to a third country.
Croatia as a new Schengen member: Will the border controls at sea now also be dropped? That’s what we asked in a news article dated Jan. 3, 2023. Background: on 8 December 2022, the Council of the European Union (EU) had adopted a decision on the full application of the provisions of the Schengen acquis in the Republic of Croatia. As a result, the Republic of Croatia became a member state of the Schengen Area on January 1, 2023.
As a result, since then there have been changes related to the crossing of internal and external borders. According to the Croatian Ministry of Interior, the decision in question initially provides in Article 1(1) “that as of January 1, 2023, checks on persons at the internal land and sea borders with Croatia shall be abolished” and “the provisions of the Schengen acquis from the Annex shall apply vis-à-vis Croatia in its relations with other member countries.”
SeaHelp contacted the Croatian Ministry of Interior with a request for information, now the statement is available
As the new situation was widely discussed and unclear for many sport skippers, SeaHelp turned directly to the Kabinet ministra, Služba za odnose s javnošću, the Ministry’s Office, Public Relations Department, with a request for further information. The answer of the responsible authority staff is now available.
The answer of the Ministry of Interior clarifies that the procedure for a border control of recreational and sport boats is always the same, regardless of the boat flag. The basis for action of the Croatian authorities is the Regulation (EU) 2016/399 and the provisions of the State Border Control Act and the Aliens Act, which are to be brought fully in line with the Schengen regulations.
The decisive factor is whether Schengen external borders are crossed, or whether it is a question of entering or leaving a country of the Schengen area
For this reason, the obligation to carry out a border control of a sports and leisure boat depends primarily on whether it is a crossing of the so-called Schengen external borders, or whether it is the entry / exit to a third country or to a country of the Schengen area. As already stated, the citizenship and the boat flag have no influence on the obligation to carry out a border control.
As the Croatian Minister’s Office / Public Relations further states in the statement, persons on board a sports and leisure boat traveling from or to a port in a country of the Schengen area are thus not subject to border control and can enter a port, which is not a border crossing point, without any problems.
In concrete terms, this means that boats entering from /to Slovenia or Italy or from Spain, for example, are normally not subject to border control. This applies regardless of the fact that international waters are crossed.
Something else applies only if “for some reason the exit formalities were carried out in a border control of one of the countries of the Schengen area”, and “especially when it comes to passengers with third country citizenship”: then they are obliged to carry out a border control when entering the Republic of Croatia, in order to be able to record the re-entry into the Schengen area.
SeaHelp also asked whether there would still be an obligation to prepare crew lists or passenger lists. According to the Croatian Minister’s Office, these lists would “continue to be used when border controls are carried out.” Therefore, it is “necessary to have them confirmed” at the competent port captainery when entering the country from third countries. Thus, crew lists are no longer needed within the Schengen area.
Important: The obligation to pay the vignettes and the tourist tax remains
This applies regardless of the method of entry, they said. Importantly, in this context, officials pointed out that the “obligation to pay navigation and safety fees, i.e. the so-called vignette and tourist tax” continues to exist.
In addition, the authority underlined in its statement that “boats / ships with professional crew on board, who are considered seafarers, would be under constant border control.” This means that crew members who are nationals of third countries would not receive a border stamp as long as they are in the port where the boat / ship is located.
In this case, the ship’s captain would be “obliged to report any embarkation / disembarkation to the competent police station”; any crew member with the nationality of a third country would be obliged to apply for a visa beforehand, if that was required for embarkation / disembarkation.
For cruises that pass close to the coast of third countries, boat and person checks may take place in individual cases
Furthermore, boat and person checks “would be carried out separately in individual cases according to the assessment of the risk of illegal immigration,” the minister’s office further informs, saying that this applies in particular to “cruises passing third countries close to the coast.” As an example, the responsible officials cite the “entry from the Mediterranean Sea (Spain), the Aegean Sea (Greece), etc., if the boat sails near third countries (Albania, Montenegro).”
Interesting in this context is also the indication of the authorities’ staff that marinas or charter companies are obliged to report the accommodation of third-country nationals (passengers) who are on board (by means of e-Visitor or through the Tourist Board). In this regard, third-country nationals would also be “obliged to declare their accommodation themselves if they stay on their own boat and do not use the services of the marina or charter company.”
The registration of third-country nationals must be made with the police, alternatively the tourist board is also an option
The statement concludes: “The registration of third-country nationals accommodated on board shall be made with the police administration or with the competent police station of the external border control in the port where the border control / entry is carried out (if the third-country national enters with the boat on which he is accommodated) or with the police administration or police station, depending on the place of embarkation of a third-country national, in accordance with Section 177 of the Aliens Act.” Alternatively, the registration could also be made “at a tourism association”.
Kabinet ministra, Služba za odnose s javnošću
(Office of the Minister, Public Relations Department).
Ul. grada Vukovara 33, 10 000 Zagreb | Croatia
Tel. +385 1 61 22 353
Web: mup.gov.hr, policija.gov.hr
Information about the vignette and tourist tax obligation in Croatia: sea-help.eu