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Yacht captains face court summons following new regulations to restrict anchoring in protected maritime areas

yacht captains facing court after breaching new french anchorage regulations
© Hannah Wright

The French maritime authorities recently changed their anchorage regulations, affecting a large number of yachts which have been caught off-guard by the new restrictions.

As France takes further measures to strengthen legislation in order to protect maritime areas, several recent court cases have placed further emphasis on yacht owners and their captains to be in compliance with the stricter rules.

With the booming yachting industry, there have been an increase in the number of vessels operating globally over the past 5 years which in turn has meant that authorities in Europe and elsewhere have been looking at ways to ensure an increasing number of vessels operate in a safe manner while safeguarding marine life.

The new directives recently revealed by the the préfet Maritime de la Méditerranée further restrict the areas in which certain categories of yachts can anchor, in particular, around Western Corsica and the Bay of Calvi.

Speaking about the new anchorage regulations, Christophe Bourillon, CEO for the Professional Yachting Association (PYA) said, “On the one hand the regulations are important to protect the environment. However, they can make anchoring operations more complicated.”

Having been in close contact with several yacht captains, the PYA is launching new guidance to support yachting crew members that are unsure about the changes, and how to be in compliance with the new anchorage rules.

“We are introducing a new guide and best practices to bring peace of mind to yacht captains, while ensuring they are compliant,” added Bourillon.

Other than in the Bay of St Tropez, the Maritime Gendarmerie does not currently operate a large number of vessels to patrol the French coastline. However, the French authorities rely on radar, AIS and other electronic means to confirm anchoring in restricted areas. These can also include visual assessments from sworn officers, on watch in the local radio station (semaphore).

The anchoring regulations are such that, the anchor may be outside a restricted area but if the vessel is seen within the restricted area, it is infringing the regulation. The vessel, anchor and chain must remain outside the restricted area at all times. There are also a number of other considerations that vessels must adhere to in order to remain compliant, and to properly report their whereabouts when communication channels are disrupted.

Have you been impacted by France’s new maritime regulations?