Gibraltar: ‘Safe harbour for a pandemic’


Gibraltar offers “a useful solution” for superyacht owner and managers, writes Selwyn Figueras.

As the frustration of crew members aboard cruise liners drifting off American shores, escalates into scenes of protest on decks designed as idyllic backdrops to family holidays and care-free down time, one destination continues to offer a way home for crew, and an increasingly useful solution for owners and managers, writes Selwyn Figueras.

Gibraltar’s Covid-19 story is, so far, a very positive one. The jurisdiction was quick off the mark to lock down its population of 30,000. First, those over 70 years of age were required to take refuge at home and the rest of the population followed suit a couple of weeks later. Spain’s own and very strict state of emergency declaration, which required its borders to be closed for most intents and purposes, also affected Gibraltar’s land frontier. The airport too fell largely silent as international air traffic ground to a halt. By March 17th, Gibraltar was in full lockdown and braced for the virus to strike.

‘Unlocking the Rock’

The spread of the virus in Gibraltar, however, has so far been very limited. The profile of Covid-19 in Gibraltar, as at May 21st,  has been a mere 150 confirmed cases, of which five are active and none are hospitalised. Gibraltar has not experienced, and continues to pray to avoid, a single death from Covid-19. During the time of lockdown, citizens have remained largely at home, save for the essential services which have continued to do work to serve the community. A new field hospital, the Nightingale facility, was opened in a couple of weeks and has not seen a single patient. In fact, at the time of writing, the regulations imposing the lockdown have lapsed and the detailed plan for ‘Unlocking the Rock’ approaches its Second Phase. The full plan is available here.

In respect of its significant maritime sector, Gibraltar has continued to operate to attract cruise liners and superyachts on technical calls. These technical calls have been organised to take on bunkers and supplies in the main, but latterly, as part of pre-organised and carefully choreographed operations to enable crew to return home.

Superyachts on technical calls

The latest took place a few days ago when approximately 300 crew members from both the Jewel of the Seas and MS Sovereign were transferred to the airport and on to a pair of chartered British Airways flights to Heathrow – for onward transfer to Barbados in a carefully coordinated and safely executed repatriation.

Gibraltar continues to offer facilities to large vessels in the area and is ready to assist with technical calls for competitively priced fuel, including LNG fuel, supplies and professional services from the wide range of expert providers in the jurisdiction, especially as lockdown restrictions are being lifted. The limitations that will remain are on gatherings of more than 12 people and, given that in the three weeks since shops and other services have started to re-open there have only been an additional 7 new cases reported, it is to be hoped that the jurisdiction’s historically strategic significance in the maritime context will, particularly in these challenging times, remain as relevant as ever.

Meanwhile, below are a series of questions and answers about Gibraltar and superyachts.


Frequently asked questions about Gibraltar in the superyacht context

Question (Q): Are there superyacht berthing facilities in Gibraltar?

Answer (A): Yes – there are a number of marinas that can cater for the berthing of superyachts in Gibraltar, including Ocean Village Marina, Marina Bay and the superyacht berths located at the Mid-Harbour Marina. The latter superyacht berths are managed by the Gibraltar Port Authority.

Q: What is the VAT status of Gibraltar?

A: Gibraltar is outside VAT and does not levy the charge, making Gibraltar a useful destination for superyacht owners to send their vessels where relevant from a taxation perspective.

Q: Can I use Gibraltar as a location for crew changeover?

A: Yes. Gibraltar is conveniently located, with its own international airport with daily connections to all London airports. Gibraltar’s shipping service providers are expert at dealing with crew changeover and all issues relevant to the movement of crew through Gibraltar, such as immigration. Plans are also afoot for the creation of a Gibraltar Maritime Academy, due to open in 2021, which will enable crew to conveniently renew certifications in Gibraltar during changeovers.

Q: Can I register a superyacht under construction in Gibraltar?

A: Yes. Gibraltar’s yacht registry allows for the registration of a vessel under construction, enabling owners to secure finance for the vessel even during construction.  More details can be found by visiting our page on Registration of a Yacht under Construction in Gibraltar

A: Are there any taxes on superyachts in Gibraltar?

There is no VAT paid in Gibraltar and no import duty is paid in Gibraltar on yachts based outside Gibraltar. Furthermore, no tax on capital gains is payable in Gibraltar.

For further information on all the advantages in the context of registration and financing of superyachts in Gibraltar, in addition to further practical information, visit the following link: Superyachts Gibraltar


About the author

Selwyn Figueras is Of Counsel at Hassans International Law Firm is based in Gibraltar.

Plenty of room for superyachts.