Mexican Marina Crackdown, and the Ripple Effect

On November 29, 2013, more than 100 Mexican officials, accompanied by armed marines, swooped down on 12 marinas in Mexico to conduct surprise compliance checks on 1,647 boats. The newly created General Audit of Foreign Trade Administration wanted to confirm that every boat was following protocol by carrying a Temporary Importation Permit (TIP).
Author:
Updated:
Original:
 Hotel Coral Marina. Photo by Adam Stuckey

Hotel Coral Marina. Photo by Adam Stuckey

On November 29, 2013, more than 100 local bureaucrats swooped down on 12 marinas in Mexico to conduct surprise compliance checks on 1,647 boats. Apparently, the newly created General Audit of Foreign Trade Administration wanted to confirm that every boat was following protocol by carrying a Temporary Importation Permit (TIP). They also wanted to check and make sure various other boat data, including the type, make and model, the engine serial number, the hull number and the Hull Identification Number were accurate. Ultimately, the officials—who reportedly brought along contingents of armed marines for their inspections—found 338 boats to be noncompliant (including many without anyone on board) and impounded them. As of this week, nearly three months later, 90 percent of those boats are still being held.

Perhaps the most enraging aspect of the fiasco is that many of the impounded boats are, as it turns out, compliant. Many impounded boats had TIPs, but did not have skippers on board when the officials arrived, and were therefore unable to show their paperwork. Even if they hadn’t had updated paperwork, Mexican law states that once sailors learn they are required to have a TIP, they have 20 days to attain one. Yet, upon learning of their oversight, Mexican officials said they could still require between 45 and 120 days to liberate the boats from impoundment. 

For sailors with boats stuck in Mexico, the situation is unfortunate. But for Mexico and its tourism economy, the ripples caused by their legal actions may be even less fortunate as both the cruising and racing communities react.

For sailors who frequently visit Mexico, a dark cloud has been cast over their favorite vacation spot. For racers who participate in regattas between the United States and Mexico, plans are changing. The Corona del Mar to Cabo Race, for example, has been postponed because there were only four entries. The Newport to Ensenada Race, which used to bring in over 600 boats, now has only about 100 entries. The San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race is still on, but with fewer than 40 boats entered, and the San Diego Cabillo Ocean Series has altered its layout, moving all of the courses out of Mexican waters. (To be fair, factors like a struggling economy play into these low entry numbers, but the Mexican government certainly isn’t helping itself.)

On the country’s east coast, where no boats have been impounded though the laws are technically the same, sailing tourism has not been as badly affected. The Regata del Sol al Sol, from St. Petersburg, Florida, to Isla de Mujeres is still set for April 25, 2014, and registration is filling up. The regatta chairman is also sending periodic updates to skippers, keeping them in the know about the situation, and cluing them in on ways in which they can successfully adhere to customs laws and avoid fines or impoundment.

If, after all this, you’re still itching to visit Mexico, here’s how to keep your boat the hands of that country’s occasionally overzealous bureaucrats: First, know that the TIP requirement is not new: it’s just newly being enforced. Whether you’re entering from the West or East Coast, check into customs as soon as you can (Ensenada on the west coast, Isla Mujeres on the east coast), and work with marina management to get an immigration permit ($25), Document of Arrival (Free) and Temporary Import Permit ($50). It would be wise to have a Spanish-speaking member on board for these procedures. Other than that, realize you’re taking a risk. For Mexico’s sake, let’s hope foreign sailors still believe cruising there is a risk worth taking. 

Related

CONNECTING-SHROUD-2048

Experience: Wild Ride

My Hartley 38, Moet, is pounding into massive Pacific Ocean seas. One week of continuous storm conditions has taken me 700 miles south of Fiji, heading for New Zealand. Every few seconds the bow lifts out of the water and hangs in midair for a moment while I tense my muscles, ...read more

01-LEAD-nSterling-ProCombi-S-2

Know-how: Inverter, Charger Combos Offshore

With solid-state inverters and domestic AC devices becoming increasingly efficient, it only makes sense for many sailors to install the necessary 120V AC power for the many appliances now finding their way onboard: including washing machines, TVs, microwave, laptops, chargers ...read more

IMG_5308

Chartering in the British Virgin Islands

Not for nothing are the BVI known as the “nursery slopes” of sailing charters. There simply is no better place to ease yourself into a first-time sailing vacation; for that matter, such is the appeal of these islands that many charterers return year after year. The islands ...read more

IMG_7831

Racing and Bareboat Chartering in the BVI

If not all who wander are lost, then not all who charter are content with sailing between snorkeling spots and sinking a few Painkillers at beach bars. Some want a dose of hard-sailing action blended in with their sunshine and warmth—the kind of action you can only get from ...read more

01-GMR19FP45_1194

Boat Review: Fountaine Pajot Elba 45

With new catamaran brands springing up like mushrooms, France’s Fountaine Pajot is something of an oak tree in the market, with a story that goes back to its founding in 1976. It is also one of the largest cat builders out there, sending some 600 boats down the ways in 2018. The ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Take no Chances This is my stern with the engine running slowly in gear against the lines. We all know that when we’re charging batteries this lets the engine warm up thoroughly. However, I have a ...read more

190910_ROSS_PORTSMOUTH_0187-2048x2048

Cup Boats Hit the Water

Emirates Team New Zealand may have been the first to launch a new-generation America’s Cup boat, but it was the New York Yacht Club’s challenger, American Magic, that had the last (first?) laugh. Just a few days after ETNZ’s radical-looking AC75 hit the water in mid-September, ...read more