Sailing and Boating in Portugal

Information on the rules on boat licences and sailing permits, the sea safety recommendations, maritime weather and more, with details of the ports and harbours and links to sailing associations...

Below is information on:

Safety at Sea

Emergency numbers
Police, ambulance, fire Tel: 112

It is important to check weather reports before setting out to sail or practise any other water sports as weather conditions can change very rapidly.

The Portuguese Sailing Federation (Federação Portuguesa de Vela or FPV) has a website which contains contact numbers and email contacts and will assist visiting sailors with information and tips on sailing in Portugal.

Sailing Areas

Portugal has coastline stretching for nearly 1,000 Km from the Algarve to Viana do Castelo near the borders with Spain. There is plenty for the yachting enthusiast to explore off the mainland, not forgetting the islands of Madeira and the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean for more experienced sailors.

Sailing as a Sport in Portugal

  • Sailing and motorboats Type D can sail up to three miles from a port or haven without specific licences for the high seas
  • Jet Skis (Pranchas Motorizadas) can be used only at a distance of one mile out, in hours of daylight
  • A leisure boat can sail only under the command of a person who holds a Leisure and Recreation Navigation Licence (Carta de Navegador de Recreio)

The following are required:

  • A medical certificate (Atestado Medico)
  • A sailing licence - the class of licence is important and determines whether the person may sail for sport or leisure
  • Full accident and injury insurance (Seguro de Acidentes Pessoais e de Responsabilidade Civil)

Sailing and Boating Regulations

Boating and sailing regulations can vary greatly depending on the class and craft and type of water sport being practised. For a general guide, however, the following regulations are common to all types of sailing.

Sailing licences

Licences are issued by the National Maritime Authority (Autoridade Marítima Nacional)  Sailing Licences issued by another European Union country are automatically valid and accepted in Portugal. Non-EU licences may be recognised and accepted in Portugal if their requisites meet European Union standards. Documents may have to be translated into Portuguese or English.

In order to apply for any kind of licence (either learners, provisional or full) the school will need to have the details of the passport or Identity Card, a signed doctor's certificate (Atestado Medico) and two colour passport sized photographs.

  • A learner's licence allows the holder to sail while under instruction
  • A provisional licence (Carta Provisória) is valid for 90 days after qualification until receipt of a full licence in any given category
  • A full licence permits the holder to sail vessels of the named categories
  • A Sports Licence (Licença Desportiva) is required by the skipper and crew to participate in races and competitions (Provas) nationally and internationally
  • The licence must be renewed when the bearer reaches 50 and then 60 years of age. Thereafter the bearer must renew the licence every five years

ICC (International Certificate of Competence)

The International Certificate of Competence (ICC) is issued by European Union countries to a person who has complete a particular national boating licenses. It provides proof of competence and is accepted by most EU countries' sailing authorities (some national regulations override the ICC). An ICC is valid for 5 years.

Royal Yachting Association (RYA) approved training centres can provide for appropriate tests to issue an ICC to be taken in English. Depending on experience and competence a course takes from one to three days to complete. UK nationals and residents can take a course for the ICC at RYA-ecognised sea schools and training centres. The ICC can also be awarded on production of an appropriate RYA certificate.

ICC forms are available from the RYA website, or from RYA-recognised sea schools that test for the ICC. The application form must be completed and submitted with a passport photograph and copies of practical course completion certificates if applicable.

Documents on board

The following documents must be on all vessels (and presented to port authorities after entry into Portuguese waters):

  • Vessels and their keepers must have permits for sailing in and around port areas (Porto e Local), coastal sailing (Navegação Costeira) and open seas (Alto Mar)
  • Vessels must show the national flag (Bandeira Nacional)
  • Vessels must have a Sailing Logbook (Livrete da Embarcação)
  • Sailors must have Sailing Licences (Carta de Desportista Náutico)
  • Vessels must have a Crew List (Rol de Tripulação)
  • Captain, crew and vessels must have both Sailing Authorisation and a Seaworthiness Certificate (Licença de Estado da Embarcação e Vistoria de Manutenção)
  • All vessels must have a Registration Document (Vistoria de Registo)
  • Vessels must have certificates and documents for lifeboat inspection (Inspecção de Jangada Pneumática)

Boat tax

The annual rate for the Municipal Recreation Boat Tax (Imposto Municipal sobre Veículos (Barcos de Recreio)) depends on the power of the propulsion (Potencia de Propulsão), the vessel's weight in tonnes (Tonelagem) and its age (Ano).

The taxes can be paid in a number of ways:

  • Through the Ministry of Finance website. Type in the Tax Number (Numero de Contribuinte) and supply the password (Senha) and then in the search box (Pesquisar) type in "IMV"
  • At a Regional Tax Office of the Finance Department (Repartição de Ministério das Finanças)


Regulations fall under the authority of the Territorial Administration Ministry (Ministério do Ambiente, do Ordenamento do Território e do Desenvolvimento Regional) in its regulations governing Recreational Sailing (Regulamento da Náutica Recreio).

  • Recreational boats must be officially classified – the body for classification is the Portuguese Maritime Institute (Instituto Marítima Portuguesa, IMP)
  • Sailing vessels acquired in non-EU countries can only be subject to registration in Portugal on presentation of a registration document from their country of origin and a document of proof of customs clearance (Desalfandegamento)
  • A boat must have a Port of Registry (Porto de Registo) and all vessels entering Portuguese territorial waters intending to moor must register at the nearest office in the Port of Registry (Repartição Marítima)

How to Register a Boat in Portugal

Foreign visitors may moor in Portuguese waters for up to six months providing they register their vessel with the Port Authority and Customs by filling out a Customs Temporary Import Document for Recreational Vessels (Aduaneira Relativa à Importação para Uso Privado de Aeronaves e Barcos de Recreio). Visitors are subject to the jurisdiction of the maritime authorities and customs.

Registering a boat in Portugal is similar to registering a motor vehicle. A number of forms must be filled out and presented, depending on whether the applicant is the first registered owner (Primeiro Proprietário Registo), the vessel is owned by a collective group (Pessoa Colectiva) or the vessel is being sold or passed on to another/other owner(s) (Mudança de Proprietário e Transferência do Registo de Propriedade).

In all cases the following documents of all concerned parties are required:

  • Owner Identification Document (Identificação e Titulo do Registo de Propriedade do Proprietário)
  • Passport and/or Identity Card (Passaporte e Bilhete de Identidade)
  • In the case of ownership by a collective entity, details of the registered headquarters or base of the collective
  • Forms (Modelos) as appropriate: Nº 3, 4 or 5 (Pedido de Alteração de Registo)
  • Vessel registration - can be done at a Property Registration Conservatory (Conservatória do Registo de Propriedade)
  • Proof of Customs Clearance Certificate

The boat's Logbook (Livrete) should have the following technical information:

  • vessel classification
  • dimensional characteristics (length, height, width etc.)
  • gauging (Arqueação)
  • displacement (Lotação)
  • colour and material of hull (Casco)
  • colour of the superstructure
  • characteristics of the engine
  • type of radio communication
  • type of satellite equipment (if applicable)
  • declaration that it meets EU/Portuguese emissions standards
  • safety equipment and means of fighting a fire
  • type of bilge drains

Water Sports Club

Sailing Vocabulary

Portuguese English
Barco boat
Colete de Segurança life jacket
Cruise cruising
Excursão excursion
Iate yacht
Marinheiro/navegador sailor
Mergulho diving
Mergulhar to dive
Motor engine, motor boat
Navegação sailing
Navegar to sail
Navio ship
Ondas waves
Passeio de Barco boating trip
Provas races, competitions
Regata à Vela regatta
Vela sailing boat, sail
Veleiro sailing boat
Velejar sailing
Zarpar sail away, sail off, lift anchor

Further Information