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Boaters upset at Mexican government clampdown

Foreign boat owners are up in arms after officials from a Mexican government agency placed 338 vessels docked in south-of-the-border marinas under “precautionary embargo” for supposedly not having the correct documentation.

Reporting on his blog on December 20, Richard Spindler of Latitude 38 magazine said agents from the Administración General de Auditoría de Comercio Exterior (AGACE), a sub-agency of Hacienda, assisted by armed Mexican marines, visited 12 Mexican marinas in early December to specifically check on the paperwork of foreign boats.

One of the boats affected was Latidude’s own catamaran, “Profligate.” Even though the boat has all the correct paperwork to be in Mexico,  Spindler said the agents placed it under “embargo precautorio” simply because there was no one on board when they made their initial visit. (The correct paperwork was presented in a subsequent visit but the embargo has not been lifted, he added.)

Said Spindler: “Other boats were found to be out of compliance because of misspellings on documents made by officials in the United States or Mexico, because Vehicle Identification Numbers were painted over after many years, because AGACE officials who know nothing about boats didn’t know where to look for various identification numbers, and so forth.

“The penalties for being out of compliance are potentially harsh: 25 percent of the value of the boat and maybe even seizure,” he added.

Spindler said the embargoed boats are considered “to be like foreign merchandise on which duty hasn’t been paid.”  They are not permitted to leave the dock.

Spindler suggested that Mexico is acting illegally by impeding the transit of such vessels unless a crime has been committed. “We can’t imagine the U.S. government is going to stand by with hands in pocket if U.S. boats, worth tens of millions of dollars, are illegally held for any period of time.”

AGACE gave no timetable for embargoed boats to be liberated, Spindler said.  Officially, he noted that it takes between 45 days to four months to decide the fate of boats “impounded” for supposed violations.

Spindler pointed out that the recent action should not reflect on the Mexican government as a whole. “But the damage will build with each passing day,” he adds.

Under new rules that came into effect last year, each person aboard a boat must have completed an online application and paid, by credit card, a 295-peso visitor’s fee. In addition, all boats sailing to Mexico must obtain a 10-year Temporary Import Permit (TIP) in advance. These procedures may be done online at   (visitor’s fee) and (TIP).

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