The Temporary Import Permit Tempest

Mexican government siezes yachtsBy Captain Elizabeth Shanahan

Owner SG Boat Works

Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, Mexico


A number of published news reports about the temporary import permit audit performed at twelve Mexican marinas by the Mexican IRS earlier this month have unnecessarily upset boat owners and disrupted normal business dealings in the marine industry.

But the facts don’t support any hysteria.

“Don’t worry about your boats,” Tere Grossman, spokesperson for the Mexican Marinas Association says. “I expect the liens to be lifted in a couple of weeks.”

The “liens” to which Grossman refers are not liens in the classic sense most U.S. and other non-Mexican boat owners would think of.

In this case, the lien is a document that says that a particular boat’s paperwork is incomplete or missing.

When the auditors showed up at the marinas, their first stop was the marina office to check for these documents:


–        Boat registration (or documentation papers)

–        Valid Mexican Temporary or Permanent Import Permit

–        Documents from when the boat entered Mexico

–        A copy of the boat owner’s passport


If any of these documents were not there, or illegible, the auditors went to the boats and asked owners (if they were aboard) to see their paperwork.

If no one was aboard (or the papers missing), the auditors had no choice but to declare the boat not officially accredited to be in the country.

“They put a lien on about 340 boats all over Mexico, 92 of which were at Marina San Carlos,” Grossman said. “The reasons for the liens were either because at the time of the inspection we didn’t have the TIP (Temporary Import Permit) at the Marina office, as the owners didn’t leave a copy, or the permit had expired, or it just didn’t have one.”

Grossman said even if the boat’s temporary import permit was missing or expired, the law allows for people to get one.

In San Carlos, the marina immediately applied for permit on behalf of owners who they couldn’t get in touch with – or whose paperwork was incomplete.

“All boats at Marina San Carlos are covered,” Grossman said.

Some reports also led boat owners to believe that boats with these liens were impounded and not able to be used at all.

In truth, some boats – even without all the required paperwork – can leave the marina. Some can’t, depending on how the marina has handled the paperwork.

“When the government puts a lien on a boat, someone has to be responsible that it doesn’t leave the Marina, that’s called signing a ‘DEPOSITARIA’.  Some marinas accepted this responsibility, which is not obligatory and some didn’t. At Marina San Carlos, we didn’t sign the ‘DEPOSITARIA.’ Because of this, our clients have been using their boats as usual. The Marinas that did sign the depositaría are responsible if the boat leaves.”

By January 10, some of the liens were already being lifted as paperwork caught up with the boats and boat owners.

Numerous marine-related businesses are reporting serious fallout from the misinformation being published in the U.S. in various publications.

At Marina Nuevo Vallarta, for example, eight boats were on the original audit, seven of which were removed within the ten day time allowed of the original audit, by contacting owners and obtaining certified copies of documents for both foreign and domestic vessels, including certified copies of pedimentos for boats permanently imported and flagged Mexican.

At Opequimar Shipyard in Puerto Vallarta, sixteen boats were on their list and by last Friday the 10th of January they had obtained the necessary paperwork to have them released.

The phone calls and e mails in panic from absentee boat owners and potential marina guests have put a damper on this season’s business.

“This has been a real fiasco for the Marina industry in Mexico; I have been working very hard talking to the people in the SAT (Mexican IRS) and in the Tourism Secretariat in Mexico City. There has also been a lot of pressure from the Consulates, and other ministries in Mexico,” Grossman said.

“I am sure that it will be resolved soon.”




2 Responses to “The Temporary Import Permit Tempest”

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  1. -El Codo- says:

    Here is a “Yesterday’s Update” in Latitude 38 website, which because it has absolutely no interest in promoting tourism or hyping “No Bad Days” has proven to be ultra-reliable source of cruising and motoring information for Mexico. The following is a cut and paste from the latest Latitude 38, Lectronic Latitude…

    AGACE Puts yet Another Bullet in Mexico’s Foot

    January 20, 2014 – Mexico

    This just in. The owners of one boat impounded in Ensenada tells us that Mexican IRS (AGACE) has accepted at least one boat owner’s application to have their boat released. The AGACE agent told them it will take two weeks to get the official release letter.

    Last Friday the boat owners were told that the agency’s office was ready to receive applications for boat owners to have their boats released, and that the documents required for release were: The Temporary Import permit (TIP), a copy of the boat’s insurance policy, the boat’s document, owners’ passports, and a letter from the marina the boat is located in, quoting the case number and requesting release. The letter has to be in Spanish.

    Mind you, this boat hasn’t been able to leave the Ensenada marina since early December. The owners originally came to Mexico for a few days and wanted to leave five weeks ago, but they are now being asked to wait two more weeks. Given the speed with which the Mexican bureaucracy moves, it would not surprise us if the release letter didn’t arrive for a month or more.

    It’s unclear if the Guadalajara and Mexico City offices of AGACE are ready to receive applications for release.

    What is clear is that AGACE continues to handle this mess in just about the worst possible way they can.

    – latitude / richard

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  2. the boat’s document, owners’ passports, and a letter from the marina the boat is located in, quoting the case number and requesting release. The letter has to be in Spanish.