By David Robinson

The Spanish charter sector looks set for a boom in 2015, as positive changes to the controversial matriculation tax made in 2013 start to come into force. Local firms are predicting this could be a record year for the Spanish charter industry, with the Balearic Islands, the country’s most popular yacht cruising area, set to reap the biggest rewards.

Some companies have already seen a significant upswing in business. Palma-based Network Marine Consultants (NMC), for instance, had a very active second half of 2014 and is now looking to expand its charter activities in 2015.

Following the elimination of the matriculation tax for all charter vessels over 15m in length, NMC administered what it describes as an “incredible 33 superyacht charter licences in 2014” compared to none the previous year.

Patricia Bullock, NMC’s founder and managing director, told SB: “Taking renewals out of the equation, these brand new licences were for 25 motoryachts, four sailing yachts and four catamarans, up to a substantial 52m (171ft) LOA. While we, of course, process charter licences for all lengths and types of vessel, it is these superyacht statistics that prove quite clearly that the new legislation is working and gives us hope that the Spanish superyacht charter fleet will continue to expand.

“Worldwide yachting association MYBA estimated back in 2011 that there were around 802 large yachts for rent in the Mediterranean, of which only 17 were available in Spain,” she adds. “Of those 17, none were over 50m (164ft), only one over 40m (1131ft), and they were all ageing and of low market value.”

Bullock says demand for new licences has continued into 2015. “We are working on a number of new licences at present and we anticipate several more. The size of superyacht is also rising and the largest we are dealing with is 62m (204ft),” she told SB.

In a move to further develop its charter activities, NMC has set up the Network Mediterranean Alliance which involves working with preferred partners in other countries to offer clients a network of service providers in certain Mediterranean charter markets. So far this network extends to France, Italy, Croatia and Spain.

“We have four countries active and we are dealing with people we have dealt with in the past,” Bullock said. “We will grow this little by little.”

The new rules make it possible for non-EU flagged yachts to operate in Spain, but some yachts are holding back until the outcome of several cases currently before the courts is known.