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Basics of boating in the Philippines

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Hi all,


In the past, I used to be into leisure boating - I have had a good number of boats, mostly cabin cruiser types.

So after a year in the Philippines, and realizing I wish to stay much longer, I guess it is natural to start thinking about having a boat here.

It would be for weekend trips typically... around Cebu and nearby islands, staying well clear of the pirates down south.


I know nothing about sails and I do not have time for the endless maintenance that a wooden boat would require (maybe once I retire.... still a few decades away..!) So what I have in mind is a fibre glass cabin cruiser type vessel, of around 30 feet. This kind of boat is what I know and understand, and I feel it would be fairly safe even in rough weather (up to a point, of course).


Please see picture below of the typical kind of boat I would be looking at.

Internationally, I think a second-hand unit like this would cost around 100k dollars.. obviously depending on age, specs, condition, etc.


The first question I have is about the very basics of ownership – what is the procedure for registration, insurance and the like...? Is there a central registry of boats.. like for cars?

In short, if someone steals the entire boat, I would like to be able to prove it is mine. I would also guess some sort of registration is a requirement to get insurance.


This is related to another fairly basic question: How best to acquire a boat of this type?

I think there are essentially 3 ways: Build, import, or buy locally.


Apparently there are some good boat builders in the Cebu area.... but are they any good at making this “international” type of boat? Most of the links here from earlier threads seem to be broken. Some up-to-date info would be most appreciated.


Then there is the import route... How does that work? I have heard that as long as you can sail a boat to the Philippines by its own engine/sail, there is no need to deal with customs, and the boat can remain indefinitely in the country under foreign registration. True?

I could potentially spend a few weeks sailing a boat from Thailand or Malaysia or Singapore... but I would rather not wish to break any laws.

In that case, if not RP, what would be a great place to register a boat?


Buying a second-hand unit locally would be the third option. As has been mentioned a few times, there is not much choice, but the Manila/Subic area does have some offers. Anyway, if I were to find a suitable vessel, what is the procedure for due diligence and change of ownership?

I guess the first thing to check is if the seller is really the owner.

From Europe I am used to dealing with surveyors who would inspect a boat and its papers and issue a report about it... but I guess things here are different.


Thank you for any updated information that can be provided. I will likely come back with some separate threads about other basic issues, like maps, moorings, and security..!


All the best,




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Talk to Hilyfe ... he's getting a boat too.

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You know that old saying about boats… "a boat is just a hole in the water you throw your money in"…  :snap:

Seriously, I do understand the urge, having done lots of boating myself however, I think the expense, security and headache of maintaining a boat like that in the Philippines might be too great.


Earlier this year we rented a cruising banca for a couple days in Palawan and had a great time, it even got me thinking of having a custom one built. If you haven't already, I suggest you do some local style cruising to see how that option might work for you before jumping into a build or purchase. 


Other than that, I had a friend who had a sailboat built in Hong Kong, apparently they are or were a good value for a custom built boat. You might need to travel to several boat yards to investigate. Your major boating/sailing publications usually list this type of information in their classified sections. 


I have no idea what a boat like the above would cost but I know $100k will get you a heck of a nice boat in the U.S.  Good luck and  I'll be following this thread. 

Edited by LechonBuddha

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Bill H

Keep in mind the boat you pictured will really suck up fuel when its running.  You might want to consider a trawler type boat, which will be much more fuel efficient and more likely to have a diesel engine.  The trawler will probably have better living accommodations as well.


There are boats for sale here, particularly in the Subic Bay and Manila areas.  You can also find a boat for sale in the Cebu area occasionally.  There are two larger marina's just north of Cebu and a small marina in Lapu Lapu.  Most taxis know how to find the Lapu Lapu marina.  The next closest and smallest of the local marinas is difficult to get to by land, but easy by sea.  The other is located in the Danao/Carmen area and is the largest of the Marinas in this area.  They are only about 30km north of Cebu as the crow flies, but the road always seems congested to me and the trip always takes well over an hour, but you can take the Ceres bus from the North terminal.  The last time I was up there, at least two boats had for sale signs on them, but they were sailboats.  If you do find a boat in the PH you will probably pay a handsome price for it.  If you are looking for a new boat, go to China proper, not HK.  There are a lot of pleasure boats are being built in China these days.  If you don't want to spend so much and are looking for used, I'd look in Thailand and Singapore first.  You will find the greatest selection in Australia and New Zealand, but you would have to get it here and it's not a short trip.


The boats currently being built here are junk, because the plywood they are made of is junk.  Quality marine plywood is no longer available.  The plywood they call marine delaminates in an hour or two when you give it a standard boil test.  You would expect it to hold up at least 72 hours, so to delaminate in just two hours tells you how poorly made it is.  Fiberglass materials are very expensive here, and there is very little in the way of boat infrastructure.  If you are serious about building a fiberglass boat I'd wish you well, but I'd hope you'd changed your mind.  Steel, Aluminum or even ferrocement would be the better choice in the Philippines at this time.


Feel free to PM me if you want a more serious discussion.

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Mr. Mike



If you are looking for a true motor sailor Try to locate a Banjer 37. They were built in Holland from about 1968 to the late 70's or so. Extremely high quality, solid teak inside and out. Multiple sail configurations, and very sea worthy. Brand new they ran about $60,000 back in the day. The dutch shipyard who made them, discontinued them because inflation in the late 70's made them too expensive to manufacture without skimping on quality.


I don't remember the exact number of hulls that were built, but I think it was less than 100. So they are quite unique in their own right, and it will turn heads.


The link above is a buy/sell page, but check out the entire site for the Banjer history.


I owned a Banjer 37, "Kinship" for ten years...bought it from my folks when they moved the family from Green Bay, to California in 1978. Sailed the Great Lakes constantly. It is a true classic, which is one reason they cost more now then 45 years ago.  You can still find them in good to excellent condition for around $50/60,000,,,many will cost more. I wouldn't be surprised if you located a seller in SEA.





Edited by Mr. Mike
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Thank you so much for the inspiring input so far...

Just to clarify...: Regarding the costs of yachting, I am well aware of those, and it is not an issue.

I have already been cruising and travelling in these waters on the local bangka style boats, on a number of occasions.

What I am seeking information about for now is registration and insurance matters, due diligence and change of ownership, surveying, import procedure, that sort of thing. The basics.

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There is a lot of content over at the pinoyboats.org web site. One of the threads in their forum is titled "Foreigners are not allowed to own boats" and it holds some interesting snippets.

It looks like I need to talk to my lawyer before even thinking of getting any sort of boat..!

I hope it is acceptable to copy and paste a few key bits from that thread... (their FAQ mentions "Under Fair Use provisions you can legally post a small abstract of an article") ..Here goes..:


Skywoolf>  I went to the MARINA office and they said I have to pay a lawyer to write a petition to the courts who then give me permission to operate the boat then I can register it. My lawyers bill is so far up to 15,000 pesos for this ridiculous rubbish and now my lawyer just called to say MARINA told them foreigners are not allowed to own boats so everything has to be done in my wife's name. 


driverdave> but why not just keep it under registry in your home country? then let your wife /pay the slip fee?. its the philippines!!


Skywoolf>  I seriously thought about simply registering it in Hong Kong where it just takes a few minutes. The main drawback I see is that if it is sold in the Philippines it has to be registered and tax paid and all the other massive hassle which would be even worse, especially considering it has already had all the taxes paid, etc. 

Another problem is that they would probably say I can't keep a boat as a visiting vessel because I am a resident in the Philippines. 
davaodan> I do not know about keeping a foreign registered boat, I am here on a 13A visa, so I do not have to go out of the country every year or so. Somehow I doubt that this ploy would work. I have not registered my boat yet but I will try to do so at the barangay level, not involving MARINA. And keep a low profile by keeping the boat on Samal. 
Skywoolf> A friend in Manila did some checking and sent me a lot of legal stuff. It is much too long to post it all here but the relevant and most interesting points are: 
In Republic Act 802: 
In section 804 
A vessel of three tons gross or less shall not be registered, unless the owner shall so desire, nor shall documents or licenses of any kind be required for such vessel, but the proper fee shall be charged for admeasurement, when admeasurement is necessary, except when the same is engaged in towing or carrying of articles and passengers for hire. 
Section 806. 
Certificate of Philippine Registry. Upon registration of a vessel of domestic ownership, and of more than fifteen tons gross a certificate of Philippine registry shall be issued for it. If the vessel is of domestic ownership and of fifteen tons gross or less, the taking of the certificate of Philippine registry shall be optional with the owner. 
Section 808. 
Certificate of Ownership. Upon registration of a vessel of more than five tons gross, a certificate of ownership shall be issued for it, if the vessel does not take a certificate of Philippine registry. If such vessel is of five tons gross or less, the taking of a certificate of ownership shall be optional with the owner.
Lorenzo>  Even if you don`t register your motorboat, it does not mean you don`t own the boat. A notarized Deed of Sale and receipt is enough to show proof of ownership...
I know for sure that a MARINA Inspector will be hesitant to approach a foreigner with a personal-pleasure boat because they know you are not qualified for a "domestic registration". 
In another perspective, those law actually work in your favor, avoiding further bureaucracy and fees. 
Sqworks> Under our Philippine Merchant Marine Rules and Regulations of 1997, registration of pleasure crafts not engaged in any activity with pecuniary benefits is not mandatory. 
Skywoolf> As far as I and a legal friend can see. there is no law against foreigners owning boats or building one for himself and the boat does not even have to be registered in the first place...
Skywoolf> Its been a while since I started this thread but somebody on my forum mentioned this thread. My decision to simply ignore MARINA turned out to be the best way to go.
(MARINA = The Maritime Industry Authority, http://marina.gov.ph )
Edited by Sven
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This link does not work!


Sorry about that. Here is a corrected link: http://www.cruiserswiki.org/wiki/Philippines


I have now also read other sources claiming that the limit for a foreign boat's stay in the Philippines is 16 months, or maybe 18 months.

Either way, I guess it is not an attractive scenario having to take a boat to Malaysia every year or so. That is a LONG way from Cebu.


Here is another long discussion about the kind of problems one can run into with a foreign boat..:


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