Anchorage Regulations in France

Written by Tim Schommer

Written by Tim Schommer

Fine issued by Maritime Court in Marseille

In October 2023 a yacht captain has been convicted for disregarding the applicable anchorage guidelines in the South of France. The Maritime Court of Marseille has fined the captain in the amount of EUR 20,000. The captain is also prohibited from navigating in French Mediterranean waters for a year. 

The captain of a 26m Yacht had disregarded the applicable anchoring regulations twice in Cannes in 2021 and a third time in Saint Tropez in 2022. The court is currently assessing the economic value of the ecological damage that was done to the environment.

Anchorage Regulations

To protect the marine seagrass called Posidonia oceanica found in the Mediterranean Sea, France has started to implement regulations in order to protect its Posidonia meadows in 2016. Posidonia oceanica has a very high carbon absorption capacity and is vital for the ecosystem in the Mediterranean. Posidonia, however, grows very slowly. Once Posidonia meadows are damaged, they take hundreds of years to recover. 

The anchoring of large yachts in Posidonia meadows causes damages to the plants – not only when the anchor is lifted, but also when the anchor or the anchor chain is pulled across the seafloor. France has therefore decided to restrict the areas where large yachts over 24m may anchor. 

Fines may go up to EUR 150,000. Also, imprisonment as well as a ban to navigate in French Mediterranean waters are the possible legal consequences.     

France has issued various decrees applicable for different bays along the French Riviera and Corsica.  

The regulations apply to yachts over 24m length. The bigger a yacht, the heavier the anchor and the longer the chain which results in more damage to the Posidonia meadows. French authorities hope nonetheless that also smaller vessels, who are currently not addressed by the regulations, will be more vigilant when it comes to mooring in areas where there are Posidonia meadows. 

The Prefecture Maritime de Méditerranée estimates that the impact on the Posidonia meadows will decrease by two thirds through the regulations. However, this sounds optimistic bearing in mind that over 475 violations of the regulations were registered in 2021 alone.

What captains and Yachtowners should know

Captains and yachtowners should be aware of the regulations. Current and updated nautical charts are a must. New charts are for instance published by SHOM (Service Hydrographique et Océanographique de la Marine Françaises). Various Apps offer assistance when choosing a mooring place.  The French government is also increasing its efforts to offer more eco-friendly options for yachts such as buoys along the coast which can be booked by the yachts. 

While this has been the first time that courts have issued a fine in connection with the regulations protecting Posidonia, it is to be expected that the French Government will continue to enforce these regulations.


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