Notes on Mediterranean Anchoring Restrictions

As the Mediterranean sailing season is now in full swing, it might be timely to remind all cruising boats of the anchoring restrictions that are enforced (albeit inconsistently) in many northern Mediterranean countries including Spain (and the Canaries), Greece, Italy and Portugal too – although it’s not in the Med!

These restrictions stem from an EU law that prohibits anchoring too close to harbors, beaches or in non-designated areas for long periods. Designed for ships it has been enforced on yachts – which was never the intention – and there appears to be no hard and fast rule about how the law is enforced. Some port authorities enforce it, others do not.

Jim B, experienced Mediterranean cruiser (see his website for extensive Med cruising information) explains;

“The “default” law for yachts forbids anchoring or manoeuvring under engine within 500m (can be 1,000m) of the “shore”/”beach”/”swimming area” unless there is a swimming area marked out off the beach with buoys. Very few “beaches” or “port areas” have been defined in these countries, except the obvious big commercial ports. A general trend in busy areas (such as Mallorca) is to grant concessions to local groups to lay fields of buoys, and dis-allow anchoring in the designated field (even if it is not fully occupied with buoys). Several Mallorca Calas no longer allow anchoring.”

Spain and Greece have 500m limits which apply to the total coastline except in approved port areas.

A couple of years ago in Spain this rule was strictly applied in Soller, Mallorca, by the maritime authorities, who fined a group of boats at anchor. The local council pointed out that to be consistent, boats entering harbour under motor should also be fined, so the restrictions have been dropped (for now).

Reports recently received from Italy is that this law is being enforced in southern Italy in the Reggio di Calabria area, and fines are as much as 300 Euros for anchoring too close to the beach (see comment on the Reggio di Calabria page). Reggio may however be a  special case as the port is designated as part of the Traffic Control zone in the Messina straits. See the Messina Straits User Manual for more information.

In the main, it is advisable when clearing into a country to ask the authorities about any anchoring restrictions along the coast, or if planning to cruise a particular stretch of the coastline, visit first the main port to confirm what restrictions on anchoring are in place (if any). If no swimming area is marked off the beach you intend to anchor at, and there are no mooring buoys in place for visiting yachts, err on the side of caution and anchor at least 500m from the shore.

Additionally, cruisers in the Balearics should note that anchoring is not permitted in Posidonia (sea grass) reserves on grass, where buoys should be used instead. You may be asked to move if anyone reasonably complains, or if an authority believes there is any danger. Fines have been levied for persistent infringements. See report on this subject here (

Courtesy of

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