Yacht Clearance Procedures for the Eastern Caribbean
Failure to complete all Yacht Clearance Procedures in a timely manner will get you in a lot of trouble including a heavy fine, a spell behind bars - or both. Best get it right then...
On entering the territorial waters of your destination, hoist the plain yellow 'Q' Flag up to the spreader on your starboard flag halyard.
On arrival, proceed to the Customs Office at one of the Ports of Entry with your boat's papers and crew's passports at your earliest opportunity.
It may be that you should have gone to Immigration first - if it was they'll tell you.
It's most important that none of your crew step off the boat until you, the skipper, have completed all the clearance procedures - if they do, and get caught, you can expect a heavy fine.
Once your boat and crew have been cleared in, you should return to your boat, drop the Q-flag and hoist the appropriate courtesy ensign in its place.
Ports of Entry & Customs Offices
In the Leeward Islands:
St Barthelemy (St Barts)
- Gustavia, Port Captain's Office;
St Eustatius (Statia)
- Oranjestad, at head of the town dock;
St Kitts & Nevis
- Marina Port Zante (St Kitts);
- Charlestown (Nevis), in Cotton Ginery behind docks;
- Little Bay, close to the Port entrance;
- Portsmouth, at Commercial Dock;
- Roseau, at the Ferry Terminal;
St Martin & St Maarten
- Marigot (St Martin), in ferry dock complex;
- Philipsburg (Sint Maarten), in Commercial Port;
- Simpson Bay (Sint Maarten), on portside before entering Lagoon;
Antigua & Barbuda
- English Harbour (Antigua);
Guadeloupe, Les Saintes & Marie Galante
- Basseterre (Guadeloupe), at Marina Riviere Sens and also in the Barracuda Bar;
- Deshais (Guadeloupe), at Le Pelican Internet Cafe;
- Terre de Haut (Les Saintes), at the LSM Internet Cafe;
- Bas du Fort (Les Saintes), at the Marina Office;
- Grande Bourg (Marie Galante)
In the Windward Islands:
- Fort de France, at Sea Services Shipchandler;
- Anse Mitan, in Somatras Marina Office;
- Grande Anse D'Arlet, at Le Petit Bateau;
- Le Marin, at the Capitainerie;
- St Pierre, at the Office Municipal de Tourisme;
St Vincent & the Grenadines
- Chateaubelair (St Vincent);
- Castries, yachts must tie up to Customs Dock;
- Rodney Bay, at IGA Rodney Bay Marina;
- Marigot Bay, in the Marina Village;
- Soufriere, in the SMMA building;
- Vieux Fort, in the Commercial Dock;
Grenada & Carriacou
- Hillsborough (Carriacou);
In the Virgin Islands
1 - British Virgin Islands (BVIs):
Jos van Dyke
2 - American Virgin Islands (USVIs)
Yacht Clearance Papers - What Are They?
- Your boat's Registration Document;
- The Crew List (with full details of passports, date of birth etc);
- Radio Licence for the boat and an Operator's Licence for at least one of the crew;
- Passports and Vaccination Certificates;
- Clearance papers from the last country visited;
Some countries may also want to see:-
- Original of the third-party insurance for the yacht;
- Certificate of Competence for the skipper;
- A list of electronic devices and other valuable items on board;
Tips & Advice
- As with everyone you meet in the West Indies, your first words should be "Good morning" or "Good afternoon".
- Don't turn up looking as if you've just wandered in off the beach. You won't be able to match their degree of smartness, but your minimum dress standards should be a non-objectionable T-shirt, your best pair of shorts, and sandals - flipflops at a pinch.
- You may think the yacht clearance process is a little tedious. Often you will have to fill in the same information on separate forms - but be patient and courteous at all times. If you're not, it won't work in your favour.
Electronic Yacht Clearance
Clearing-in and out in St Martin, St Barts, Guadeloupe and Martinique, which you'll recognise as French territories, is simple. An online Customs and Immigration form is made availble on a PC which you complete, print and hand it over to the official on duty. You then present your boat papers, he or she checks it and, providing all is well, away you go.
But other countries are now following suit with online processes using eseaclear.com and sailclear.com. To partake in this simplified approach, your boat must be registered into the system, a process which only takes a few minutes. You're then able to complete your entry form prior to arrival at your destination - it's a real improvement.
I believe I'm correct in saying that eseaclear is only used in Antigua & Barbuda, and it looks as if sailclear will become the preferred system.
The sailclear system has already been taken up by Anguilla, Saint Lucia, Grenada, British Virgin Islands, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Dominica and Montserrat, with other countries expected to follow.
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