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By No owner — last modified Jul 21, 2015 11:57 AM

 BIOT (Chagos) - Formalities

Clearance

Yachts wishing to visit BIOT must apply for a permit and Immigration Clearance in advance and the applicable fee is also payable in advance.

The maximum stay permitted is 28 days. BIOT Permits are paid for and approved by the week (7 day periods), not by the day. See Fees for details. When applying for a permit, it may be wise to purchase a four week period which would give you greater flexibility for arrival and departure dates.

It is recommended to start the permit application process early as it will take several weeks.

How to apply for a Permit

1. Go on-line to the BIOT website at https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/british-indian-ocean-territory/entry-requirements and complete the three page BIOT Visit Permit Request form.

2. Go on-line to the BIOT website and complete the two page Declaration For Yachts In BIOT Waters form at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/declaration-for-yachts-in-biot-waters.

3. Print out the completed set of forms (from Steps 1 and 2 above), then sign and date them.

4. Print a complete copy of your yacht's insurance (see Documents for details of insurance required for BIOT).

5. Print a complete copy of your travel insurance for EVERY crew member (see Health for details of personal travel insurance required for BIOT).

6. Fax a copy of Items from Steps 1, 2, 4, and 5 to the Assistant Administrator of BIOT at +44 (0) 20 7008 1589 OR e-mail the four items to BIOTadmin@fco.gov.uk. Note e-mail attachments must be 2.0 Mb or smaller, which might mean you have to send several e-mails. Your e-mails or fax cover sheets must have your vessel name in the subject field.

Do NOT wire transfer the funds for the permit at this time.

7. BIOTA will respond with TENTATIVE approval for a Vessel Mooring Permit, or you will receive instructions requiring additional information.

8. Once all the application requirements have been met and acknowledged by the Assistant Administrator of BIOT, advance payment for the permit must be made (see Fees for details). Payment is by bank transfer only in British Pounds. The Bank Transfer Details are on the permit forms. Make sure the name of your yacht is in the reference line of your bank transfer.

9. After the funds have been transferred, contact your bank for verification of the transaction. Send the bank transfer confirmation information to the Assistant Administrator of BIOT as stated in Step 6. The Assistant Administrator of BIOT will use this information to verify your permit payment.

10. Once your permit has been approved, you should receive the following from BIOTA:

A. Your Vessel Mooring Permit, which you must print and retain prior to entering BIOT waters.

B. Fishing Returns Form: Yachts, which will be used to record the number and types of fish caught in Chagos waters (see Restrictions for more details).

C. Guidance For Visitors.
This can be read in advance at BIOT Guidance Notes for Visitors and also includes details of the permitted BIOT Mooring Sites.

11. Review your BIOT Permit to make sure that all the information on it is accurate. If corrections need to be made, contact the BIOT Assistant Administrator. Also review the other two documents and make sure you are prepared to comply with the nature preserve regulations. See Restrictions for details.

British Indian Ocean Territory  Administration
King Charles Street
London, SW1A 2AH
Email: BIOTAdmin@fco.gov.uk
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7008 2890 or +44 (0) 20 7008 2691
Fax:+44 (0) 20 7008 1589
www.fco.gov.uk

The above e-mail address is monitored regularly throughout working hours, and is the best method of reaching BIOTA as all personnel access this mailbox.

Notes

Visiting yachts may be permitted only to anchor in Peros Banhos and the Salomon Islands at the approved sites. Access to Diego Garcia in BIOT, is only permitted to those with connections to those on pre-authorised official duty.

You are subject to BIOT law when inside its territorial waters. If you break any of these laws, you will become subject, as in any country, to a range of censures and punishments, including fines, imprisonment, deportation, or the impounding and forfeiture of your vessel.

You should be aware that any person who enters BIOT without permission may be liable to imprisonment for 3 years and/or a fine of £10,000 and the vessel used to enter BIOT waters may be seized and forfeited.

Arrival Clearance Procedure

The BIOT Patrol Vessel will visit your yacht after you arrive. Their RIB will pull along side your yacht and two men will board your boat, a Customs official and the Visit Vessel Control Officer (VVCO). The rib will not tie off to your vessel, but expect black boot marks. Hand the Customs official your passports and a printed copy of your Chagos Vessel Mooring Permit, and related exception e-mails (if any).

After reviewing the documents to make sure they are valid for the time period of your visit, Customs will stamp the passports and the permit with a BIOT Customs Arrival stamp.

There are no clearing-out procedures, unless the BIOT Patrol Boat just happens to be in the atoll on the day you depart.

No clearance document for your next port is provided, and the BIOT Authorities do not expect to see your last port of clearance document.

Last updated July 2015.

Immigration

No visa is required to visit BIOT. Visitors get a maximum of a 28 day visitation period.

BIOT Customs and Immigration officials visit the approved mooring sites to check permits and passports. The passports of all passengers/crew will be checked against the permit issued. You will be asked to explain any discrepancies.

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into British Indian Ocean Territory.

Last updated July 2015.

Customs

There are severe penalties for importing classified drugs, including cannabis.

Last updated July 2015.

Health

There are no medical facilities in the territory. Search and rescue facilities are limited.

You are required to obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling, which includes cover of at least $100,000 per person for medivac and also cover for wreck clear-up and removal.

Last updated July 2015.

Documents

The Permit for the length of your stay and passports.

Comprehensive travel insurance covering the British Indian Ocean Territory, including Medivac ($100,000 per person) and wreck removal. Your yacht insurance coverage must clearly state that the Indian Ocean area is covered by the policy, and that BIOT is NOT excluded from the coverage.

Last updated July 2015.

Fees

The current fee for a permit to visit BIOT is GBP £50 for 1 week (or part of a week) - payable in advance by bank transfer to BIOT.

Cruising permits are paid for and approved by the week (7 day periods), not by the day.

Note: If you are paying from an international (non-UK) bank account, you will need to add £1 for transfers of £100 and under, or £7 for transfers over £100. This is to cover bank charges.

Fees must be paid in British Pounds.

The maximum stay permitted is 28 days.

If required, there is a £50 per month fee for a gun license.

Visit the links above in Clearance to get the visit permit request form, declaration for yachts and payment details.

When visiting BIOT, you are subject to BIOT Law. If you break any of these laws, you will become subject, as in any country, to a range of censures and punishments, including fines, imprisonment, deportation, or the impounding of your vessel.

Any person who enters BIOT without permission is liable to imprisonment for 3 years and/or a fine of £10,000 and the vessel used to enter BIOT waters may be seized and forfeited.

Last updated July 2015.

Restrictions

BIOTA is committed to preserving the rich environmental heritage of the British Indian Ocean Territory. Marine protected areas are recognised by scientists and the international community as essential to the conservation and sustainable management of oceans and fisheries. BIOT hosts the world’s largest contiguous ‘no take’ marine reserve, along with several strict nature reserves.

If you are granted permission, you must moor your vessel at the BIOT approved sites only, to help conserve BIOT’s fragile coral environment. If your vessel is not moored at one of the approved sites, you are liable to be issued with an on-the-spot fine of £500. Failure to pay the fine could result, on conviction, to imprisonment not exceeding 6 months and/or a fine not exceeding £3,000.

Any person entering the Strict Nature Reserves of Great Chagos Bank (The Three Brothers and Resurgent Island; Danger Island; Cow Island; Nelson Island) and Peros Banhos Atoll (all the islands to the east of a line drawn between the easternmost point of land on Moresby Island and the easternmost point of land on Fouquet Island - in practice, this means that one may only anchor off the western islands which is quite unsafe during the SE trade wind season), is liable to an on-the-spot fine of £1000. Failure to pay the fine could result, on conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months and/or to a fine not exceeding £5000, and to detention and forfeiture of any boat and equipment used when committing the offence.

The Strict Nature Reserves also include the territorial seas around each of the named islands, and therefore transit within 3 nautical miles of the islands is prohibited, as is any water-based activity, e.g. fishing.

The islands are a conservation area and all flora and fauna, such as turtles, coconut crabs, live coral and shells, are protected.

The heart of a palm should not be taken.

Possession of spearfishing equipment is strictly prohibited, but a permit may be granted for the possession of scuba diving gear.

The policy of the BIOT Marine Protected Area is for no fishing. An exception to this is to allow cruisers to fish for their own consumption (no more than three day’s worth) with a hand line only. BIOTA require all visiting yachts to complete a fishing log (a blank log will be sent out with the permit), which should be kept up to date during your visit as a Fisheries Protection Officer may wish to see it.

Penalties for infringement of the regulations are severe.

For more information on regulations, read the document Guidance for Visitors at: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/british-indian-ocean-territory/entry-requirements

For useful tips on cruising in BIOT waters and permit issues, see SY YOLO's report, dated July 2015.

Last updated July 2015.

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