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By No owner — last modified Jun 09, 2016 11:55 AM

 BIOT (Chagos) - Formalities

Clearance

FCO advice to yachts planning to visit Chagos Archipelago (British Indian Ocean Territory):

The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) is not a tourist destination. Applications from transiting yachts are checked carefully to ensure that a stop there is essential for their safe passage across the Indian Ocean. Where that is not the case, or there is any concern that the visit is not consistent with the policies and laws of the British Indian Ocean Territory (in particular its ambitious environmental objectives), a permit will not be granted.

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

BIOT launched a new website in 2016 (http://biot.gov.io/)  and all application documents can now be found online, along with detailed instructions on what to do.

How to Apply for a Mooring Permit

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.

Please apply for a permit at least six weeks prior to your intended arrival date, as the application process can take several weeks. There is no right to receive a permit, and they are granted solely at the discretion of the Administration.

As stated above, BIOT is not a tourist destination and access is restricted. Permits are only issued to yachts on safe passage. On the application form where it requests ‘Purpose of Visit’ it is IMPORTANT that you state “Transit”. In 2016 several yachts were declined permits due to the fact they stated “Tourism”, “Private visit”, “Pleasure” or other similar wording as their purpose of visit.

Note, you will need to send a copy of your insurance documents with your permit application (see Documents for details of insurance required for BIOT).

Send application by e-mail or fax:
E-mail: BIOTAdmin@fco.gov.uk
Fax: 020 7008 1589

Note: E-mail attachments must be 5.0 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.

Payment is due once your application has been approved by the Administration. Payment details will be sent to you on approval and are by bank transfer only in British Pounds (see Fees).

British Indian Ocean Territory  Administration
King Charles Street
London, SW1A 2AH
Email: BIOTAdmin@fco.gov.uk
Fax:+44 (0) 20 7008 1589
http://biot.gov.io/visiting/

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 may 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 2016.

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 June 2016.

Customs

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

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 June 2016.

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 June 2016.

Fees

The current fee for a permit to visit BIOT is GBP £50 for 1 week (or part of a week) - maximum 28 days, plus any bank transfer fee on top of this.

Fees are 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.

Last updated June 2016.

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.

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.

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

Last updated June 2016.

Share |
Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Jun 09, 2016 11:53 AM

Posted on behalf of SY Adina - currently in BIOT:

Really beautiful in BIOT/Chagos. They are now using spotter planes to check on us! The pilot called us up on VHF16 and I read all the boat names to him - clearly had a list and he quickly recalled them. Very polite and wished us well.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Jan 22, 2016 02:17 PM

Posted on behalf of Katja Verheul:
At the moment I am doing research for a 20-min documentary about the Chagos Archipelago, which will be finished in July 2016 as part of my research as a Master at Goldsmiths University in London. A part of the documentary will be based on stories of sailors who visited the island, preferably in the 80’s and the 90’s. I was hoping that through noonsite I could get in touch with some cruisers who have been here and ask them some questions about their stay and experience of the islands. Please e-mail me at va301kv(at)gold.ac.uk if you are able to assist.

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