Cook Islands - Formalities
It is a requirement for all yachts to enter the Cook Islands at one of the official ports of entry to obtain clearance papers prior to visiting other islands in the Cook Islands.
Advance Notice of Arrival
All vessels sailing to the Cook Islands are required to fill in an Advance Notice Advice (ANA) with Cook Islands Customs, at least 48 hours prior to the expected arrival time in the Cook Islands. ANA forms can be downloaded at CICS Form 29 (advance Notice of Arrival For Small Craft).
Advance Notices of Arrival must be provided to Customs by fax (+682 29465) or by email ( firstname.lastname@example.org) using the file name format [ANA, name of craft, voyage or sail number if available, estimated time of arrival into the Cook Islands], e.g. ANA, Banana Split, 30/11/2014
Failure to provide an ANA is a criminal offence.
You must also advise the Biosecurity Cook Islands of your arrival port and date, either by emailing the staff(s) of your planned destination. Email: email@example.com
Be sure to fly the Q Flag.
On Arrival at a Port of Entry
The skipper must report to Customs immediately on arrival. All other crew must remain on board until the boat is cleared. The skipper must also contact Immigration (often provided by Customs) and Bio-Security. For a list of paperwork that must be presented see the Customs Website.
As well as getting your Biosecurity and Customs (which includes Immigration) clearance you will need a Health Clearance. On arrival you will need to present a Master’s Certificate pertaining to any meat, live plants and live animals on board to a Biosecurity Officer. In many cases there will be a set time for attendance (i.e. 7am and 3pm) where a Biosecurity officer is present.
A Biosecurity Officer will ask to see any fruit, vegetables, meat and other food. Some of your goods may be seized, especially any fruit and vegetables. The Officer has the power to search the entire vessel and seize any risky products. You will receive a written clearance from a Biosecurity Officer once they are satisfied that all significant risks has been removed.
You should advise Customs at least 72 hours before your intended departure to ensure that there is no delay. Again, see the Customs Website for the appropriate forms that need to be completed and given to Customs on departure. If all forms are correct, they will issue you with a Certificate of Clearance. Once clearance is granted, you must leave immediately.
Under no circumstances can a yacht intending to depart to an overseas place to go to any other place in the Cook Islands following their departure from a nominated Customs Port of Entry or other authorised place. If, due to extenuating circumstances, you are required to do so, you must immediately advise the Cook Islands Customs Service (24 hours) on phone: (+682) 55368.
When visiting all other islands following the port of entry, the captain should check in with Customs and the Resident Administrator, if present.
Yachts Intending to Arrive at or Depart from Suwarrow Island
Suwarrow Island is not a nominated Customs Port of Entry. Marine craft intending to arrive at or depart from Suwarrow Island MUST obtain authorisation from the Comptroller of Customs. To obtain this authorisation, an application to the Comptroller of Customs must be submitted using CICS Form 27 which can be found on the Customs Website: www.MFEM.gov.ck. This form once completed can be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to (+682) 29465.
The Comptroller of Customs will consult with the Ministry of Agriculture, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Transport and the Cook Islands Police before granting an authorisation to arrive at Suwarrow Island, and has the right to deny the application.
If Suwarrow is your first port of call the Suwarrow Park Rangers will conduct all formalities pertaining to Biosecurity. The park rangers are trained and appointed as Biosecurity officers.
Failure to arrive at a nominated Customs Port of Entry without authorisation is a criminal offence punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding $100. Customs officers may also elect to detain/seize your craft pending prosecution.
See these websites for the latest official information:-
Last updated September 2015.
If entering in Rarotonga a permit for up to 31 days will be given on arrival. Extensions are granted on a monthly basis - up to a total of three months only.
Fourteen days before the permit expires one should apply for the extension. Proof of adequate funds may be requested for extensions.
For those wanting to stay in the Cook Islands longer than 3 months must apply for a visa from their home territory, prior to their arrival in the Cook Islands. Applications must be made direct to the Principal Immigration Officer in Rarotonga.
In Aitutaki and other ports of entry, a 31 day permit will be given on arrival. Extensions have to be obtained in Rarotonga. If crew disembarks from the yacht, they must notify Immigration and provide a baggage declaration.
Last checked May 2015.
All vessels sailing to the Cook Islands are required to fill in an Advance Notice Advice (ANA) with Cook Islands Customs, prior to arrival in the Cook Islands. ANA forms can be obtained on the Customs website: www.MFEM.gov.ck.
Visiting yachts visiting the Cook Islands temporarily, may be granted a Temporary Import Entry (TIE) with Customs duty and Import VAT charges being deferred. Customs will generally align the period of the TIE with the length of your visitor's visa, or 12 months, whichever is less. Applications for extensions to your visitors permit are to be made to the Cook Islands Immigration Service. If your visitors permit is extended you may apply to Customs for a similar extension to your TIE. The extension will depend on Customs being satisfied that your craft continues to meet the criteria for a temporary entry.
A list of firearms must be produced on arrival and these will be impounded until departure.
Biosecurity/Quarantine: Animals, plants and fruit will be inspected as the Cooks are free of serious diseases and pests, and their economy depends very much on agriculture. Fruit and meat will be confiscated, so it is advisable not to arrive with a lot of fresh supplies. Fortunately good local fruit is available.
All vessels entering the Cook Islands require a Bio Security Clearance which will be issued by the Quarantine Inspector when he boards your vessel.
You are permitted to bring frozen food, canned food and vacuum packed products. These must be declared to Customs on arrival.
VAT: Most goods and services supplied in the Cook Islands attract VAT. However, some taxable supplies are zero rated which means VAT is charged at a rate of 0 percent rather than the standard rate of 15%. Goods supplied to a person for consumption or use outside the Cook Islands (such as repairs or maintenance on overseas marine craft) may be considered zero rate taxable supplies. All queries regarding VAT should be referred to:
Tax Division, Revenue Management Division, Ministry of Finance and Economic Management - Ph (+682 )29365
For a full list of Customs rules see the Customs Website.
Last updated September 2015.
Mosquito repellent is essential and it is advisable to wear reef shoes when in the water.
There is a well equipped hospital with New Zealand trained staff situated in Rarotonga, with a smaller hospital in Aitutaki.
Customs fees are $57.20.
Port dues are payable at the Ports Authority in Rarotonga prior to departure and are assessed on the length and type of vessel. The fees are:
Monohull Yacht NZD 2.45 per metre per day
Multihull Yacht NZD 2.95 per metre per day
Motor Yacht NZD 2.40 per metre per day or NZD 0.60 per Gross Tonne per day (whichever is greater).
There is also a mooring fee of NZD 5.00 per day at Aitutaki.
All persons departing the Cook Islands are required to pay departure tax of NZD 66.30 per person (NZD 15.00 for children under 12).
Visa extension fee amounts to NZD 70.00 for 3 months per person.
Overtime is charged before 08:00 and after 16:00 on weekdays, and all day at weekends and public holidays.
Last updated June 2015.
Cruising yachts are not allowed to remain in the islands during the cyclone season, which is from November to March. Harbour masters in Rarotonga and Aitutaki may not even let transiting yachts stay overnight in port during the cyclone season.
The Cook Islands National Environment Service is the administrator of the Islands of Suwarrow. All vessels sailing to Suwarrow are requested to contact the National Environment Service on email@example.com for permission to visit.
Suwarrow undertook a rat eradication exercise 2 years ago, with help from the the Critical Ecosystem Protection Fund and the European Union. They request that all yachts be very vigilant that they do not bring any rats or mice to Suwarrow - a very important bird breeding ground for the Pacific Islands. It is also requested that boats are sprayed for other invasives, such as fire ants.
See this pdf for the full Notice of Rules Relating to Suwarrow National Park.
Last updated May 2015.
No animal or birds is permitted ashore anywhere in the Cook Islands unless you are permitted by a Biosecurity officer. All animal(s) are required to be kept secured aboard the yacht and may be required to be bonded for the duration of your stay in the Cook Islands. This is fully refundable provided the conditions of bond have not been breached.
For further information:-
Tel: (682) 28711 or (682) 28710
Last updated September 2015.