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 Massawa - Profile

Location

If going to Massawa in order to get permission to visit the nearby Dahlak Islands, latest reports are that these are currently "out of bounds" to foreign yachts.

Entry during daylight is straight forward, but lights are missing in the approaches and there are many unlit hazards.

Last updated January 2013.

Clearance

When you are near the entrance to the Port, call "Massawa Port Control" on VHF Ch. 16 (and 13) and ask permission to enter. This may take several tries, if they answer at all! Be patient.

When you enter the port it is likely that Military from the Navy posted on the starboard jetty (green light) will ask you to stop for inspection. It is not advisable to stop here as the bottom is rocky and not safe. Instead, proceed to the harbour Quay (the Port Control will give you a berth number) and wait for the Navy to visit you.

It is not permitted to anchor before completing formalities ashore. It is essential to have extra large fenders as the quay walls are covered in sharp marine growth and the quay is exposed to side wind and swell.

No agent is needed. In the main, yachts are boarded on arrival and formalities completed on board. Clearance is reported to be quick and free. Immigration will issue a 48 hour shore pass - beyond which a visa must be obtained.

The harbour immigration office is situated in a green building, Customs just next to the port gate.

A one month visa costs US$50 per person. To get a visa you have to go to Adaga (3km North) in the Korean complex and all the paperwork is done by computer, which takes time due to frequent power cuts. Sometimes it may be possible that the harbour immigration officer will take the passport/s there and return with visas inserted later.

It is reported that Egyptian visas cost less in Asmara than Djibouti.

You will also be asked how much money you wish (officially) to exchange at the bank, and authorisation for this amount will be issued. Ask near the gate for a "currency declaration" and go with this paper to the Bank for your local currency.

Even if you have obtained visas at Assab, you have to report to the Port Authority and Immigration.

Dhalak Islands

The paperwork in order to visit the off-lying Dhalak Islands is complicated and expensive (and currently foreign yachts are not being allowed to visit). It involves a trip to the tourist office in Adaga (3km North) to get a travel permit for Asmara (the capital)  - you have to then go to the security department in Talud island to get the permit stamped. Remember to take it with you to Asmara as it will be checked!

Go to Asmara by bus or taxi (3H) to the tourist department to get a travel permit for the Dahlak Islands. You must apply before 0900 to get it by 1630.

Back in Massawa you must then go to the tourist department to pay for the cruising permit (50$ + 20$ per person). A  copy of the Dahlak cruising permit must then be given to the Navy office.

Last updated April 2013.

Mikes Yacht Services
Jasmine Cafe , (on the waterfront)
Tel:552467
A useful contact regarding yachting requirements and travel, however no longer allowed to enter the port. Commissions are charged.

Docking

After formalities are completed, yachts must berth where indicated.

Whilst the anchorage is very sheltered, if mooring on the quay be sure to use a side/breast anchor, or come stern-to with plenty of scope. The quay is very exposed to side swell and wind and is an uncomfortable and at times dangerous place to be.

Shore passes must be shown on leaving the port by the designated gate.

Berthing in the port continues to be free of charge.

Note that the cost of diesel here is greatly inflated as it is only available with proof of local funds being exchanged at the official bank rate which is almost four times more expensive than the ‘street’ exchange rate.

Beware of petty thieves boarding at night if at anchor.

A local man (Mike from the coffee shop near the port gate) can assist with repairs, laundry, deliveries of fuel and water as well as travel to Asmara. He is very charming, but be sure to check what commission he is charging.

Last updated July 2015.

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