The Andaman Islands lie about 450nm northwest of Phuket in the Bay of Bengal. It is a popular destination for boats from Thailand, especially those on their way to the Red Sea.
However, yachts visiting the area have reported "extreme bureaucracy" including having to report in via radio each day. Most yachts stop here on their way to Sri Lanka or India and onto the Maldives etc.
Care should be taken if snorkelling or diving here as tourists have been mauled by crocodiles in recent years.
The best time to visit these islands is between December and February when the weather is most stable.
Note: The WGS84 datum is out by half a mile in this area and, due to the 2004 Tsunami, depths in the middle and south islands are 2m deeper.
Position 11° 41'12"N, 092° 43'E (Port Blair anchorage)
See India Formalities for full details of clearing into India.
Yachts must not stop anywhere else before completing formalities at Port Blair (South Andaman).
Important Note: It is illegal to use any type of satellite phone while in the Andaman Sea and in Indian territorial waters. Such communications are monitored and can result in severe penalties, even imprisonment.
Cruisers report that using an agent here for clearance is straightforward and simple. Cost approx. US$200. Whilst it is possible to manage without an agent, the paperwork is lengthy and a printer/scanner on board is essential.
See Noonsite's India/Clearance Agents page for a list of agents.
Call the port authorities on VHF ch 16 a few hours before arrival (if possible) and advise them of your ETA, then call again on arrival for instructions on where to anchor and so that they can inform Customs and Immigration. It is best to arrive during the morning as clearance can take some time.
The Coastguard will visit the yacht with their own boat; Customs and Immigration officials must be collected in your dinghy. A full list of stores and equipment (with serial numbers!) will be required. Remember to list your depth sounder as a 'fish finder'
Finally, a visit must be paid ashore to the Harbour Master at the Port Management Board (PMB) to lodge a written itinerary of the all places you are intending to visit. Be sure to take all the paperwork you have been given by Customs and Immigration.
The HM should supply data on the radio times and frequencies (via SSB radio) for your required daily radio check-ins. If you only have a VHF radio, then your visit will be very restricted. For more details, see below.
It is essential that you have up to 8 copies of ALL your documents (including Departure documents from your previous port) and the required letters. An embossed boat stamp will also be necessary to impress!
You must have a valid Indian visa, and if you wish to take advantage of the maximum 30 days' stay, ensure your Indian visa does not expire before this time.
Indian visas can be obtained from Indian Embassies in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, or Bangkok (note, that in order to obtain an Indian visa from Thailand you must first have a Thailand Non O or Non B visa, or a work permit or residence there). These visas are generally for 6 months and apply to the whole of India and start from date of issue, not arrival in the country. Do not request the 15 day "Andaman Endorsement" or mention your visit when applying for your visa, as on arrival at Port Blair you will be granted the full 30 days permitted stay.
After obtaining the visa, before departure for the Andamans, as a courtesy, Immigration have requested that you fax a crew list with passport details, reason for visit is tourism, yacht's name, home port, and approximate arrival date to the Chief Secretary, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Port Blair, Tel. 91-3192-234087, Fax: 91-3192-232656, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Procedure on Departure
The departure procedure has been simplified. Visit the Port Captain's office to pay your dues, then Immigration. When ready to leave, call Port Control with your clearance number.
Notify Port Control in advance of your expected time of departure.
A useful and informative website is http://www.and.nic.in/tourism/foreigners.php.
STANDARD OPERATION PROCEDURE FOR FOREIGN YACHTS VISITING A & N ISLANDS (INDIA)
(a) Obtain clearance/permit from the Indian High Commission/Embassy prior to departure from last port of call and intimate the following particulars to the Indian High Commission/embassy.
(i) Purpose of visit (ii) Port of registration (iii) Last port of call (iv) Next port of call (v) Name of local agent (if any) (vi) Particulars of the owner and crew (vii) Itinerary of the vessel
(b) Clearance to be obtained from Port Management Board, Port Blair 48 hours prior to entering Indian Territorial waters.
CALL Port Blair Port Radio, Location 11°10’28" N 92°44’56" E
FREQUENCY HFTR 2182 8294 6224. TELEPHONE (091) 03192 33688, (091) 03192 33690, (091) 03192 33674. TELEX 625-218 PORT IN. FAX (091) 03192 36069.
(c) Immigration clearance will be given at Port Blair on arrival/departure. On arrival yachts will be inspected by Navy, Customs and Immigration for clearance.
(d) Visit permit is issued by the Immigration Officer for a period of thirty days. The conditions laid down to in the permit are to be strictly adhered to by the permit holder
(e) No deviation from the pre-drawn itinerary would be permitted.
(f) Yachts are to be fitted with HFRF sets for communication failing which their visit will be restricted to VHF range.
(g) Yachts when in Indian waters are to inform their location twice a day at 08:00 hrs and 20:00 hrs to Port Management Board Control Room at the above frequencies.
(h) No diving equipment is to be carried on board. The vessel can obtain the diving equipment locally from approved diving agencies.
Recent reports are that diving is now permitted by foreign vessels, with a permit, no longer having to hire equipment locally.
(i) The yacht will not be permitted to pick up commercial passengers, Indian or foreigners on board during the permitted cruise. However yachts will be allowed to carry passengers to and from Port Blair who have been cleared by Immigration authorities.
(j) Equipment capable of sea and mapping is not to be carried aboard
(k) No arms and ammunitions are to be carried aboard the yacht. Arms if carried for self protection are to be declared on arrival
(l) Yachts visiting the islands may have an authorized agent at Port Blair.
(m) Clearance of Customs, Port Management Board and Immigration is necessary before departure.
Note - No extension to the permitted 30 day stay will be allowed whatever the reason (weather, boat problems etc).
Take your paperwork in with you the first time you visit as you may be asked for it and add it to a book at the main gate for the ferry terminal.
Last updated October 2016.
Yachts can no longer anchor behind Chatham Island to wait for and collect the officials. The new anchorage is about a quarter of a mile away from the small harbour behind Chatham Island; the dinghy can be left there in the care of a "boat boy".
Cruisers report that the anchorage on the East of Chatham Island is good (mud, sheltered from anywhere) and that the boat boy there is efficient.
Havelock and surrounding islands
Henry Lawrence and Inglis islands
Maya Bandar. This is the administration centre for the middle and northern islands. Report to the Harbourmaster on VHF channel 16 on approach and report to his office on arrival.
Andaman Islands Cruising Information - Sources
The best information on these islands can be found on www.southeastasiapilot.com
Andaman Islands, India, Yacht Cruising Guide
Free online cruising guide (2016) by Paul Johnson, who wrote the Andaman section for the latest edition of the South East Asia Pilot.
S/V Ocelot, who cruised here in 2011, also have a lot of very useful information on their blog - http://svocelot.com/ as do Colleen Wilson of S/V Mokisha who visited in February 2014. See the Andannam Islands report.
Last updated November 2016.