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Indonesia, Tanjungpinang (Bintan Island, Riau Islands): Cruisers report on Clearing Out here

By Sue Richards last modified May 17, 2017 06:35 PM

Published: 2017-04-29 23:00:00
Countries: Indonesia

The following is an account of my attempts to clear out of Indonesia at Tanjungpinang, Pulau Bintan in April 2017.

It is not necessarily the “Be-All-And-End-All” as different smiles and different officials seem to produce different outcomes.

In clearing out of Indonesia, I was determined not to repeat the mistakes I made on entry at Kupang , see my “Played like a fiddle” post. To this end, my wife and I chose to clear out of Indonesia at Tanjungpinang, Pulau Bintan and avoid the high-end likes of Nongsa Point Marina on Batam. This is not to disparage Nongsa Point as I am sure they have a fantastic facility, they are just a bit pricy for my cruising budget.

I should also preface this with the acknowledgment that I have a deeply rooted disdain for public officials. It takes everything I have to get through a TSA checkpoint with any semblance of a civil demeanor. Never the less, I understand the size of your smile is often directly proportional to your success when dealing with Asian bureaucracy.

My wife, toddler son, and I arrived in Tanjungpinang, Pulau Bintan on the morning of April 18th, 2017 aboard our Westsail 32. The harbor approach is straight forward and was easily navigable with my 5ft draft however ferry traffic can be heavy depending on the time of day, anchoring in 20ft of water (L 00⁰ 56.21’ N, λ 104⁰ 26.52’ E), there is plenty of room for many boats.

Tanjungpinang , the second largest city of the Riau Islands, is a crowded bustling city. It felt a little like a whirlwind after spending the previous five months visiting much quieter villages of the islands. The selection of restaurants, markets, and other services were never the less refreshing. Water taxis whizz back and forth across the river all day long. If you anchor nearby, you can easily flag them down for a lift. I digress, but this alleviates having to find a secure location to leave your dingy ashore. There is also a fuel barge nearby this anchorage position but they would not allow us to take on diesel at the barge. I suspect it is reserved for ferries having an open account.

With only a couple of days remaining on our Indonesian Visa’s, we decided to go ahead and clear out. This process first started for us with a Singapore agent. Pre-approval for arrival in Singapore must be obtained while one has access to internet and a printer if nothing else. It should also be noted that Indonesian authorities require you to leave immediately upon receiving outbound clearance.  I e-mailed each of the Singapore agents listed on the Noonsight reference for a quote. We settled on Craft Docket LLP as listed on Noonsights page for our Singapore representation.

With our initial Singapore clearance established, we proceeded to the Tanjungpinang Immigration office to request outbound clearance for Singapore. The branch office is located directly on the pier of the international ferry terminal. Speaking with the Immigration Officer Mr. Danial, he advised that we would need to get clearance from the Harbour Master before he could clear us out. He further advised that this was necessary because the Harbour Master had to determine if the weather was suitable for us to sail from Indonesia.

Trying to keep my smile going, I then proceeded to the Harbour Master with all of my original documents and numerous photocopies. Upon entering the Harbour Masters office under the escort of a helpful Immigration officers guiding assistance, I was directed to the appropriate Harbour Master clerk. Unfortunately, I did not get the woman's name but she stood out as appearing extremely masculine. Her desk was on the left hand side, at the back of the first office on the right from the main entrance.

After explaining that I was requesting outbound clearance for Singapore, the clerk advised that Tanjungpinang was not a "Port of Entry" and outbound clearance would not be granted. The clerk further advised that I would need to proceed to Nongsa Point Marina for outbound clearance from Indonesia.

Setting aside the  Harbour Master denying my request to take departure based on weather conditions, which raises some very interesting legal questions,  this is contrary to the information I have previously understood with two issues that immediately come to mind. The first being that I had understood only Customs and Immigration visits were necessary for outbound clearance, not the Harbor Master. It is possible I have misunderstood this requirement.

Second and more importantly, is the issue of Tanjungpinang being a "Port of Entry". Prior to clearing into Indonesia, I completed the online form "Vessel Declaration" at the Indonesian government webpage https://yachters-indonesia.id. This site specifically denotes Tanjungpinang, Bintan as a "Main Port of Entry" as well as a CIQP port.

Seeking a higher authority, I attempted to get clarification from Immigration in Jakarta but have yet to receive a reply. Additionally, I reached out to Sue at Noonsight for any corroborating paperwork. Sue was able to provide a letter from the Indonesian Department of Customs indicating Bintan as a Port of Entry but not Tanjungpinang specifically. It should also be mentioned; I have been unable to find reference on the Indonesian Immigration website of Tanjungpinang or any port for that matter, being a Port of Entry. Similarly, contacting my Singapore agent, Craft Docket LLP, to advise of a delay, they mentioned, “We have a few boats that clear in and out from Bintan without any issue". So, clearly something was amiss.

Returning to Immigration, Officer Danial would not allow me to clear out without approval from the Harbor Master and to reiterate, the Harbor Master claims that Tanjungpinang is not a "Port of Entry" despite it being listed as one on the "Vessel Declaration" web-form at https://yachters-indonesia.id.

The Harbor Master had recommended and it seemed I was left with only one practical option, that is Nongsa Point Marina. I understood other vessels attempting to clear themselves out of Batam without an agent were denied clearance in the absence of an agent, effectively giving Nongsa Point a virtual monopoly. Regardless of the Indonesian Immigration official policy that an agent is no longer required under the CIQP system. Nongsa Point advertises IDR 1,000,000 to clear out, above and beyond their mooring charges. This strikes me as excessive for a process that incurs no charges from Customs or Immigration at all and only takes about an hour.

Thankfully, my Singapore agent referred me to a Mr. La Ode (+62 813-7261-6253oderaflin@gmail.com) operating out of Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal on the North coast of Bintan. Whether correct or not, Mr. La Ode confirmed that Tanjungpinang was not a Port of Arrival. He advised that I could come to the BBT terminal and he would assist with outbound clearance as an option to Nongsa Point.

With time running out and options limited, the BBT Terminal turned out to be a good choice for us.  The ferry terminal has about a dozen slips on floating docks with power and water at each slip. Diesel is available but expensive at IDR 14,000/liter. Aside from diesel, their rates were much more reasonable than the alternative and can be found at: http://bintan-resorts.com/visitors/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2016/02/Yacht-Berthing-in-Bintan-March-2016.pdf. The one downside is that this ferry terminal is very isolated with virtually nothing else around. That being said, there is an ATM is available at the ferry terminal if necessary. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon and elected to spend the night on their pier. The next morning, Mr. La Ode was able to clear us out, hassle free by 0900.

In retrospect, another option may have been to clear out of Indonesia at Belitung. The anchorage at Tg Kelayang was very enjoyable but I have not researched this possibility.

Please don’t take anything I have said as meant to be disparaging towards Indonesia or the people of Indonesia. Indonesians have been absolutely wonderful during our much too short stay. Indonesians have repeatedly dropped what they were doing to offer assistance, regularly gone out of their way to help and always with a warm sincere smile.  Five months only scratched the surface of this fantastic, World class cruising area.

Very Respectfully,

Tim Christensen
S/V Margarita

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