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Clearing into Bocas del Toro on a Saturday

By Anonymous last modified Dec 18, 2012 03:06 PM

Published: 2012-12-11 00:00:00
Countries: Panama

We cleared into Bocas del Toro, Panama, on Saturday December 1, 2012.

Upon arrival we tried to find information about overtime charges for clearing in, but were not able to find out any information. We did raise our Q flag and tried to hail the port captain on the VHF.

We received no response, but as we were heading in with our paperwork, a boat carrying seven officials (?) came to our boat. Upon boarding, they began the process of clearing in, including stamping passports - although they said we would have to come in Monday and pay the cruising permit fee ($193). While on board, they required us to make 3 copies of each passport and a copy of the stamp in our passports. They also required us to pay $175 US for "overtime charges". When asked for a receipt we were told that they could not give us one and that they would do it Monday.

Upon going to the Port Captain's office to pay the cruising permit fee on Monday, we asked about a receipt for Saturday and they said they could not do it (none of the persons that came out to our boat on Saturday were in the office).  In hind site, I would have refused to pay that amount without a receipt.

This is our first port in Panama. I should have mentioned we do have 4 people on board (2 adults, 2 children). In talking with the officials, it seemed that they were charging an overtime fee per person that boarded, but they did not break down the numbers for us.

I can give you some more specific information from a friend's yacht who arrived a few days after us and cleared in during the week (they have 2 persons on board). This is their breakdown of "boarding fees" as stated by the Panamanian officials that boarded their boat:
$20 - customs
$20 - port captain
$15 - boat check in
$35 - quarantine
$25 - immigration

_______
$115 USD total

They also paid the $193 cruising permit fee (1 year).

So, given their numbers, we seemed to have paid about $60 for overtime charges.

Since we did not get a receipt I don't know what part of the $175 was for immigration. We got stamps in all of our passports. I asked about duration and was told we have 6 months, although looking at the stamp, there is no indication of length of time. Hopefully this doesn't present a problem later!

Another interesting note: we did hear that the port captain's office closes at 3pm M-F, so anyone arriving after this time, would be subject to overtime charges.

Name and boat name withheld.

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