New Britain: Clearance at Rabaul
Published: 2014-12-04 00:00:00
Countries: Papua New Guinea
There have been MAJOR changes entering PNG - and it's all good!
Previously, one needed a visa prior to entering PNG waters. This has now changed. The government has recently passed legislation enabling visas on arrival -- which applies to two ports of entry -- Port Moresby and Rabaul. While the new rules apply primarily to persons entering PNG by air -- at least in New Britain, it also applies to yachts.
We just cleared into PNG at the Rabaul Airport and were granted 60 day visas (free!) -- which CAN be extended for another 30 days at a cost of K$400. There was ABSOLUTELY no fuss or bother. So, the procedure for clearing into PNG (at least in Rabaul) is as follows:
1) Anchor in Rabaul just off the yacht club (it's easy to find -- it's to the right of the main wharf as you enter the Harbour).
2) Contact "Rabaul Harbour Control" on VHF16 and let them know you've arrived -- and request quarantine clearance.
3) Harbour Control will let you know when you might expect Bio Security to come out to the boat.
4) At the appointed time, keep an eye open on the shore and at some point a pick up truck will show up with both Quarantine and Health Inspectors. Go and get them in the dinghy. Don't worry, these are two (or maybe three) of the most easy-going civil-servants you'll ever meet). Their services will cost about US$90.00. Don't panic! Everything else is free after this point!
5) Next step is Customs. This is super easy, except you have to take a bus! Customs is located in the nearby town of Kokopo. From the yacht club, walk up to the main road and catch the #8 bus to the market for K1$ (50 cents). Then at the market, catch the #8 bus to Kokopo (K$3 -- us$1.50) to Kokopo. It will drop you off at the market. From there, walk about 150 meters to the Westpac building (blue roof). Customs is on the 2nd floor. Again, another awesome sort of truly friendly civil-servants. They were not at ALL concerned that we checked in some number of weeks after leaving our last port (Vanuatu -- we cruised the Louisades for some time before we checked into Rabaul......)
A note on security: Some cruisers have anchored off Kokopo, but it is NOT recommended. There is a lot of "banana boat" traffic from here to the nearby Duke of York islands -- and as recently as this week, a cruiser was assaulted on board and had some items stolen. Rabaul, on the other hand is TOTALLY secure -- especially in front of the yacht club where there is 24/7 security monitoring the anchorage.
6) Last step is Immigration. Go back to the market and catch the #8 bus which will take you to the airport. This is where Immigration hangs out. If there's nobody there, duck into the arrivals area and find the Customs folks. They'll put out a call for the Immigration people for you. Don't be in a hurry. Chat up the Customs people. Lovely folks! You'll probably end-up having tea with them!
The bottom line is Rabaul is truly AWESOME. I've rarely encountered more lovely people. There's a bad rep about "raskols" -- but this isn't a problem everywhere. Rabaul is amazingly "chill". Great security if you're worried, the yacht club is filled with awesome expats with great tails to tell. Of particular note is Rod -- who's been running diving here for the past 30 years. Stop by -- it's awesome! But DO keep an eye open on the Volcano -- you might have to up-anchor in a hurry if she's set to blow!
Other comments about Rabaul.
The Internet here is AWSOME! Digicel just upgraded their towers to 4G and -- with either a smartphone (iOS or Android) and subscribing to a data plan, you'll enjoy FAST 4g service! Sims are available in most of the supermarkets for k$5.00 and data is -- as usual in this part of the world -- a little "spendy", but very high quality. Skype works perfectly! Whoever sells you the sim can help you with selecting a data package that works for you --and help you configure your device to access the 'net.