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 Trincomalee - Profile

Location

This large military port is located in the northern half of the east coast of Sri Lanka. It is one of the largest harbours in the world and can be entered in any conditions.

For years, cruising boats heading to Sri Lanka only had the one option when clearing into the country, and that was Galle in the SW. Trincomalee was in Tamil Tiger territory and not considered a safe destination during the civil war that dragged on from 1986 to 2009.

Trincomalee's unspoilt beaches have made it an increasingly popular tourist destination in recent years, and slowly but surely the cruising community are starting to use it as a quieter alternative to Galle. It is a safe, all-weather harbour, off the beaten path and closer to the Cultural Triangle and some outstanding national parks than other clearance ports.

On approach, call Port Control on VHF 16 when you get near Elephant Island. In most cases they will already know that you are approaching the port, as informed by the Navy, and will hail you on VHF 16. VHF Channel 10 is used as the port working channel. The port controllers are very professional and speak perfect English. They will ask you several questions before giving you permission to pass into the port via Elephant Pass.

Port Control may also ask if you want a pilot boat's assistance to enter the port. This is not necessary and does carry a charge.

If requesting permission to enter the port at night, be sure to emphasise your sailing experience and that you are equipped with up-to-date charts. Port Control might then allow you to proceed into Town Bay at night, rather than anchor outside the port which can be uncomfortable.

For any vessel, entry and movement within the harbour is strictly controlled.

Position 8° 32"N, 81° 13"E (Outer harbour entrance).

Clearance

To enter Trincomalee, you must use an Agent.

Whilst this is a military port and not a tourist port, yachts can clear into Sri Lanka here. There are now a number of useful reports from cruisers who did this in 2015 adjacent.

Do bear in mind however that the authorities in Trincomalee are not used to dealing with pleasure yachts, being much more familiar with merchant ships. Therefore make sure you have all your paperwork in order, especially a visa applied for in advance.

The pier in Town Bay (see photo courtesy of SY Totem) is the correct pier for clearance.

Town Pier (referenced on charts as Passenger Pier)
Yachts can tie up to the north side of this pier while clearing in. It is concrete (have plenty of fenders), safe (in the NE monsoon) and is part of the property belonging to the Customs, Immigration and police department. It is deep enough for most sailboats to tie up to (the water approaching the pier and at the pier is around 3+ meters deep), but one must have permission from the harbour authorities prior to doing so.

It can be confusing for an inbound yacht identifying the clearance pier, as the names of piers here have changed and charts don’t always match even recent charts. In trying to follow directions from the port one boat ran aground, tangled in fishing nets. Some useful notes on chart references here can be found at this report.

The lat/long for the correct jetty for clearance is 08*34.00 N / 081*13.84 E.

Following reports from cruisers clearing in here early 2015, no two clearances were the same. For example, several boats had divers check the hulls for explosives, others had a fast clearance with no requests for unofficial fees. The visiting yachting community addressed this inconsistency by meeting with the authorities and establishing a simpler clearance structure for yachts. The authorities here want to find a way to ensure Trinco becomes a more welcoming place for boats, so co-operation by visiting cruising boats to follow the rules correctly will ensure that these new rules are properly established.

Clearing-in Procedures

1. Port Control will tell you where to moor for clearance (note: they will refer to this pier as "Town Pier" in error. On the charts it is called Passenger Pier). They will automatically contact your agent for you when you approach the port.

2. When you are tied up at the Passenger Pier, call Port Control on VHF 16 and confirm you are docked.

3. Your clearance agent will greet you at the pier. Give him the passports of all crew members, the original exit papers from your last port of call, one copy of your crew list, and a copy of your ship's registration paper. It will take him at least one hour to complete clearance. During this time all crew members must remain on board. Any of the officials from Customs, Immigration, Harbour Police, Harbour Authority and Naval Security may visit your yacht.

4. When your agent returns your stamped passports, call Port Control and ask for permission to leave the Passenger Pier and anchor near the Town Pier (several hundred metres SW).

5. After you anchor, call Port Control and state that you are anchored near the Town Pier.

6. While at anchor or when you are tied up to the Passenger Pier the navy will send a skiff to visit you for a security check, which may include an underwater inspection.

Contact Captain Lakshi Wasantha, Deputy Harbor Master, at lakshi777@sltnet.lk if you need assistance concerning harbour issues.

Clearing-out Procedures

1. Contact your agent 4 business days prior to wanting to leave Trinco to request a final invoice. Be sure to check it for errors.

2. The day before departure you and your agent should meet. Give him your passports, usually late in the day.

4. The next morning your agent will meet with you. He will give you your stamped (exit) passports, and your outbound clearance document. He will also collect all funds due, per the shipping agent invoice.

5. During your last day in port Navy security will visit your boat. They will ask to see your passports, make a few notes on their forms, and take a quick look around your boat.You are then free to leave.

6. Call Port Control and ask for permission to raise your anchor and leave the harbour.

There are a number of very useful reports by cruisers re. clearing in and out here. See reports section adjacent.

Fees

Fees here are now similar to those charged in Galle. Most yachts to date have been charged in the region of $218 USD for a 30 day visit or less. This amount covers all normal activities/requirements for your yacht and all crew members. If you want additional services they cost extra:

1. Tie off to a commercial dock/pier: Approx. 25 cents per hour.

2. Tie off to the barge in China Bay, Mud Cove. Approx. 25 cents per hour.

3. Pilot boat: $24 USD (night or day)

4. If you want to stay more than 30 days, your next 30 day period will cost an additional $100 USD, for a 60 day total of $318 USD. This must be arranged in advance through your agent.

There are no overtime charges.

See Sri Lanka Clearance for full details.

Last updated March 2015.

Docking

See comment below about entry into the harbour.

You are permitted to anchor right in the heart of the town and have free full access to a good dinghy dock which is guarded 24/7.

Following clearance, if you do not request and get permission to anchor in the Town Bay/Town Pier Anchorage, Port Control will probably send you to China Bay, Mud Cove. This location is at the north end of Trinco harbour near several military bases. The Mud Cove Jetty is located 4km from the main town. Berthing here will likely be alongside a barge (for an additional fee). This is the most secure location as the property is well guarded and gated, but it is not that convenient to town. Whilst there are few amenities here, there is access to non drinking water and there is armed security. One has to walk about 15 minutes up a country road before obtaining local transport into town.

Town Bay is quiet with no other local and/or foreign boats at anchor. All local fishing boats are anchored in either Yard or Mangrove Cove. One can anchor approximately 100 metres out from the clearance pier. The clearance pier can be used as a safe place to go ashore and park your dinghy whilst going into town.

After you anchor, or tie to the barge, you must call Port Control with your location and the time you anchored. If you want to move your boat while in port you must get prior permission from Port Control. They are keen to keep track of where visiting yachts are located and to control movements.

A useful dinghy landing is to tie up to the red boat at thr town pier and get ashore via that. (See the photo from Onundur Johannsson below).

Getting Fuel:

Port regulations state that fuel can only be obtained via the port and ship's agent, however the Harbourmaster has accepted this is inpractical for cruising boats so has given permission for cruising boats to "side-step" the official procedure. It is important that skippers adhere to the following procedures when obtaining fuel, so as to keep the authorities happy: 

Contact your local agent and advise them you will purchase fuel (via jerry can), advise them the approximate time of delivery at the jetty, and allow the agent to give the port security/customs notice before you turn up.

As the jetty used by yachts is inside a compound for Customs with heavy security, prior warning is very important, or you will not be allowed through with your fuel.

A useful guide to shoreside services in Trincomalee can be found on this hand drawn map by SY Sage (February 2015).

Note: The harbour here has clean clear water a few days each month. The majority of the time it is a breeding ground for barnacles. If you anchor here for more than 10 days, you will have to clean your bottom.

Last updated April 2016.

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