Vanuatu - Formalities
For the latest requirements for small craft arrivals in Vanuatu and all the appropriate forms - consult the Customs website at http://customsinlandrevenue.gov.vu/index.php/travellers/yacht-clearance.
Prior Notice of Arrival
24 hours prior notice of arrival is required by Customs. Notice must be provided by e-mail via the Customs website contact form or, if it is not online (as sometime is the case) send your email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. A phone call is no longer sufficient. The information required is:-
(a) the name of the vessel; and
(b) the voyage; and
(c) the estimated date and time of arrival in Vanuatu; and
(d) the appointed port or other place where the craft will land or berth; and
(e) the name of the master or skipper of the vessel; and
(f) the name and contact details of the person providing the information.
(g) the names of passengers on board.
Ensure that you have a reply to your email before entering Vanuatu.
Upon arrival at the port, vessels can call “Customs” on VHF radio Channel 16 (only at Port Vila and Lenakel at the moment). However do not always expect a reply.
Ports of Entry into Vanuatu
Sola on Vanua Lava (the northern most port of entry), is once again manned and re-opened on August 11th 2015 for yacht clearance.
Vessels may not call at Mystery Island (Aneityum), Port Resolution (Tanna) or any other place in Vanuatu, prior to entering one of the ports nominated above for Customs clearance, unless prior written permission is granted by the Director of Customs & Inland Revenue. The Master of vessels who visit these places prior to obtaining Customs clearance, being issued with an “Inter-island Cruising Permit”, or obtaining written permission may be subject to fines and/or prosecution. (During August 2014 several yachts were fined for calling unannounced and without approval at non ports of entry.)
Vanuatu Customs now has a zero tolerance for yachts not following the correct clearance procedures.
To obtain written permission to arrive at an undeclared place such as Aneityum, Port Resolution etc. vessels should email Customs requesting approval to call into these places. After assessing the risks, Customs will respond with an approval. See Customs for contact details.
Cruisers report that this process is straightforward and permission is easy to obtain.
Inward Clearance Procedures
All yachts entering Vanuatu from a foreign port or place must first report to the Customs, Quarantine and Immigration authorities at the Port of Arrival.
Inward reporting forms and passenger arrival forms are available on the Customs website under Forms. To facilitate clearance, filled out forms can be emailed to the address provided on the form prior to arrival.
Port Vila and Luganville are the main ports of clearance and most yachts clear into Port Vila. Customs are available on VHF Channel 16 in Port Vila and Lenakel only. The Customs telephone number or e-mail should be used for Customs information at other ports.
Outward Clearance Procedures
All yachts leaving Vanuatu for a foreign port or place are required to obtain an outward clearance from Customs at the final port of departure (i.e.Lenakel, Port Vila, Luganville or Sola).
New August 2014:
Vessels can now depart from undeclared ports after obtaining a certificate of clearance from a declared port, if permission is obtained from the Director of Customs. For instance, a vessel can get clearance from Port Vila, but actually depart from Port Resolution (an unapproved place) for New Caledonia, similarly they can get clearance from Luganville, but actually depart from the Torres Islands for the Solomon Islands etc.
To obtain written permission to depart from an undeclared place, vessels should email Customs requesting approval to do so. After assessing the risks, Customs will respond. The clearance certificate will be issued at the last declared port, if the request is granted approval. The request can be done via email or just a note at least 24hrs (during working days) prior to departure from the declared port. See Customs for contact details.
Port dues will be calculated up to the ETD from Vanuatu while fuel exemptions will only be granted for the outward journey.
Having been granted a certificate of clearance, a vessel must depart for overseas within 24 hours of its issue (unless permission has been granted to visit other islands).
Outward Reporting forms are available on the Customs website under Forms. To facilitate clearance, filled out forms can be emailed to the address provided on the form prior to departure.
All attempts will be made to board vessels arriving from overseas as soon as possible after their actual arrival. Outwards clearance may be obtained within 24 hours prior to the actual departure.
Customs normal operating hours are:
07:30-12:00 and 13:00-16:30 (Mon-Fri)
Any attendance by Customs outside these hours for either arriving or departing vessels will be subject to overtime fees. See Fees section.
All the authorities have the option to visit the boat for an inspection. Quarantine Services / Bio-security are the most likely visit your vessel upon arrival to Vanuatu and will generally expect a dinghy ride to your vessel to complete the inspection, related paperwork, and collect a fee.
Live animals, reptiles, birds of any description, fresh meat, fruit or vegetables imported by yachts must not be taken ashore. Additionally, some restriction on whether such goods will be permitted to remain on board after the arrival at a Customs port may be enforced by officers of Bio-security. No foreign garbage may be landed in Vanuatu without permission from Bio-security.
For details on the temporary admission of visiting yachts without payment of import duty see the Customs section below.
Last updated August 2016.
Arriving without a Visa
On arrival Immigration will issue yacht crew an entry permit for one month. Extensions must be applied for to the Immigration Authorities within 2 weeks of expiry, and will likely be granted for between 7 and 12 months.
If staying more than 30 days it's likely Immigration will want to see your boat papers.
Vanuatu signed a mutual visa-waiver agreement with the European Union in 2015. This agreement allows all citizens of states that are contracting parties to the Schengen Agreement to stay in Vanuatu without a visa for a maximum period of 90 days in any 180-day period.
No visas are required for visits of up to 30 days for a great many nationals. See list here.
All others must obtain a visa in advance.
Leaving your yacht
If leaving Vanuatu and subsequently returning while your yacht remains in Vanuatu, you will need to get a letter of approval from Immigration and show this at the airport. The letter should be obtained in advance from the Immigration office in Port Vila. There is a fee.
Anyone who leaves the yacht must obtain an air ticket out of the country immediately. The captain is responsible for notifying Immigration when a crew member wishes to leave a yacht, and he will be liable for their repatriation unless released from this obligation.
Crew flying into the country who are scheduled to meet a yacht and sail out, are required to submit a ‘One Way Requirement Form’, and a supporting letter from the skipper, prior to arrival. The letter from the skipper should outline the vessel name and details, give permission for the person to join the crew in Vanuatu and give an undertaking that the crew person listed will be sailing out on that vessel.
These should then be emailed to Immigration who will then prepare and sign a ‘One Way Requirement Letter’ which authorises a one-way ticket departing via yacht. This will be emailed back to the crew member. The crew member should present this with their incoming airline ticket to Immigration on arrival as they enter Vanuatu. (You cannot enter Vanuatu with a one way ticket if you do not have this letter prior to arrival).
Last updated August 2016.
+(678) 22082 - Vila Wharf,
+(678) 88058 - Lenakel, Tanna
+(678) 33780 - Luganville, Santo.
VHF Channel 16 at Port Vila and Lenakel only.
Website: http://customsinlandrevenue.gov.vu/index.php/travellers/yacht-clearance for more details and information also for super yachts.
Yachts are permitted to remain for up to 18 months in any 24 month period free of import duty.
Inter-Island Cruising Permit
Yachts wishing to visit more remote and isolated destinations in Vanuatu (i.e. more than just the port of entry) must apply for an “Inter-island Cruising Permit” which is valid for a period of up to six months. A copy of the cruising permit is held on board and absolves the skipper from having to report to customs until the port of departure for overseas, or for application to extend the permit.
On arrival all arms and ammunition must be declared and surrendered to the Customs Officer for safe keeping. If Customs is satisfied the firearms and ammunition can be safely secured under seal onboard this may be allowed. In cases where no suitable secured sealing arrangements exist, the goods will be held by Customs until departure. You must notify Customs 48 hours in advance of your intended departure from the final port of clearance. If you intend to depart from a port of clearance other than the one you arrived at, it is a good idea to provide at least a week's notice.
Automatic and semi automatic weapons are not to be brought into the country at all as these are strictly prohibited and severe penalties are in place for any breach of these prohibitions.
You may not have onboard obscene publications, or videos, narcotics (other than genuine medical emergency drugs).
Duty-free goods may be taken on board after clearance or when about to clear out in Port Vila, but not Luganville. Port Vila is known as cheap place to buy duty-free spirits and wine primarily targeted at visiting cruise ships and yachts are able to take advantage of this on their departure. Duty-free taken on in Port Vila will be sealed until clearance outwards in Luganville. Customs may check it before clearance and the penalty for breaking the seal is a fine.
It is possible to order duty-free diesel fuel on clearing out both in Luganville and Vila.
Last updated August 2016.
Malaria prophylaxis is essential as malaria is endemic in Vanuatu. Conjunctivitis and the rapid infection of small cuts are a problem.
The usual documents, including a zarpe from the previous foreign port, are required.
Vessels wishing to visit more remote and isolated destinations in Vanuatu may apply for an “Inter-island Cruising Permit” which is issued to genuine cruising small craft and is valid for a period up to six months. See full details in the Customs section above.
All forms for inward and outward clearance can be found at the Customs website under Forms. To facilitate clearance, filled out forms can be emailed to the address provided on the form prior to arrival and departure.
All fees are payable in cash in Vatu.
Customs: none if clearance is done during normal office hours. Otherwise: All fees are per officer/per hour (3 hr minimum)
Between 06:00-07:30, 16:30-18:00 (Mon-Fri) 1000 Vatu.
Between 18:00-06:00 (Mon-Fri) 1500 Vatu
Saturdays, Sundays and Public holidays: 2000 Vatu.
Quarantine: 5,000 Vatu (or up to 8,000 depending on the amount of garbage needing to be disposed of.)
Immigration: 4,800 Vatu
Visas extension: (for over 30 days up to 7 months stay ) 6,000 Vatu per person.
7,875 Vatu for a 30 day period (or any part thereof). After 30 days there is a charge of 100 Vatu per day. Payable to either the Port office or Customs (in cash) when clearing out of the country.
Crew change fee:
2000 Vatu per change, plus 6000 Vatu for new crew arriving by plane.
It is also reported that in some villages cruising boats are asked to pay $5 or $10 for the right to anchor. This appears to be the case especially nearer Port Vila, and not so much in more remote places. However, visiting yachts should always check with the local chief for permission.
Last updated August 2016.
When visiting the islands, the village chief must be asked for permission to anchor, fish and other activities such as snorkelling.
Sharks are a serious danger in some islands, such as at Port Sandwich on Malekula, where visitors are warned not to swim. Swimming off black sand beaches should be avoided. Elsewhere it is advisable to consult the locals before swimming in the vicinity of villages. In some places, a red float close to the shore is baited with meat to catch sharks.
A taboo exists in Malekula which forbids a male to swim under a boat or canoe with women or girls on board. Those who break this strict taboo will have to pay a substantial fine to the village chief.
Port Vila Regulations:
An overhead electric cable extends from the eastern side of Iriki island and Vila. No vessel with a mast exceeding 25 metres height from the waterline may attempt to pass under the cable. The maximum clearance is 28 metres close to the Vila side of the channel. Violation of this restriction is subject to penalties plus costs of any damages. Yachts with taller masts can tie stern to the quay or anchor in the quarantine buoy area.
All vessels in Vila Harbour must show a riding light if at anchor, between the hours of sunset and sunrise.
Anchoring near Efila Island is prohibited due to a land dispute between the islanders and the authorities, so this area should be avoided.
It is not possible to make collect calls from anywhere in Vanuatu.
Forbidden Anchorages in Vanuatu
Anchoring or landing is strictly forbidden in the Reef Islands, just to the north of Vanua Lava in the Banks group.
The entire area surrounding Bokissa Island is a marine sanctuary and yachts are forbidden to drop an anchor anywhere on the reef shelf within the 60-metre depth line.
There is no safe anchorage at Avokh vilage, Maskelyne Islands, Malekula.
Last updated August 2010.
The Import Permit may be obtained from:
PMB 9086, Port Vila, Vanuatu.
Tel +678 33580
Prior to authorisation the animals must be examined on board by a Veterinary Officer and may need vaccinations and parasite treatment if not up-to-date. The boat’s log will be inspected to ensure no countries with endemic Rabies have been visited recently. This is mainly going to apply to Indonesia and the Americas.
Should animals be landed without authorisation they may be seized and destroyed, and a substantial fine imposed.
A very useful contact is:
Roger Phillips BVSc,
Senior Veterinary Officer
Tel +678 7751353
Last updated May 2016.