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Vanuatu Clearance & Cruising Information

By Jason and Karen Trautz, S/V “YOLO” (You Only Live Once) — last modified Nov 13, 2012 02:09 PM
The crew of SV Yolo have been contributing to noonsite with cruising reports since 2010. This useful report summarises in a readable format exactly what procedures to follow (as per September/October 2012) when visiting Vanuatu and some useful cruising tips as well.

Published: 2012-11-13 00:00:00
Countries: Vanuatu

The following clearance and cruising information is provided to help sailors who visit Vanuatu. This information is based on two U.S.A. citizens on the 42 foot catamaran “YOLO” with no pets. Note that bays, islands, villages, and cities can have several different names and/or spellings throughout Vanuatu.

ARRIVAL DAY/ DATE: Tuesday, September 11, 2012

ARRIVAL PORT: Anelghowhat, Anelghowhat Bay, Anatom (Aneityum) Island

DEPARTURE DAY/DATE: Wednesday, October 24, 2012

DEPARTURE PORT: Port Vila, Baie De Vila or Paray Bay, Efate (Efata) Island

CLEARANCE PORTS:

The clearance port options listed from south to north in Vanuatu are:

A. Anelghowhat, Anelghowhat Bay, Anatom (Aneityum) Island: This port is located on the southwestern corner of the island. This location provides very good protection from all winds and waves except for those from the southwest. Very few goods or services are available here. Banking services are available. If you have not already obtained Vanuatu currency (VATU), try to get enough of it here to cover the cost of the volcano trip at Tanna Island and anything else you might need before reaching Port Vila.

B. Lenakel, Lenakel Bay, Tanna Island: This location is considered a poor overnight anchorage by most sailors and it is exposed to north, south and western weather. Very few goods or services are available at this location which is on the west side of the island. Banking services are available. Most yachts anchor in Port Resolution (southeast corner of the island) to visit the nearby spectacular live volcano, Mt. Yasur. A few sailors have hired a very expensive 4 wheel drive truck to take them from Port Resolution to Lenakel to clear-in. The round trip truck ride will take about six bumpy hours and is expensive.

C. Port Vila, Baie De Vila or Paray Bay, Efate Island: This is the capital city and most goods and services are available. Good all round protection is provided. Mooring balls for around $15 USD per day are available in Paray Bay, between Iririki Island and the city. We anchored just west of the yellow Quarantine Buoy, right off the large shoreline Port Vila city park which has several dingy dock locations.

D. Luganville (Santo), Segond Channel, Espiritu Santo Island: This is the second largest Vanuatu city (9,000 people) and most goods and services are available, including Wi-Fi Internet. You have numerous anchoring options at Luganville. Customs, Ports and Harbours, Quarantine Services, and Immigration officials do NOT care where your vessel is located when you clear-in or out.

Four mooring balls for around $15 USD per day are available at Aore Resort which is located across the Segond Channel south of Luganville, It may be impossible to locate the mooring balls during high tide and swift running currents since they may be pulled under water during these events. There is a 100 VATU (about $1.11 USD) charge per person per way to use the ferry that runs several times per day from Aore Island to Luganville. Very few sailors dingy across the wide and rough Segond Channel.

Anchor just west of the large Luganville river in front of the yacht friendly Beachfront Resort. Good holding, yet exposed to trade winds, waves, and strong current.

Palikulo Bay has been reported as an excellent anchorage, except in strong northerly winds which are rare. Few cars and taxis travel out to this anchorage area.

Surunda (Surundu or Suranda) Bay is located just over the hill 3 miles north of Luganville. This anchorage is exceptionally good, sand bottom, provides all round protection, clear water, and very good snorkeling on the outer reef. We spent over 10 days here waiting for a good weather window. A family of dugongs and numerous turtles live in Surunda Bay. The main north/south paved island road runs past the head of the bay. Countless buses, taxis, and cars travel to and from Luganville. Buses cost 100 VATU ($1.11 USD) per person, we negotiated the same rate for one taxi ride, and hitchhiked other trips for free. Vehicle license plates which start with a “B” for bus, “T” for taxi, and “PT” for public transportation will charge you for the ride. We never spent more than 5 minutes standing by the road. It is a good idea to agree on the cost for a ride before getting into any vehicle.

About 10 miles north of Luganville is Peterson Bay which provides protection from all sides, great holding, Wi-Fi at Oyster Resort on Malparavu/Oyster Island, snorkeling on a WWII airplane just south of the island, very good outer reef snorkeling, and several fresh water blue holes, complete with rope swings.

E. Sola, Sola Bay, Port Patteson, Vanua Lava Island, is also a clearance port. The Banks Islands Group is the northern most Vanuatu clearance port: This village is located on the east side of the island and very few goods or services are available here.

REQUEST PERMISSION TO ENTER PORTS ON VHF CHANNEL: Not required.

CLEARANCE AGENT REQUIRED: No

TYPICAL TRAVEL ROUTE: Most yachties visit Vanuatu after visiting Fiji. They typically check in at the southern end of the island chain (Anatom/Aneityum or Tanna Island) and travel north. Many then wait for a weather window in Luganville or Port Vila and then travel south to New Caledonia.

FORMALITIES:

DOCUMENTS REQUIRED:

SHIP'S PAPERS: Yes

PASSPORTS: Yes

DESPACHO/ZARPE/EXIT PAPERS FROM LAST PORT: Yes

FIRST GOVERNMENT OFFICE VISITED: When clearing-in at Anatom Island raise the Q flag and wait on board your vessel for the Customs official to arrive. He will arrive by small boat during business hours. He will complete the Customs, Cruising Permit, and Quarantine paperwork. He will then collect the Quarantine Service fee. He wears more than one hat so to speak. He will advise you to clear-in with Immigration when you visit one of the other clearance ports, since he typically does not provide this service.

Usually the only government visitor to your boat will be the Quarantine Officer. In our case all paperwork was completed in the cockpit and the inspector never entered YOLO.

If you have been waiting for the Quarantine Officer to contact you for several business hours when clearing-in at non-Anatom ports, visit the Customs office to start the ball rolling.

When clearing-out visit Immigration, Customs, Ports and Harbours, and then return to Customs to get your Certificate of Outward Clearance Permit and Duty Free Fuel Permit (optional).

NORMAL GOVERNMENTAL BUSINESS HOURS: Ports and Harbours, Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Services normal business hours are Monday through Friday, 0730 to noon and 1300 to 1630. Anatom and Tanna officials appear to work “island time” schedules, so be patient.

“ADDITIONAL” CHARGES FOR SATURDAY, SUNDAY, AFTER HOURS, AND HOLIDAY CLEARANCES: It was implied that government officials never work on holidays and weekends. So, if you arrive on these days you should remain on your vessel until the next business day. However, if you want to depart Vanuatu on a Saturday, Sunday or a holiday, clearance paperwork will be processed on the prior business day.

DESPACHO/ZARPE/EXIT PAPERS FROM PRIOR COUNTRY REQUIRED: Yes

MUST CLEAR IN AND OUT OF EACH PORT: You do not have to provide access to your vessel for Cruising Permits. A NEW cruising permit is required each time you visit one of the five clearance ports noted above. The cruising permits are completed by the Customs officials. The cruising permit lists all of the islands you will be visiting prior to the next clearance port. So, from south to north your permits will typically list:

  • Anatom (Aneityum) – First cruising permit which will note Anatom, Tanna, Erromango, and Efate Islands.
  • Efate - Give Customs your first cruising permit and get a second permit which states Efate, Emae, Epi, Malekula, Ambrym, Pentecost, Maewo, Bank Islands, Torres Islands, and Espiritu Santo islands.
  • Espiritu Santo – Give Customs your second cruising permit, then secure a third permit which states Espiritu Santo, The Bank Islands, and the Torres Islands.
  • Vanua Lava, The Bank Islands – Give Customs your third cruising permit and if sailing south reverse the order noted above.

You are not required to visit every island that you list on your Cruising Permit. It appears that government officials do not review Cruising Permits while in transit. Cruising Permits are placed in a sealed envelope by Customs and you must hand carry the envelope to Customs at the next clearance port.

BOAT INSPECTION REQUIRED: Ports and Harbours, Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Services do not REQUIRE an inspection upon arrival. However, they have the option to complete an inspection. Quarantine Services will most likely visit your vessel upon arrival to Vanuatu. In most cases a Quarantine Services Officer will expect a dingy ride to your vessel, Anatom Island being the exception, to complete his inspection, related paperwork, and collect his fee.

HEALTH EVALUATION REQUIRED: No

VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S.A. CITIZEN: None, most visitors are granted an automatic 30 day tourist visit. For an additional fee you can extend your visit an additional four months through the Immigration office.

DECLARED: You must declare the usual items. I.e., guns, ammunition, obscene publications and materials, illegal drugs, “hidden compartments,” pets, spear-guns/slings, etc.

FEES:

Stated amounts are in VATU and approximate U.S.A dollars.

FEES CAN BE PAID IN THE FOLLOWING CURRENCIES: Cash VATU only. During our visit 100 VATU equaled about $1.11 USD (100/90=1.11). At times it can be very difficult securing local currency (VATU) at Anatom, Tanna and Vanua Lava Islands. So try to secure at least 30,000 VATU prior to/upon arrival in Vanuatu. This amount should cover the initial expenses of most couples clearing-in to Vanuatu and the charges related to the volcano tour on Tanna Island.

CUSTOMS: Clear-in per vessel: 0 VATU, $0 USD

Clear-out per vessel: 0 VATU, $0 USD

Cruising Permits: 0 VATU, $0 USD

IMMIGRATION: 30 day or less tourist visit per person: 0 VATU, $0 USD

Four month extended visitor VISA per person: 6,000 VATU, $67 USD

Vessel Clearance Fee: 4,800 VATU, $53 USD

VISA FOR U.S.A. CITIZENS: Not Required

QUARANTINE AND INSPECTION SERVICE: 3,000 VATU, $33 USD

PORTS AND HARBOURS: 30 days or less visit: 7,000 VATU, $78 USD
Regardless of where you travel or anchor in Vanuatu you will be charged a one time Ports and Harbours fee. Customs will not issue your Vanuatu Certificate of Outward Clearance Permit until this fee is paid. This fee is paid on the day you clear out of Vanuatu.

Each day after 30 days: 100 VATU, $1.11 USD

Value Added Tax On Ports & Harbours Fee: Add 12.5%

DUTY FREE FUEL (DIESEL ONLY) PERMIT: 0 VATU, $0 USD

Sadly, as is all too common nowadays, “it's all about money.” A couple cruising on a yacht in Vanuatu for sixty days should expect to pay a total of about 31,050 VATU ($345 USD) for the various governmental fees. TG for averages...when you visit New Caledonia you can stay for up to one year and there are no, none, zero, clearance fees!

REFUELlNG & DUTY FREE FUEL:

Only during the clearing-out process at Customs can you secure a special permit to purchase duty free diesel fuel (22% discount off the regular price). This will greatly reduce the price of each liter of diesel fuel. Full price must be paid for gasoline at all times and locations.

You must pay full price for fuel (diesel and gasoline) prior to clearing-out of Vanuatu. It is very unlikely that you will find fuel for sale outside of Port Vila and Luganville. If you do locate fuel at a remote island it typically sells for over $2.90 USD per liter (greater than $11 USD per gallon).

At Luganville it is only practical to jerry can fuel to your vessel. Taxi drivers typically charge you extra to transport jerry cans. If you are purchasing over 400 liters/100 gallons of diesel you can make arrangements for a fuel truck to meet you at a wharf and top off your tanks. In this case you will be required to pay an additional fee to the wharf owner. The length of your vessel in meters times 294 VATU ($3.27 USD) is the fee for tying up to a government wharf for less than 24 hours. So, a 13 meter (44 foot) boat would cost 3,822 VATU ($43 USD) per day to use the wharf. The Vanuatu rough concrete wharfs are not yacht friendly.

That leaves Port Vila as the only practical option for fueling a yacht. The Yachting World Marina at Paray Bay has an easily accessible and yacht friendly fuel dock. Unfortunately, most yachts do not depart Vanuatu from Port Vila so duty free prices are seldom paid.

In late 2012 the cost (cash price) of diesel fuel in US Dollars per US gallon were:

Fiji (does not have Duty Free fuels): $ 4.62 USD

Vanuatu – Non-Duty Free: $ 7.05 USD

Vanuatu – Duty Free: $ 5.51 USD

New Caledonia – Non-Duty Free $ 5.75 USD

New Caledonia – Duty Free $ 4.91 USD

In late 2012 the cost (cash price) of gasoline in US Dollars per US gallon were:

Fiji (does not have Duty Free fuels): $ 5.19 USD

Vanuatu (does not have Duty Free gasoline): $ 7.30 USD

New Caledonia – Non-Duty Free: $ 6.72 USD

New Caledonia – Duty Free: $ 4.78 USD

Fuel is sold by the liter in Fiji, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia. There are 3.785 liters per US gallon. Plan your fuel purchases accordingly.

ASHORE:

Banking: Most banks will exchange the major world currencies. Their related exchange rate is unjustifiably high. The money exchangers in Port Vila give you a much better deal. Credit cards are widely accepted at resorts and by the retailers in Port Vila and Luganville. Most merchants will tack on an additional 5% surcharge on credit card purchases. The large grocery stores and Yachting World will only pump-up the price several percent (2%). Watch out for the street side gas stations, they add an 8% fee for credit card purchases. ATMs can be located every 50 meters in Port Vila and Luganville, and in our case there was no fee for using them.

WI-FI: Realistically, Wi-Fi is only available in the Port Vila and Luganville areas, be it free or otherwise. Several cafes in each city have “free” Wi-Fi for paying customers. “The” Vanuatu library is located in the Parliament Building in Port Vila. You can access the Internet via their computers for free during government hours, which are listed above.

Language: Almost all business and governmental employees speak three or more languages. The most common ones are English, Bislama, and French.

Tanna Volcano: Viewing the Yasur Volcano on the island of Tanna is one of the spectacular highlights of the South Pacific. Don't pass this opportunity by, under any circumstance.

When you are anchored in Port Resolution on the southeastern corner of Tanna, the round trip four-wheel drive truck ride to/from the volcano will cost you 1,000 VATU ($11 USD) per person and the admission fee to the volcano is 3,350 VATU ($37 USD) for adults and half that for children under the age of 12.

The truck ride takes about 45 minutes to get to the volcano. The cost of the ride is negotiable, some tourist paid 2,000 VATU or more for the round trip. VATU is the only currency accepted by John, the truck driver. The truck departs the Port Resolution Yacht Club which is located on the bluff at the northeast corner of the bay. You can walk to the volcano. The hike will take you 2.5 to 3.0 hours one way. Walking back from the volcano would be a big challenge for most yachties since the road and trails are rough and there are no lights to guide you in the dark.

The one day volcano park pass is paid at the entrance to the park. The cashier prefers VATU, yet will take U.S. or Australian dollars, discounting their value as much as 15%!

Keep in mind the following points when taking the volcano tour:

  • Visit the volcano on a clear weather day when the wind is NOT blowing from a western direction. On cloudy days, rainy days, or western wind days you will have a very difficult time viewing the volcano, if you see it at all.
  • Make sure you take bug repellant, a flash flight, plenty of camera batteries, good footwear, and clothes to stay warm and dry. The walk from the parking lot to the rim of the volcano is about one hundred meters long on a concrete path. It gets very cool at the rim of the volcano after the sun sets. Plan on taking hundreds of photos and videos. You will be walking around the rim of the volcano and down the path in the dark, so a flashlight will come in handy.
  • You should see the volcano in both daylight and at night time. Doing both gives you a totally different perspective. So you want to arrive at the volcano just before sunset. This REQUIRES that the truck leaves the yacht club at or before 1630. Make sure the truck driver knows your requirements and do not pay him until the truck is ready to depart. If the truck is not moving at 1631 tell the driver that you will view the volcano some other day. Historically, some truck drivers work on island time and their clients only see the volcano at night because of a late departure.
  • The volcano is shaped like a figure 8. It has two calderas with a low wall of rock between them. The southern most caldera is near the parking lot and is the most active. However, from the rim of this caldera you can NOT see the bottom of the volcano where much of the continuous action is. Most tourists only view the southern most caldera. Make sure you walk the rim of the volcano several hundred meters to the north and look down inside the northern caldera. You can look directly into the mouth of the monster from the rim of the northern caldera. From this location you can also view the massive destruction of the volcanic lake that once existed on the western side of the volcano. If you are an adventurer, walk the entire rim of the volcano, plenty of people have done so in the past. Just be sure to do so in daylight hours with good footwear.

Other Vanuatu islands have active volcanoes. They require very, very long hard hikes, have higher fees, and the volcanoes are often hidden from view by clouds and rain. Do Yasur on Tanna Island, then place a big check mark next to “volcano.”

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

All government officials were friendly and professional.

If you get a weather window for traveling south to New Caledonia or New Zealand, or east to Fiji, jump on it big time.

Submitted by: Jason and Karen Trautz, S/V “YOLO” (You Only Live Once)

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