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Further Information On New Regulations In Ecuador

By doina — last modified Aug 30, 2007 06:38 AM

Published: 2007-08-30 06:38:52
Countries: Ecuador

Noonsite has received a lot of information on developments in Ecuador as regards new regulations affecting visiting yachts. Here below you can find a report by yacht Carina as well as reponses from Tripp Martin of Puerto Amistad and Galo Ortiz of Puerto Lucia.

Update to Ongoing Changes in Ecuador by SV Carina Today we leave Ecuador; our international zarpe is in hand. There are a couple of other things that have happened here that should be added to our letter sent earlier this week to complete the picture of our experiences in Ecuador this year.

The first thing that happened was that after 90 days in Ecuador and our refit incomplete (we were without chainplates), Immigration in Ecuador declined to renew our tourist visas. They told us to leave the following day and were unmoved that our boat was not fit to go to sea. Nor would they explain the rationale for their decision. Unfortunately, three separate Migracion Officers (they are Policia Nacional here) gave us three separate indications as to when we would be allowed back into the country (a weekend, three months, six months). We spent two days in Guayaquil trying to resolve this, had magnificent interpretation help from Marisol Stewart (wife of George of Stewart Yates y Servicios) and even got the opinion of an immigration lawyer (also facilitated by Marisol). The advice offered by the lawyer was that Migracion was wrong but to fight it would cost a lot of money. Not wishing to be separated from our boat in a country going through turmoil, we chose to stay illegally in the country for 31 days. Today we paid fines totaling $400 (are now legal again) and were given three days to leave. We did not report this previously because we were not sure what fines we would face. We thought being illegal was the worst possible thing imaginable until Aduana (Customs) weighed in this week. Wednesday June 25, at around suppertime, a Puerto Lucia lancha arrived at Carina and whisked Philip away to a meeting with our agent and Puerto Lucia manager, Galo Ortiz. The reason was that Customs (Aduana) was threatening to impose a fine of 10% of the value of our vessel because Carina has been in Ecuador for over 90 days. We went on record as absolutely refusing to pay anything and after the tenacious intervention Señor Ortiz and Roque Proaño Párraga, our agent, Aduana signed our zarpe paperwork the following day but indicated other boats here would not be immune from this new "law". Puerto Lucia, maintains, as do their lawyers who are now involved, that there is no legal basis for Aduana's claim. And since Aduana refused to issue a factura (bill) for the money they were requesting, it does appear that this may simply be an illegal attempt to extract more money from cruisers visiting Ecuador. Boats here that haven't yet been in Ecuador for 90 days are being asked to renew Customs paperwork. They are not being asked for a fee at this time. We do not know if this situation is limited to the port of La Libertad/Salinas.

It's been an interesting stay here in Ecuador in 2007, and though we'll be missing many cruiser and Ecuadorian friends, and the opportunity to explore more Andean villages, we are looking forward to hoisting sail and heading for the high seas.

Leslie Linkkila and Philip DiNuovo

Response from Tripp Martin

My name is Tripp Martin and I’m the owner/manager of Puerto Amistad in Bahía de Caráquez, Ecuador. I’ve received several inquiries about the e-mails from Carina about their stay in Puerto Lucia. I’d like to comment on and possibly clarify their messages and let people know how we in Bahía are being affected and how we’re coping. The situation isn’t anywhere near as dramatic as has been represented, at least not here in Bahia.

Immigration: There has been no change in immigration law. What has happened is that immigration has been working on an integrated computer system for tracking people and it is now easier for them to see how long you’ve been in the country. As a tourist you’re allowed six months per year. Since they look backward the previous twelve months, it can be a problem for boats that were here a year ago. This is what happened to Carina. Here in Bahía we’ve been able to work around this issue for our customers that have overstayed their time.

Customs: Carina reported that they were asked to pay a fine of 10% of the value of their boat because it stayed more than 90 days. This is only an issue in Salinas, and by all rights appears to have been a clumsy attempt by the local aduanas officials to extract a large bribe from them. Here in Bahía the boats don’t even have to go to customs and they’ve left us alone. Be that as it may, I’m going to appeal to the Minister of Tourism to intervene and try to get this issue quashed.

Fuel: The fundamental issue at stake here is that fuel is highly subsidized. This leads to large amounts of smuggling of low-cost subsidized fuel to Colombia and Peru where it isn’t subsidized. In a step to limit this smuggling, the government prohibited the sale of diesel and gasoline in containers unless the customer has a special approval from the Ministry of Hydrocarbons. The Ministry won’t approve the sale in containers to foreigners due to the subsidies, but have approved the sale to Puerto Amistad because we are an Ecuadorian company. We then re-sell to our customers here. The impact on yachts here is that they have to pay a delivery charge which they didn’t before, but at $1.50/gallon for diesel and $2/gallon for gasoline, they’re still getting a bargain compared to international pricing.

Propane: The situation is similar to diesel and gasoline, but we haven’t had any shortage of cooking gas for any of our customers.

Agency: As of June this year, the navy decided that all foreign flagged boats will be required to hire an agent to clear in/out of Ecuadorian ports. We suffered here in Bahía because there was no agency and the navy wouldn’t let anyone enter without being represented. Be that as it may, we now have a license for an agency which I did as a partnership with Johnny Romero (YachtGala/Naugala)in the Galapagos. We’re charging $150 in/out and $50 for boats to checkout that were already here. That’s the same fees as are charged in Manta. Boats that wish to come to Bahía should contact me before sailing so I can have their arrival pre-arranged when they arrive.

In Carina’s e-mails they’ve said they can’t recommend Ecuador as a cruising destination. While I respect Philip and Leslie’s opinion, I believe this to be an overstatement that reflects a terrible experience they suffered in Puerto Lucia, but does not accurately reflect the situation here in Bahía or in the Galapagos. This is indeed a time of change in Ecuador due to the recent change in government, but we are committed to continuing to make our customers’ stays as pleasant and comfortable as possible.

If anyone wishes additional information, feel free to contact me directly at puertoamistadecuador@yahoo.com

Tripp

From Galo Ortiz, Puerto Lucia

  • The security procedure is the same for all those that navigate Ecuadorian waters. Similar procedures are in effect in Peru and Chile.
  • Yachts have been able to obtain written clearance from the Ecuadorian authorities to stay up to a year in Puerto Lucia Yacht Club. The Salinas Port Captain and Ecuadorian Customs representative have personally informed us and each one of the owners of the yachts, that yachts will be allowed to stay up to a year. No fines or import duties will be imposed on vessels that have already extended their stay over a year. All they need to do is to submit a letter from the owner to customs requesting the extension.
  • It is allowed to foreigners to buy fuel in La Libertad area. There is no problem with propane supply. Yachts are able to obtain fuel and propane in the La Libertad area at domestic prices.
  • We have suspended fuel delivery in our marina because we are rectifying the environmental impact study.
  • For cruisers there are important improvements to the quality of service and infrastructure in Puerto Lucia marina: Wi-Fi Service 24-hours without cost. A hall for cruiser's use, with Internet service in three computers. Improvement of the floating docks and spaces on the hard. A new indoor working area for cruisers is under construction.

Best regards, Galo

Additional information regarding changes in Ecuador

Your information on Ecuador seems to fall in line with what I have pieced together here. There are, however, some additional restrictions that cruisers should be made aware of. Upon arrival a boat will be given a clearance for up to 90 days. Near the end of that time, an additional clearance for 90 days may be applied for. An agent needs to be involved for each clearance. 180 days clearance is the maximum that will be allowed. Vessels staying over 180 days are subject to fine and import fees of up to 10% of the vessels value.

It seems that the dust has not settled yet, and that more changes could be forthcoming. A long time expat that I talked to, thinks that things might eventually go back to pretty much the way they were. Time will tell.

My agent gave me two websites that he said would explain everything. Only one was in English. It fell far short of explaining everything. What I found was an overview with no details. That site is www.seprom.armada.mil.ec

The other site is www.seprom.armadaecuador.com

Donald Bryden

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