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Clearance and Yacht Information for Bitung

By SY Soggy Paws — last modified Apr 13, 2017 05:56 PM

Published: 2017-03-31 23:00:00
Countries: Indonesia

Submitted by Sherry McCampbell (SY Soggy Paws) regarding Clearance and Yacht Info. in Bitung. March 30, 2017.

Before Entering Indonesia

Pre-Arrival Notification: Before we went ashore the first day, I was re-reading what I could find on my computer about completing the formalities in Indonesia.  The newest Indonesia Guidebook says something about having your agent do the required pre-arrival notification.  So I emailed Ruth, with Isle Marine in Bali (our guarantor for our Social Visa) asking her how a yacht that didn’t have an agent would do the pre-arrival notification, and whether it was required.  Her response was something along the lines of “your Yachters entry is your pre-arrival notification” but she had also texted Customs in Bitung that we had arrived.  I again asked her if there was an email address to email to, and I never got a straight answer to that question.  So I would make sure your Yachters arrival date is as accurate as possible.  (I guessed right and we actually arrived on the day we said we would).  But, if it were me, I would also try emailing or texting a pre-arrival notification, in case you get some Customs officer who thinks you should have submitted one.  Here are some Customs email addresses that might work: [email protected] and [email protected] Cell # +62 0877 5165 6225

Before you enter Indonesia, make sure you have a boat stamp.

Customs especially wants the captain to both sign AND STAMP documents.  On the other hand, not having a proper rubber boat stamp last year, we used the one we had previously made for our old boat, with the wrong hailing port and wrong registration number, and no one seemed to notice. 

Here is what we did... not sure it was all exactly what we should have done, but this is it.

We had previously obtained a Social Visa, by ourselves, in Davao Philippines.  I will detail those notes elsewhere.  We had also pre-registered our yacht information on the Indonesian Government website.

Approaches to Bitung

On arrival southbound from the Philippines, after about 5 days of mostly long day-hops from Davao, we entered the northern end of Lembeh Strait.  We had our AIS on, and we were listening on Channel 16 (which is very quiet here), when we arrived around 5:30pm.  We did not call in though, and no one called us.  The VHF is VERY quiet here.  (The big ships seem to go around Lembeh Island and approach Bitung from the south, so any vessel traffic management would be focused in that direction).

We came in the north entrance to Lembeh Strait and went direct to the Serena Besar anchorage (the little island in the middle of the strait at the north end of Bitung).  There is a LOT of trash in Lembeh strait, including massive plastic accumulations and lots of logs / tree branches, etc.  There are also scattered FADs.  At dusk there are tons of fishing boats headed out.  Best to try to time arrival during daylight.

Anchoring in Bitung

There is space on the south side of Serena Besar in about 50-65 ft for at least 2-3 boats (01-27.545 / 125-13.862 E).  It is a decent anchorage except quite a bit of current, and the fishing boats coming and going at all hours.  It is swimmable at the right time of the tide.  At the wrong time, the tidal debris is hanging about and would discourage going in the water.  The water is clear enough to see the reefs in good light.


We went ashore the first day at the Water Police station that is on the mainland coast just a short dinghy ride almost due west of the Serena Besar anchorage (approx. 01 27.58 N / 125 13.30 E, usually a big boat labeled Polisi there).  We went around the end of the big boat and into the inner harbor, in the left hand corner there is a ramp, and you could either wheel your dinghy up the ramp, or put a stern anchor out and tie to shore.  The police guys keep an eye on your dinghy.  The tidal range is 6 ft so you need to consider tidal issues.  We went in a nearly low tide, so coming back at high tide, one of us had to wade out to where the dinghies were.  Bring a stern anchor!! 

This is a short dinghy ride but a long taxi ride into town.

Later, on our other 2 trips in to finish the formalities, we opted to dinghy into the Fishing Pier (Perlabuhan Perikanan Aertembaga on Google Maps).  Here, we put our dinghy in a protected niche in the NW corner of the harbor, squeezed in between the small fishing boats, again with a stern line out and the bow line on a big bollard (01 26.84 N / 125 12.57 E).  We asked a couple of the fishermen working on nets nearby if this was OK.  They said they’d keep an eye on it.  (We ended up paying one guy when we came back, a small “tip”).  This location is a longer, and usually wet, dinghy ride, but much easier with land transportation.


We were told you take a motorcycle (ojek) from there into town and once in town, the blue mini-vans (bemos) are shared route taxis and go all over.  A route taxi costs between 3000-5000 rupiah in town, and maybe as much as 10000 on a longer haul.  We were told different amounts by different people on the same route, so it's same as in the Philippines, once you know what it should cost, you try to have exact change and just hand it to the driver and walk away.   That way you avoid the tourist markup.

In our case, however, we were fortunate on our first day to be offered a ride in to Immigration by one of the policemen.  They were all very nice.  It is quite a long way, so we gave the driver (unasked–for) Rp40,000 (about $3 US) for taking the 4 of us quite a long way into town.  Later, we took a bonafide taxi (an English speaking guy hanging around the taxi area outside the port gate) and he asked us for Rp100,000, but accepted Rp50,000, for the trip back which included picking us up at the grocery store and a short stop at a public market for veggies.  (note about Rp13,300 per US dollar now)


From the fishing harbor, we walked out through the gate, and hung out in the shade at the intersection until a blue mini bus went by in the right direction (west).  The guy took us to the end point for his route, which is at the corner of Jalan Sam Ratulangi and Jalan Sam Ratulangi/Jalan Desa Simalong. (this intersection is marked by the Summer Hotel on, but Summer is located in a different place on Google Maps).  I will call this intersection, the "main intersection", and use it as a reference point for the rest of the locations (01 26.66 N / 125 11.43 E).  A lady on the bus told us it was 4,000 per person.  Later going back the other way, someone else told us to only pay 3,000.

Once at the main intersection, it is about a 5 minute walk west along that Sam Ratulangi street to Immigration.  You could perhaps get your bemo to go the whole way, we saw some going past us as we walked, but our guy stopped at the main intersection and insisted we get out.  Immigration is on the left hand (south) side of the road.  You know you are going in the right direction if you soon pass a roundabout with an Eiffel Tower-like monument.  In this stretch of street we saw several ATM's and cell phone stores.  A Google Map search for Immigration came up with the correct place. unfortunately has streets here but not much on information.  So I recommend you pre-download the Google Map for the area and locate Immigration (or make your first stop a stop at a cell phone store, so you have a working Google Maps).

I also recommend that you get the Google Translate app, and pre-download the Indonesian dictionary for offline use, before you arrive in Indonesia.  It is incredibly helpful, because no signs are in English.  If you are online you can even point the camera at a sign or document, from within the app, and it will (usually) translate for you.

Immigration: (Kantor Imigrasi) We went inside, the lady at the Customer Service desk spoke good English, and told us to sit in the waiting area.  About a minute later, we were called up to the desk, they took our passports and we showed them our visas.  We waited about 5-10 minutes in a semi-air conditioned waiting room, and they gave us our passports back with a stamp in them, on the visa page, with that day’s date.  The also asked for a crew list.  No charge.  With a Social Visa, we now have 60 days (not 2 months) from that date before we must renew.  They told us clearly to begin the visa renewal process one week ahead of the end of the 60 days.

Customs: (Kantor Pabean) Walk back to the main intersection and turn right, heading south toward the water.  At the end of that street is a gate area with a sleepy guard.  Just inside that gate, to the left, is the Customs building).  Inside, we asked at the desk, and they directed us into an air-conditioned “waiting area”.  This area includes a computer terminal to make adjustments to your Yachters Yacht Declaration.

The general procedure is to hand over copies of passports, boat registration, your previous port’s clearance, and a printed copy of your Yachters Vessel Declaration (filled in), they check it over, and have you make corrections, if necessary, with their online terminal in the office.  Then they schedule a boat visit for them to inspect the boat. (within a few hours or next morning at the latest).  After the inspection (more on that later), you return to Customs the next day to collect your completed and signed Vessel Declaration form.

We had several problems with our pre-submitted info on the Yachters site.  Our info, which I had edited several times before leaving Davao, had 4 entries (for the same person) in the crew list.  At this time, the ONLY way to correct this is to delete the ENTIRE yacht entry and start over.  Since that also deleted the boat picture and registration info previously uploaded, Customs agreed to let me re-submit when we got back on board, from my laptop.  The other boat that cleared in with us has the opposite problem—one of their crew members was missing from the document, in spite of the fact that the crew had been on the list when they printed the paperwork to apply for a Social Visa, several weeks before.  They corrected this and one other minor issue (Port of Origin is meant to be the origin of the current trip, ie Davao, not original boat origin back when you started your cruise).  The Customs officer reprinted their information.  After taking a half an hour to review our documents, we were told we were finished, except for the inspection, which we scheduled for later that afternoon.

No charge at all for Customs, or Immigration.

Quarantine: The Quarantine office is another building or two down the road toward the water from Customs.  You have to go outside the Customs compound, turn left and down the road and turn left into the Quarantine compound.  This is where you take the MARITIME DECLARATION OF HEALTH form you downloaded from the last page of your Yachters entry, which we had filled out, signed, and stamped. 

There was a very nice lady in the first office who spoke English.  She organized the whole procedure.  Since we did not already have a “green book” (Ship’s Health Book), which we apparently require in Indonesia, we had to get one of those.  A few minutes waiting, and the lady brought us to a wall that had all the charges for Quarantine on it, indicating we had to pay 35,000 for one thing (our Certificate of Pratique) and $15,000 for the Green Book.  (A total of about $4.50 per boat).  After paying that, we waited a few more minutes and were presented with a Certificate of Pratique stapled inside our new Green Book.  No boat visit required (we didn’t ask, they didn’t mention it).  (I notice now that I am on Noonsite, the “new procedures for yachts” indicate a Green Book is no longer required.  It only cost a $1.25)

The very last word the nice lady said to me was “You know that you have to return and get cleared out of Bitung before you leave for your next port.”  (we didn’t know, and not sure it is required for yachts).  It’s unknown whether you can get by without going to Quarantine at all.  Had we not asked the question, nobody would have told us to do it.  But you may run into problems down the way somewhere if you do not have the Certificate of Pratique.  I know that in Sorong, clearing out of Indonesia in 2016, Quarantine was a mandatory stop in the clearing-out process.  Customs would not give us our clearance document without it.

We didn’t ask if they Quarantine needed to come to the boat…and they never mentioned it.  So we got our paperwork without having to hassle with a visit from a Quarantine officer.

Customs Inspection: At the end of your visit to Customs ashore, you will negotiate with them for a time to have them visit your boat.  This is absolutely mandatory in Indonesia both arriving and departing the country.  We managed to put them off for a couple of hours so we could shop a little and get lunch.  Within 15 minutes of the appointed time, they came out in their own small launch with 4 or 5 young people (they were all still in, or just barely out of, Customs school).  A couple of them spoke very good English, and the rest spoke a little.  They circled the boat and took a couple of exterior pictures and then came aboard.  They had a detailed checklist for the inspection, and they faithfully went down the list item by item asking if we have this, and if so, taking a picture of it.  There were at least two guys with cameras (not sure how they split up who took pictures of what).  When asked about liquor, I showed them my 2 cases of beer and 4-5 open liquor bottles, which they faithfully photographed, and no further discussion.  When asked about drugs, I showed them our medicine cabinets and the prescription meds for blood pressure etc, and our prescription antibiotics (these were already listed in the “do you have drugs aboard” question).  They photographed both cabinets.  Some of my prescription are out of date, but I put the newest one forward and no one paid attention.  All my prescription backup is on the computer, they never asked for it. 

They wanted engine serial numbers, and they wanted to actually SEE them (we didn’t actually know where they were on this new-to-us boat, so that took a little time).  I had listed a gas generator on our list of equipment, they wanted to see that.  Dive compressor (wanted to see and photograph).  Dive tanks (we had 4 in the cockpit and 2 stowed, they took pics of the 4 in the cockpit).  I had listed 2 personal computers and one nav computer.  They took pictures of the Nav station.  Finally, the AIS, he wanted to see the actual AIS Transmit screen… to prove that our AIS was actually transmitting.  I said “you can see us on, right?” but he still wanted to see the transmit screen on the AIS, and he took a picture of it.  Our Vesper has an AIS Status screen that shows it’s transmitting.  I guess they have gotten wise to the dodge of having an AIS receiver only and using a cell phone app to post your position on AIS.

All in all, they were very pleasant, and professional, and thorough.  I offered them some cold water and was declined.  The whole visit took about 30 minutes per boat.  After the visit, we then had to return to Customs the next morning to receive our clearance paperwork, and were told “make sure you bring your stamp”.  Part of the Customs clearance paper is a half-page list of things the Captain is agreeing to, and the Captain has to sign and stamp that he agrees to this list.

Shoreside Facilities

Cell/Internet: We bought simPati Telkomsel sims with 12GB emblazoned on them for 85000 Rupiah (note, the 12GB is split into several different applications so it's not quite 12GB usable, but it only costs US$6.30).  Make sure you download the MyTelkomsel app, it's the best way to manage "loads" on the device and buy packages, because all the text messages and the sim card built-in menus are in Indonesian.  Best to bring your device with you, so you get the right sized sim card and get it all activated.  You will need to specify when buying whether you want a phone sim (phone/text only) or phone sim with data.  The simPati is a phone sim with data.  We got that one for both phones and for our wifi device.

Cash / ATMs: There seem to be ATM’s all over the place.  Max withdrawal at the ATMs has been 1,250,000 Rupiah (about $100) but you can do multiple withdrawals. I found Mandiri Bank’s ATMs worked best for me, but our friends also used a different one (BRI, I think) that didn’t work for me.  There is a Mandiri ATM at the big hospital building across the street from Immigration and back toward the main intersection a block or so.  Mandiri sign out on the street.  Google is your friend in finding a specific bank’s ATMs.

Groceries: The largest supermarket that we have found is called Citi Mart (Citirumah Makanart Swalayan).  It is on the road that the Customs gate is on (Jalan Yos Sudarso), about a 5 minute walk west of the Customs gate, on the north side of the street.  They sell beer and some liquor there, as well as a moderate amount of groceries.  Being well stocked from the Philippines, we didn’t even ask the prices of the liquor.  The Bintang beer was 373,200 Rupiah ($28) for a case of 24 330ml bottles.  We also saw Heiniken there, probably cost a little more. They had a reasonable array of food, including potatoes and big onions.  Some green veggies (the usual stuff).  I saw some sliced American cheese.  I saw chicken products for sale (didn’t really look closely at the meat because my freezer is full).  They had boxed milk.  Half of the building was a department store, and upstairs, a fried chicken restaurant with a menu in English.  There are several other smaller stores we saw in the taxi rides further out of town.

We went by taxi to the small veggie market (on our way back to the boat the first day).  Probably can get there by blue bus, but I can’t tell you how. Here’s a general location:  01 27.00 N / 125 12.00 E  Somewhere in the general vicinity of Pondok Café Three Putra (search for it on Google Maps) (due NW of the Fishing Pier, inland, several blocks up and several blocks west).

There must be a fish market nearby the fishing pier (looked like one just west of the fishing pier, but at 10am there was no one there selling fish).  Maybe only early morning or maybe late afternoon.

Boat Parts: Right near the “main intersection” is a wonderful store with an amazing array of boat stuff, including Icom and Garmin products (a few), stainless steel bolts and screws, etc.  This would be the first stop if you were looking for something to repair equipment onboard.  The name of the store is Ud Karya Mentari and it’s on Google Maps in approximately the right place.  There is a person who speaks perfect English, and actually understands something about the products they are selling.  They will take a credit card with a 2% surcharge.  Contact info: [email protected] Cell: 0812-1908-6901

There are lots of smaller hardware stores on the street going away from the Fishing Pier.  We also saw a big Yamaha sign somewhere when in the taxi.


Bastianos Anchorage: Some previous friends had recommended an anchorage near Bastianos Dive Resort on Lembeh Island.  We checked it out by dinghy and saw that the anchorage area there would be much cleaner and quieter, plus less current.  So we have moved over there.  Fairly deep anchoring (60-75 ft), but a much nicer anchorage (anything shallower is coral).  There are 2 dive resorts right here, plus another not far away. We are going ashore for dinner tonight at the resort (buffet style, 150,000 per person).  Only hassle here are dive boats coming and going from 2 resorts and they don’t slow down, so best to anchor in an area (a) not right in front of the resorts and (b) out of the path of the dive boats coming and going.  Look around 01 26.91 N / 125 14.35 E.  We currently have 3 boats anchored in that general vicinity.

Other Anchorages: If you have a small dinghy, or just want to be closer to town, you can anchor off the fishing pier.  One boat we talked to spent a week anchored there with no problems while the captain went on a visa run.  I also noticed that another boat who’s tracks we have went right down next to the main commercial pier (even further south/west than the Fishing Pier) and anchored for the day for clearance out.

Sherry McCampbell
s/v Soggy Paws

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