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Clearance Formalities Worldwide: How Experiences Vary

By Sue Richards last modified Dec 14, 2015 09:23 PM
Kicking off this report is circumnavigator Paul D., who is keen to share both the positive and negative treatment he has received from officials in the different countries he has cleared into en-route. Hopefully this will encourage fellow cruisers to pass on their own experiences with authorities worldwide, to enable those planning long-term cruising to go better prepared.

Published: 2015-10-12 23:00:00
Topics: Cruising Information
Countries: Fiji , Indonesia , New Zealand , Panama

Posted 13 October 2015:

I have some comments to share with Noonsite about the clearing into various countries. I know that experiences vary, but I do see a trend in many places.

My positive experiences have been in the Canaries, Cape Verdes, Grenada and many Caribbean islands especially the French, the French Polynesian islands, Niue, Vanuatu - and I might have forgotten some?

The poor to very poor experienced have been in: Columbia, San Blas and Panama, Tonga, Fiji (very poor!) and NZ (yes NZ!).

- Caribbean: French islands are fine, but most other islands there are problems.

- Panama: Corrupt and too expensive.

- Curacao: Complicated, but the people are nice.

- Tonga: Some officials were corrupt and asked for souvenirs, etc.

- Fiji: A total pain in the neck in Suva. Lost 2 days and corrupted all over.

- NZ, Opua: I experienced very arrogant and intimidating Bio Security and Customs. Even on departure, Customs were very intimidating. Awful treatment from a civilised country. Confiscated everything - even things they should not have confiscated.

As an extra note - workers in NZ are now way too expensive and did the jobs poorly for me. They live high on comments made, I think, 20 years ago, when they were less expensive and did good work. Are they the victim of their own success? Perhaps, as they seem to overcharge everywhere and the work I have seen so far is very poorly done all over the place. I will not go back there and someone needs to tell an updated story, so sailors following us will not be disappointed. In addition, the trip to and from NZ was less than pleasant and that seems to be the case for most of the sailors I met.

- New Caledonia: Fine, but a bit of work/walking.

- Vanuatu - Port Vila: Excellent, but an airport official asked one of my crew for money and gave no receipt.

- East Timor: Corrupted officials, but pleasant. Acceptable - but too cumbersome.

- Indonesia: Totally corrupt. Officials do not do the job they are paid for as they only focus on the tips. There are signs in the many offices not to give tips, but if you don’t you will not make it.

Paul D.

If you would like to contribute your experiences to this report, please email or post a comment.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Dec 14, 2015 09:22 PM

Posted on behalf of Chris Swallow:
I think you should be very careful about publishing this type of comment without getting a balanced opinion.

We have spent the last year or so traveling from Portugal to Australia and have only once come across anything but friendly professionals when clearing in or out.

For me though the best was Fiji where the officials all came to the boat in fairly short order within an hour of arriving at Savusavu and the procedures were a breeze. We cleared out at Vuda and one again it could not have been easier, this time the officials came to an office in the marina. In both cases there was no sign of corruption, just professionals doing an excellent job.

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