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Eritrea , Massawa Updates

By Captain Jack & SY Lavinia — last modified Sep 09, 2015 10:11 PM

Published: 2013-04-18 23:00:00
Countries: Eritrea

Massawa: April 2013

Prior to entering the harbour - call traffic control on VHF Ch 13, 16. Expect to be kept waiting outside the harbour in the "anchorage area" (at a depth of 25m). Port Control contact the Navy - to obtain their approval. The Navy post/tower is on the starboard side of the harbour entrance, while the Port Control building is on the port side. Both can see you and it feels like they are waiting until you start dropping the anchor before giving you approval to come into the harbour and get moored up (very frustrating!).

You will be told to moor alongside the quay, berth No. 1 or 2 - some 400m on the port side (200m in front of tug/pilot vessels on the same side). It is an uncomfortable and possibly even a dangerous place - exposed to side wind and swell. Many yachts before have had troubles with "jumped-off" or torn-out  fenders - as clearly visible on peer granite edges heavily marked by gel coats.  The Navy do not care and insist that you can't anchor and must stay on the quay (probably to keep an eye on you). A side/breast anchor is essential most of the time. Myself, I went stern to the quay with my main anchor far away in the port basin, i.e safe. Nobody objected. But ...

There is not much traffic in the port. Some 3 fishing boats went by during the 2 days I was there and 1 cargo vessel.

Probably because of security problems in the past, the port is quite strict with its rules. Above all the rules state that the Navy have the final word of dis/approvals. Regardless of if you have all legal paperwork with official permits done and paid for (also concerning visits and diving on neighbouring islands).

A gate pass is issued on arrival, valid for 48 hours. Within that time a visa has to be made available.

The harbour immigration office is situated in a green building, Customs just next to the port gate. However, visas must be applied for at the town office usually. Sometimes it may be possible that the harbour immigration officer will take the passport/s there and return with visas inserted later. No agents needed. USD 50/pers for visa is the main cost.

There is quite a difference in bank/official and street exchange rate (15 Nfa versus 39 Nfa = 1 USD). So depending on how you exchage yoru money, the place could be expensive and/or very cheap. It is recommended to make a bank exchange, at least for the visa cost amount - to have a proof of funds exchange in case...

Water by truck cistern at USD 10/1 ton - easy, operative. Fuel probably more difficult, but I didn't get any this time.

Re-provisioning available, mainly by local produce. Anything imported is rather expensive.

Restaurants (street) are plenty around the port, reasonably good food quality. Check prices first when ordering. The pubs operators are aware about exchange rate games and are ready to cheat on prices. Local beer is good, however served usually not well chilled. USD 0,70 a bottle in a restaurant. Bottles themselves are costly and you are not allowed to bring them in to the port area. A bribe to the gate guards is usually essential.

The city has a regular bus service, mini buses (bus stop) and cabs - all quite easily accessible from the port gate (300 m).

Pawel - SY Lavinia

Massawa: December 4th 2009

Please note the folowing change for sailors in Eritrea...

  • In MASSAWA Port it is no more allowed to anchor in the port, you have to be alongside the quay, and it's sometime very choppy, so you need really big fenders.
  • Only 2 or maximum 3 berths are available (around 15 meter each)... The worst thing is you have to pay 15 dollars a day for no service at all and you have to pass through a military gate - very suspicious and no one can visit you without a special authorisation...
  • You can get now fuel via the Ministry of Tourism (you have to go Adaga 3 km for that), price was 1 dollar a liter...
  • For Visiting Dahlak national Park you have to go also same place and pay for a maximum 10 days trip 50 dollars for the boat and 20 dollars per person on board except Captain...

I can give more information on request through my email adress...

Captain Jack
[email protected]

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alexdem says:
Apr 30, 2014 09:39 PM

I have visited Massawa in the end of March, 2014. When approach port entrance, call Port control on VHF16, then proceed to berth 1. All officials (customs, immigration, harbourmaster and health) come onboard, fill papers themselves. After 10 minutes all formalites fixed. No fees at all! They give you shorepass for 48 hours, if you want to stay more, you need a visa. All what you need at check out - to visit immigration, they put a stamp in passport and give sail permit for 30 days (for free also!). It is possible to fill water, try to fill diesel, I couldn't. Be carefull with provisioning - it is prohibited to carry any food or drinks to port - you need to agree with some ship chandlery. We had some troubles at gate according this stupid rules.