Documents Required

Documents and Other Considerations when Cruising Abroad:

Clearance formalities vary greatly from country to country, being extremely simple in some and ridiculously complicated in others. The complexity of formalities is often a reflection of the nature of the regime in power and it can be safely assumed that the less liberal a country the more complicated its entry formalities.

Regardless of the country visited, or the kind of government in power there, formalities should always be taken seriously and even what look like illogical restrictions should always be complied with. Moreover, however lax or strict a country may be known to be, entry formalities must be completed as soon as possible, and the intention to do so must be indicated as soon as one enters that country’s territorial waters by flying the Q flag and contacting the relevant authorities by radio.

In the current security climate, it is now not unusual to have to advise the customs or coastguard authority of your ETA two or more days in advance. All countries where advance notice of arrival is required have this information clearly stated in bold.

See the individual Noonsite Formalities pages for each country for full details:
For example: https://www.noonsite.com/place/new-zealand/formalities/

Each port of entry also has localized clearance information:
For example: https://www.noonsite.com/place/new-zealand/north-island-new-zealand/opua-bay-of-islands/#clearance-section

Be sure to research the options for clearance ports in advance so you can select the most suitable one for clearing into and out of the country.

Boat Documents

It pays to carry all original boat documents.

Although some forms will have to be filled in on the spot (or for many countries now online in advance), considerable time can be saved by having some papers prepared beforehand (for example photocopies of the ship’s papers as well as plenty of crew lists).

Many cruisers now have a small printer/scanner on board to save time and effort finding a copy shop ashore. Place the documents in a solid folder with waterproof pockets or similar, to cope with countless trips ashore and thumbing.

Boat Registration

It is an international requirement that all vessels (including trailed sailboats) outside their home waters are properly registered. Many countries have a simpler (and cheaper) option to register a boat other than the more involved commercial register.

In the United States yachts can either be registered with the state where the owner lives or if ownership can be traced to the original owner, the vessel can be documented with the Coast Guard. The latter is generally preferable if possible when cruising abroad.

Note: USCG vessel documentation and renewals can now be done online. Read more at this noonsite news report.

Insurance Certificate

Many countries and some marinas insist on a minimum level of third-party insurance (be sure to carry the original document). Also, there may be an additional requirement such as a translation or a reciprocal arrangement with a local insurance company. See individual country pages for any special requirements e.g. Australia Documents.

Noonsite Insurance Information.

Radio Licence

A radio operator’s license, whether for VHF, HF or amateur radio, is required in most countries, although this is rarely checked. Some cruising yachts carry an amateur radio, most of their operators being properly licensed to operate a maritime mobile station. However, in some countries, such stations can only be used legally if the operator is in possession of a reciprocal license issued by the country concerned. In most places, this is a simple formality and costs a small fee. In a few countries there are strict restrictions on the use of any radio equipment while in port, while in others, such as Thailand and New Zealand, the use of portable marine VHF radios on land is forbidden.

Noonsite Communications Information

VAT Paid Certificate

If cruising in Europe with an EU registered boat, then a certificate showing that VAT has been paid will be expected. In the case of an older boat, then endeavor to obtain a Customs declaration that ‘VAT is deemed to have been paid’, before leaving your home. Without it, a Customs official can insist that VAT is paid on the current value of the boat at the rate applicable in the country being visited.

UK boat owners cruising abroad post-Brexit should carry evidence of VAT status on board at all times. Plus evidence of where the yacht was at the end of the transition period, such as a confirmatory letter from a marina and maintenance invoices. Keep careful records of where your boat has been subsequently, should you be asked by officials.

Noonsite VAT Information

Clearance or Exit Document

This is the document which is (or should be) issued to show that a boat has left a previously visited country legally. It is often called a ‘zarpe’. It will be expected at your next port of call. Note that some countries do not issue exit zarpes as a matter of routine (e.g. USA) so some planning will be required if your destination country will not permit entry without one.

Other Documents

As well as the above, some countries may also want to see the ship’s logbook (this can be used as a legal document) and a list of electronic or other valuable items on board.

Boat Stamp

A ship’s stamp is greatly appreciated in many countries where, for some strange reason, a rubber stamp has a certain authority. The stamp should show the name of the boat, registration number, and flag state.

Useful Resources

  • Managing Essential Paperwork whilst Cruising

    Even when you cast off your lines, bills, tax returns and admin still follow in your wake. This Yachting World article explains how to make... Read More

  • Storing Documents on Board

    Some useful ideas from Carolyn Shearlock of the Boat Galley.

    http://theboatgalley.com/storing-documents-on-a-boat/... Read More

  • UK Registration

    UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency has information on registering a yacht in the UK.

    https://www.gov.uk/register-a-boat/the-uk-ship-register... Read More

  • Where to Register your Yacht – A Guide

    Where to Register your Yacht Offshore: The Ultimate Guide... Read More

News

  • Indonesia: Super Yacht Asia Sinks Following Collision with an Unidentified Object

    Date Published - November 26, 2019

    This report was updated a few hours after it was posted with accurate facts from Asia's owners: Yacht Asia, a 29m superyacht, was lost in... Read More

Crew Documents

Passports

A valid passport is required for each crew member. It is a usual requirement that it is valid for at least six months. It is worth having good color copies of crew passports on board for carrying around when required instead of the real thing.

Visas

Ensure that every crew member who requires one, either has a visa in advance of arrival or ensure that a ‘visa on arrival’ will be issued. Visiting cruisers are often subject to different rules to those applied to visitors arriving by air or cruise liner. Be sure to check the current requirements well in advance of arrival. Some countries may have a convenient embassy in a neighboring state where a visa may be obtained. Do your research in advance using Noonsite’s detailed immigration information for each country.

For further information see Visa section below.

Crew Lists

Several copies of the complete crew list are likely to be requested when clearing into a new country. This list should include for each crew member, including the Skipper:-

– Full name
– Date and place of birth
– Nationality
– Passport number
– Date of expiry of the passport

Medical Information

Vaccination certificates if required.

Medicines: A prescription or a letter from a doctor specifying the medicine, and why it is taken, should accompany any medicines containing powerful narcotics or habit-forming drugs, especially those used by a member of the crew on a regular basis, such as heart and blood pressure medication, diuretics, tranquillisers, anti-depressants, stimulants or sleeping tablets. Also, take note if there is any particular restriction as some ‘over-the-counter’ medications can be restricted in some countries.

Skipper: Certificate of Competence

An International Certificate of Competence (ICC), or some official document showing the competence of the person in charge of the boat, is now required by officials in many countries. Whilst your home country may not require such a certificate, it is worth getting something before you start cruising to avoid any nasty surprises (see this Croatia report by American cruisers who had to pay to get a Croatia Boater’s License in lieu of an ICC certificate).

If traveling on the inland waterways of Europe, then proof of having passed the CEVNI exams is required. This is a theory test to ensure you understand the inland waterway rules and signage and can be done online.

It is not a general requirement in the Caribbean countries to ask for evidence of competence.

Noonsite Information on the International Certificate of Competence

Pets

Any animals on board must have international health certificates and their anti-rabies and other vaccinations should be kept up to date. All Noonsite Formalities have a pets section (for example https://www.noonsite.com/place/fiji/formalities/#pets-section).

Divers

If you carry scuba diving equipment on board, you may be asked to show diving qualification certificates before getting your tanks filled. In some countries spear guns are illegal. This is noted on the individual country pages under ‘Restrictions’.

Useful Resources

  • International Yacht Training (IYT)

    This website lists IYT schools worldwide that will provide ICC courses for candidates of any nationality.

    http://www.iytworld.com/index.php/schools... Read More

  • Managing Essential Paperwork whilst Cruising

    Even when you cast off your lines, bills, tax returns and admin still follow in your wake. This Yachting World article explains how to make... Read More

  • Royal Yachting Association

    The International Certificate of Competence can be obtained from them, as it is now required by most countries in Europe.

    Email: [email protected]

    http://www.rya.org.uk/Cruising

     ... Read More

Reports

  • Cruising Regulations: Obtaining an International Certificate of Competence (ICC)

    Date Published - July 18, 2018

    Even if a skipper's home country does not require any evidence of competency, officials in many countries expect one. Having an ICC will satisfy this... Read More

News

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19): Special Procedures Being Introduced in Ports of Entry Worldwide

    Date Published - February 12, 2020

    This document has tracked since the beginning of March 2020 the progress of countries worldwide as one by one they went into lockdown, closed their... Read More

  • Some Good News Regarding the International Certificate of Competence

    Date Published - March 07, 2012

    The Royal Yachting Association in the U.K. (the RYA) can now also issue an ICC to non-U.K. citizens/residents. This covers nationals of non-UNECE countries, including... Read More

Books

  • The International Certificate of Competence

    This concise little book covers all that is required for both the theory and the practical tests for an ICC for Europe. It includes a... Read More

Visas

While in some countries visa requirements are fairly clear, in others the situation concerning yachts is confusing. Foreign nationals arriving on a yacht can be treated basically in three different ways by the immigration authorities.

  • They are treated the same as ordinary tourists arriving by other means, in which case the usual visa requirements apply.
  • Special visa requirements are applied to those arriving by yacht, which means that in some countries foreign nationals arriving by yacht are treated differently to those visiting the country as ordinary tourists. This may mean that some countries which are happy to grant visas on arrival to tourists arriving by air, will insist that anyone arriving on a yacht must have obtained their visa in advance. This is often because tourists arriving by air must have an onward ticket to be given a visa while arriving on a yacht is not always regarded as a guarantee of one’s ability to depart by the same means.
  • Sailors are sometimes given special treatment by being allowed to enter a country without a visa, which is required from tourists arriving by other means. Sometimes visas are granted on arrival and occasionally are dispensed with altogether. However, in these cases, such special concessions are usually given only for a limited time and may be restricted to the duration of the yacht’s stay in port or while cruising certain areas. It may be necessary to obtain an ordinary visa to travel to other parts of the country or to leave the country by other means.

There are several suggestions concerning passports and visas which should be followed to avoid some of the problems that are known to have occurred in the past. Passports should have a validity well in excess of the intended period of travel. Many countries now insist that passports are valid for at least six months beyond the intended stay in their country.

For countries where a visa is required, this should be obtained well in advance, although one should make sure that the visa will still be valid when one arrives in the respective country as some countries stipulate that the entry must take place within three months of the visa being issued.

It is also a good idea to obtain visas for difficult countries, even if it is known that visas can be issued on arrival. A visa issued by their diplomatic mission abroad sometimes works wonders with local immigration officers. Wherever possible one should try to obtain a multiple entry visa, particularly for countries with overseas territories or dependencies, such as France (Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Réunion, St Pierre and Miquelon), Australia (Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and Cocos Keeling) or the USA (Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Guam).

Something that must be noted when cruising, is that visa regulations do change and often without warning. Always try to find out the latest situation before sailing to a certain country.

As most countries maintain diplomatic missions in neighboring countries, these are the best places to ask about changes and to apply for any necessary visas. Occasionally regulations change so quickly that even the diplomatic missions do not know about it.

Visa requirements, and the political climate generally, can often change quickly due to the improvement or deterioration of relations between countries.

Cruising in the EU – Noonsite Schengen Information

News

  • UK: 900,000 UK Boaters Set To Be Hit By Post-Brexit Travel Rules

    Date Published - October 13, 2020

    A new survey by the Royal Yachting Association has revealed the staggering number of UK boaters who are set to have their freedom to travel... Read More

Boat Equipment

AIS

It is becoming more common for countries to expect a boat to have its AIS receiver switched on if the boat carries one. In a few places (e.g. Singapore & Thailand) AIS is mandatory and would have to be hired if not already fitted.

Safety Equipment

As a minimum, a boat should be equipped with any safety and emergency equipment as required by their flag state for offshore cruising. In some countries, it is illegal to carry out of date flares (e.g. France).

Spares

Any spares (even standard engine and refrigeration spares) may not be easily available in other countries or may be available at greatly inflated prices. Stock up before departure and remember to ask joining crew members to bring out spares in their luggage.

Firearms

If firearms are carried, these should be licensed in the country of origin, as this license will be requested in many places.

Any firearms, ammunition, flare guns, spear guns or similar weapons on board must always be declared to Customs on arrival. They will often be removed and held in safekeeping until departure or, at a minimum, must be in a secure, sealed locker.

Adaptors

Make sure you have a wide range of power and water adaptors available, plus adaptors for re-filling your gas bottle.

A longer shore power cable is a really useful extra for all those times when the power bollard is just too far away (crowded marinas, on the hard, public quays, etc.)

Extra Kit

Investigate the advantages of a WiFi booster for accessing the internet at anchor and in marinas.

Identify how you are going to secure your valuable deck items such as dinghy, outboard etc. and purchase suitable cables, locks, and chains to prevent theft.

Useful Resources

  • The Q Flag: What it means and when to fly it

    A useful summary by Carolyn Shearlock of the Boat Galley.

    http://theboatgalley.com/the-q-flag/... Read More

Useful Resources

  • International Yacht Training (IYT)

    This website lists IYT schools worldwide that will provide ICC courses for candidates of any nationality.

    http://www.iytworld.com/index.php/schools... Read More

  • Managing Essential Paperwork whilst Cruising

    Even when you cast off your lines, bills, tax returns and admin still follow in your wake. This Yachting World article explains how to make... Read More

  • Royal Yachting Association

    The International Certificate of Competence can be obtained from them, as it is now required by most countries in Europe.

    Email: [email protected]

    http://www.rya.org.uk/Cruising

     ... Read More

  • Storing Documents on Board

    Some useful ideas from Carolyn Shearlock of the Boat Galley.

    http://theboatgalley.com/storing-documents-on-a-boat/... Read More

  • The Q Flag: What it means and when to fly it

    A useful summary by Carolyn Shearlock of the Boat Galley.

    http://theboatgalley.com/the-q-flag/... Read More

  • UK Registration

    UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency has information on registering a yacht in the UK.

    https://www.gov.uk/register-a-boat/the-uk-ship-register... Read More

  • Where to Register your Yacht – A Guide

    Where to Register your Yacht Offshore: The Ultimate Guide... Read More

Reports

  • Covid-19: Example Protocol for Passage Preparation and Quarantine Aboard

    Date Published - August 04, 2020

    With quarantine aboard on arrival becoming standard practice in many countries, the OCC have produced a sample protocol to help yachts prepare accordingly. Noonsite has... Read More

  • Keeping your Yacht in Greece after Brexit: A Simplified View

    Date Published - June 01, 2020

    Chris Robb of the Cruising Association (CA) simplifies the rules for UK nationals who want to keep their boat in Greece post-Brexit.... Read More

  • Cruising Regulations: Obtaining an International Certificate of Competence (ICC)

    Date Published - July 18, 2018

    Even if a skipper's home country does not require any evidence of competency, officials in many countries expect one. Having an ICC will satisfy this... Read More

  • Demystifying international clearance for cruisers

    Date Published - July 03, 2013

    One of the most common questions by cruisers new to extended cruising is details of clearing into countries. How does it work? What do you... Read More

  • Croatia: Recognised Certificates of Competence

    Date Published - June 21, 2012

    The report is a link to a website giving a list of certificates of competency, by various countries and recognised in Croatia... Read More

  • Proof of Competency for European Countries

    Date Published - November 04, 2011

    Updated January 2015 - Frequently asked questions.... Read More

  • US SAILING creates International Proficiency Certificate for Bareboat Chartering

    Date Published - March 01, 2010

    Original report posted in October 2005.

    In order to make it easier for cruising sailors from the U.S. to charter sailboats in the European Union, US... Read More

News

  • Spain: RYA Certificates of Competence to be Reinstated

    Date Published - June 01, 2021

    UK Royal Yachting Association (RYA) issued certificates, including the International Certificate of Competence (ICC), are to be recognised in Spanish waters for those wanting to... Read More

  • UK: 900,000 UK Boaters Set To Be Hit By Post-Brexit Travel Rules

    Date Published - October 13, 2020

    A new survey by the Royal Yachting Association has revealed the staggering number of UK boaters who are set to have their freedom to travel... Read More

  • NZ: German Yacht Breaks Border Restrictions – Crew to be Deported and Yacht Liable for Duty

    Date Published - September 28, 2020

    NZ Immigration take swift action when a German Yacht arrives in Opua, NZ from French Polynesia without permission. All three crew are waiting to be... Read More

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19): Special Procedures Being Introduced in Ports of Entry Worldwide

    Date Published - February 12, 2020

    This document has tracked since the beginning of March 2020 the progress of countries worldwide as one by one they went into lockdown, closed their... Read More

  • Indonesia: Super Yacht Asia Sinks Following Collision with an Unidentified Object

    Date Published - November 26, 2019

    This report was updated a few hours after it was posted with accurate facts from Asia's owners: Yacht Asia, a 29m superyacht, was lost in... Read More

  • Some Good News Regarding the International Certificate of Competence

    Date Published - March 07, 2012

    The Royal Yachting Association in the U.K. (the RYA) can now also issue an ICC to non-U.K. citizens/residents. This covers nationals of non-UNECE countries, including... Read More

Books

  • Mexico: Charlie’s Charts of the Western Coast of Mexico

    It covers the marinas and anchorages from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, north in the Sea of Cortez to San Felipe, and south along... Read More

  • The International Certificate of Competence

    This concise little book covers all that is required for both the theory and the practical tests for an ICC for Europe. It includes a... Read More

Update History

Date Last Edited

May 29, 2021 - 04:25 PM

Last Edited By