Vanuatu Customs standardize operating procedures for small craft controls – further clarification from Customs

This report was first posted last month, compiled by B. J. Skane. Since then, noonsite has been contacted by Vanuatu Customs with updates (in bold) and asking us to encourage visiting yachts to first consult the comprehensive website information for the small craft so that the rules are fully understood and necessary forms submitted prior to arrival.

Published 10 years ago, updated 5 years ago

© Vanuatu Customs

For all small craft information for Vanuatu, cruisers should check the Customs website:

Aiming to strengthen the protection of Vanuatu’s borders and facilitate the clearance of genuine small craft and travellers into and out of the country the Department of Customs and Inland Revenue has issued a Notice to Masters that clearly sets out the procedures waterborne visitors must follow.

Customs has also finalised a Standard Operating Procedure for Small Craft Controls and is delivering training to Customs Officers in all the Ports of Entry.

Vanuatu Ports of Entry

Vanuatu Customs’ Notice to Masters makes it clear that there are only four ports of entry and departure in Vanuatu: Lenakel (Tanna Island), Port Vila (Efate Island), Luganville (Santo) and Sola (Vanua Lava in the Banks and Torres Group). Masters of all yachts entering Vanuatu from a foreign port must first report to Quarantine, Customs and Immigration at one of these ports to obtain inwards clearance.

It should be noted that the port of Sola in the Banks and Torres Group is currently unmanned so cannot be used as a clearance port either inwards or outwards until further notice.

Important: Vessels may not call at Mystery Island (Aneityum), Port Resolution (Tanna) or any other place in Vanuatu unless the Director of Customs & Inland Revenue grants prior written permission. Masters of vessels who visit these places prior to obtaining inwards clearance and being issued with an “Inter-island Cruising Permit”, or obtaining written permission may be subject to fines and/or prosecution. Some of the new penalties are stiff.

NEW: Prior notice of arrival

24 hours prior notice of arrival is required by Customs. The notice must be provided by e-mail [Broken Link] or by phoning (+678) 22082 (Port Vila) or (+678) 88058 (Lenakel). Information required includes the expected arrival time of the vessel, where it has come from, the crew and passengers on board and the port at which it will arrive. For full details see Vanuatu Formalities.

According to Quarantine laws, the vessel is required to fly the yellow flag as soon as it enters Vanuatu’s exclusive economic zone. And upon arrival at the port, vessels can call “Customs” on VHF radio Channel 16 to be cleared (only possible at Port Vila and Lenakel at the moment).

Interactive Arrival and Departure forms are now available on the Customs website under Forms. To facilitate clearance, these can be filled out electronically and emailed to the address provided on the form prior to arrival and departure.

The electronic forms will not only allow Customs to conduct risk assessments prior to the vessel’s arrival but also allow for a smooth arrival and departure clearance for legitimate vessels and travellers. All attempts will be made to board vessels arriving from overseas as soon as possible after their actual arrival, although clearance outside of normal working hours for either arriving or departing vessels will be subject to overtime attendance fees.

NEW: Inter-Island Cruising Permit – now issued for up to 6 months

On completion of arrival formalities at the Port of Entry, the Master of any vessel wishing to visit other islands in Vanuatu must first apply to Customs for an “Inter-island Cruising Permit”. For genuine cruising small craft wishing to visit more remote and isolated destinations in Vanuatu, these permits may be issued for a period of up to six months and absolve the vessel from reporting to Customs until the port of departure for overseas or for application to extend the permit.

Length of stay for visiting yachts

Visiting yachts may enter and remain temporarily in Vanuatu without payment of Customs duty for a period not more than six (6) months in any period of not more than (2) years provided that the vessel is the property of, or has been hired by, the importer.

Duty will become payable if the vessel stays longer than the time stipulated above, or is used commercially in any way including chartering or hiring or for activities for which a charge is made such as for sailing tours.

For full details of Vanuatu Customs requirements, including restricted or prohibited goods, crew allowances and Customs working hours, see the Customs website.

Port & Harbour Fees

All visiting small craft are liable for Port Dues of Vt 7,875 for 30 days or part thereof and Vt 100 per day thereafter. These fees are to be paid at the Ports and Harbours office, or if unavailable, at the Customs office at the final port of departure.

Outward Clearance

All yachts leaving Vanuatu for a foreign port or place are required to obtain an outward clearance from Customs at the final port of departure: Lenakel, Port Vila, Luganville or Sola and must depart for overseas within 24 hours of its issue.  Vessels wishing to obtain clearance at locations other than these ports should obtain permission from Customs and Immigration in advance. Fees for official attendance and travel may apply if such a request is granted.

No yacht is allowed to call at any place in Vanuatu once an outward International Clearance has been given.


  • Yachts can no longer visit Port Resolution on Tanna or Anelcauhat on Aneityum Island before completing clearance formalities at one of the four Customs declared clearance ports – Lenakel; Port Vila; Luganville; Sola (currently unmanned so not available for clearance either inwards or outwards).
  • To avoid confusion, Vanuatu’s Ports Act was amended several years ago to include Aneityum (Anelcauhat) and various others other than Lenakel, Port Vila, Luganville and Sola,  as “Ports of Entry” in order to facilitate cruise liners. These extra “ports” included in the Ports Act are not declared as such in the Customs Act which is the Act that pertains, among other things, to the inwards and outwards clearance of small craft. As far as Customs is concerned Anelcauhat has the status of an undeclared port.
  • All Notice of Arrival particulars should be sent to [email protected] e-mail group. This e-mail group is accessed by all Border Officers in Vila, Luganville and Lenakel.
  • Basically arriving yachts and other small craft need to give Customs a minimum of 24 hours notice before arriving in Vanuatu either at a declared or undeclared port. The difference is the yacht will need the authorisation of the Director of Customs to call to an undeclared port. Furthermore, there are no Customs charges if the yacht calls to a declared port during working hours. On the other hand, there are charges if Customs has to do clearance at an undeclared port and if necessary, you will have to facilitate and meet all cost for a Customs Officer to be present at the undeclared port for clearance.

For all small craft information for Vanuatu, cruisers should check the Customs website:

Related content

Vanuatu: Yachts can now depart from undeclared ports

Read and Post Related Comments

Related to the following Cruising Resources:

You must Login or Register to submit comments.

  1. February 1, 2019 at 1:50 AM
    Data Entry3 says:

    See additional notes above re. Anetyium added to report following your comment.

  2. February 1, 2019 at 1:48 AM
    Data Entry3 says:

    It is a shame that Anetyium is now not a clearance port. It’s a good place to leave for Noumea and the local police/customs/immigration chap was hilarious. But maybe this is still possible with an application to customs.