Trincomalee - Clearance

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To enter any port in Sri Lanka, you must use a Clearance Agent.

See Clearance Procedures for details of all Formalities required on entry and departure.

You are not allowed to enter Trincomalee in the dark.

Whilst this is a military port and not a tourist port, yachts have been able to clear into Sri Lanka here since 2015. The authorities are now more used to dealing with pleasure yachts, so clearance should go smoothly. Make sure you have all your paperwork in order, especially a visa applied for in advance.

a shoreline with a few trees and a palm tree, brown roofed buildings and a concrete pier with a concrete arched structure on top of it and a white house
Trincomalee – the pier in Town Bay (photo courtesy of SY Totem) is the pier you will be directed to for clearance.

Town Pier (referenced on charts as Passenger Pier)

Yachts can tie up to the north side of this pier while clearing in. It is concrete (have plenty of fenders), safe (in the NE monsoon) and is part of the property belonging to the Customs, Immigration and the police department. It is deep enough for most sailboats to tie up to (the water approaching the pier and at the pier is around 3+ meters deep), but one must have permission from the harbor authorities prior to doing so.

It can be confusing for an inbound yacht identifying the clearance pier, as the names of piers here have changed and charts don’t always match even recent charts. In trying to follow directions from the port one boat ran aground, tangled in fishing nets. Some useful notes on chart references here can be found at this report.

The lat/long for the correct jetty for clearance is: 08*34.00 N / 081*13.84 E.

A simpler clearance structure for yachts has been established here since 2015, with assistance from visiting cruisers, as the authorities want to find a way to ensure Trinco becomes a more welcoming place for boats. Co-operation by visiting cruising boats to follow the rules correctly will ensure that these new rules remain properly established.

Clearing-in Procedures

1. Call Trincomalee Port Control on Channel 16 for permission to enter the harbor, and expect at least one military boat to greet you on the way in confirming details. Port control will also confirm your details and give you permission to enter as long as your agent has given them notice that you will be arriving. If your boat name is not clearly seen on your boat, or if any other lettering (like the brand of your boat) is anywhere on the boat, this may cause further questioning to be sure it’s really you.

2. The officials and agent prefer arriving yachts to come to the pier for clearance (on the charts it is called “Passenger Pier). This is no problem if the wind is out of the easterly quadrant, but when the wind is blowing from the west, some boats have been allowed to anchor out and go ashore with their dinghy for clearance.

3. Your clearance agent will greet you at the pier. Give him the passports of all crew members, the original exit papers from your last port of call*, one copy of your crew list, and a copy of your ship’s registration paper (some yachts have also been asked for medical records and immunization cards). It will take him at least one hour to complete clearance. During this time all crew members must remain on board. Any of the officials from Customs, Immigration, Harbor Police, Harbor Authority and Naval Security may visit your yacht.

*Note: Be advised that it is a big problem if you arrive in Trincomalee with clearance to a port of “Maldives” or anything besides “Trincomalee, Sri Lanka” or “High Seas”.

4. When your agent returns your stamped passports, call Port Control and ask for permission to leave the Passenger Pier and anchor near the Town Pier (several hundred metres to the SW is a calm anchorage with good holding).

5. After you anchor, call Port Control and tell them where you are anchored. Port Control require notification if you move at any time.

6. While at anchor or when you are tied up to the Passenger Pier the navy will send a skiff to visit you for a security check, which may include an underwater inspection.

Contact Captain Lakshi Wasantha, Deputy Harbor Master, at [email protected] if you need assistance concerning harbor issues.

Clearing-out Procedures

1. Contact your agent 4 business days prior to wanting to leave Trinco to request a final invoice. Be sure to check it for errors.

2. The day before departure you and your agent should meet. Give him your passports, usually late in the day.

4. The next morning your agent will meet with you. He will give you your stamped (exit) passports, and your outbound clearance document. He will also collect all funds due, per the shipping agent invoice.

5. During your last day in port Navy, security will visit your boat. They will ask to see your passports, make a few notes on their forms, and take a quick look around your boat. You are then free to leave.

6. Call Port Control and ask for permission to raise your anchor and leave the harbour.

There are a number of very useful reports by cruisers re. clearing in and out here. See reports section adjacent.

Last updated:  March 2019


Fees here are now similar to those charged in Galle. Yachts in 2020 have been charged in the region of $230 for the first month and $200 each month thereafter. This fee includes agent, harbor and customs fees.

They may try to charge a $50 bank fee, but you can get around this by paying in cash.

See Sri Lanka Fees for more details.

If you want additional services they cost extra:

  • Tie off to a commercial dock/pier (to get water for example): $2 per hour.
  • Tie off to the barge in China Bay, Mud Cove. Approx. 25 cents per hour.
  • Pilot boat: $24 USD (night or day)
  • Garbage disposal: $10 per week, if you want to drop your garbage in a boat at the pier. You can get around this by taking care of your own garbage disposal.
  • Water: $8 for as much as you need up to 1000 litres.

If you want to stay more than 30 days, your next 30 day period must be arranged in advance through your agent.

There are no overtime charges.

See Sri Lanka Clearance for full details.

Last updated:  February 2020

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Trincomalee was last updated 4 years ago.

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  1. February 3, 2020 at 6:49 PM
    qatarsailor says:

    Approaching Trincomalee
    we sailed from Malaysia , Langkawi island on 8 Jan 2020 it took us 8 days to arrived to Sri Lanka, Trincomalee .
    The passage was nice especially after we clear Somatra Island we had very nice NE wind al the way some time it reach 25 knt, the current was on our nose and starboard fore beam most of the time it reached 2 knt.
    Be a wear :
    1. We been approached 2 times by fishing boat they were very pushy the followed us ,it took long time make them stop (we used the engine and cross our hands to make them understand to stopped).
    2. We planned to arrive to Trinco morning as it not allowed to inter at night, we notice a lot of fishing boat were drafting with their nets , the net will be 1.5 nm long our longer than that , in the end of the net will flashing light, so avoid to inter between the boat and the flashing light.
    The total clearance charges for a one month stay we been asked by our agent US$230.
    best Regards,
    Comments please write to me ([email protected])
    Abdulla Alsulaiti

  2. September 30, 2019 at 11:28 PM
    acalephe2019 says:


    We are planing to sail to Sri-Lanka this December. We found your review very instructive and helpful, since finding infirmation on cruising boat for this country is quite difficult.

    Our sailboat Acalephe is actually cruising around Laangkawi in Malaysia heading to the Med via the Suez Canal.

    We will have an insurance problem to solve soon: our insurer, Concept Special Risks, doesn’t want to insure us after Malaysia.

    Please, would it be possible for you to suggest us an Insurance company that would insure us, at least for liability only, in ordre to get to Sri Lanka?

    Many thanks for your collaboration!
    Have a nice day!

    Jean Gilles Lemieux
    David Berger

    Sailboat Acalephe

  3. January 31, 2018 at 2:18 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    We first called Trincomalee Port Control on VHF16 about 10 to 15 nm outside of the harbour. They advised to proceed to Round Island in the outer harbour and contact them when we arrived. We did so and were instructed to proceed to town Jetty in Town Bay.
    We had previously contacted our GAC Agent before leaving Phuket, to advise them of our estimated arrival time. They were there to meet us before the clearing in authorities arrived.

    All clearing in went smoothly with friendly people and no problems.
    Our GAC contact Sandeep Kavinda has been very helpful and has contacted us every day since arriving to see if we needed anything. We have nothing but good words for GAC and Sandeep.

    We also found a good guide, Yoosuf, who has very reasonable rates and is very helpful with finding anything a yachtie wants. He has a tuk-tuk for getting around town and a minivan for touring to further distances. Very trustworthy, reliable, happy disposition and can trust him not to overprice.

    Can contact Southern Wing Facebook page for Yoosuf’s phone number or southernwing60(at)Gmail(dot)com.

    We have had a great time in Trincomalee and found it to be a very interesting and friendly place to visit.
    Just a note: Port Authorities require notification as to where you anchor and if you shift at any time. We anchored about 300 meters south to SW of the Jetty. An excellent calm anchorage with good holding and a safe place to leave your boat to go touring for 4 or 5 days.

  4. March 2, 2017 at 1:58 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Spare parts in Trinco: 23.2. 2017
    We sailed to Trinco since it is said to be a safe place to leave your boat for a trip overland to visit the old cultural sites inside Sri Lanka. And clearing it shall be easy and even a bit less expensive than Galle.

    First is true, second not so clear. For clearance, our agent Mr Priyantha from Isle Shipping(Pvt)Ltd charges a total of 300 US$ (Harbour fee, his handling etc), don’t know how this compares to Galle.

    But should you need a spare for broken gear while in Trinco, bad luck hits you double! We needed a new clutch for the watermaker. It starts sounding good. In Sri Lanka, you need not to pay import tax or duty for spares. But this results in the most ridiculous cost driving customs clearing procedure we have ever heard of.

    Your spare, after arriving in Colombo airport, is detained by customs and needs to be delivered to Trincomalee (300 km from Colombo) under customs supervision. As per our agent, this requires a customs officer from Colombo to be driven by car to Trinco, with the spare part on his lap, where he delivers it to the captain, so to make sure the part goes really on a foreign boat and returns home. All at your cost, arranged by your agent.

    In our case he quoted 50$ FedEx and customs, custom under supervision charges 115 US$, Transport charges US$ 250, Documentation charges (??) US$ 35 and agents handling charges US$ 50 neatly sums up to 500 US$, more than the parts cost plus transport from Trinidad to Sri Lanka! After our protests he reduced to total 435US$, still exceeding the parts value.
    To top that: we anchor here in Trinco 100 m from the port customs office, but they are not involved?

    This note is a warning and an inquiry if ever anyone else has come across this Sri Lanka speciality?
    One more note to Sri Lanka: Be aware that your cooking gas bottle cannot be filled here anywhere. They have a strict exchange policy, return empty, get the full one, so no one needs filling or does it offer.

    Josef Oehlinger,
    SY Sanuk II

  5. February 21, 2015 at 1:49 AM
    Data Entry3 says:

    At present we cannot recommend Trinco as an alternative to visiting in Sri Lanka. Although Trinco has an excellent and safe anchorage in the NE monsoon season the harbour authorities have levied charges over and above over harbours such as Galle. As a result of being guided when first arrived in Trinco to a rusty barge for the tie-up, we have been charged for moorage.

    An additional charge for anchoring has also been levied. There are charges for pilotage although we did not request this service. In total the charges incurred for a one month stay apart from our agent’s fee has amounted to US$273!

    There are 7 yachts currently in the harbour and each of the yachts are experiencing similar problems.

    Until the authorities are transparent and charges over and above agents fees are clearly detailed we cannot recommend visiting Trinco.

  6. January 23, 2015 at 10:01 AM
    Data Entry3 says:

    We entered Trincomalee outer harbour and were met by a marine commando unit. Entrance to the harbour is accessed usually by going to the pilot station located just outside the harbour entrance. After being closely escorted by the commando unit to the pilot station we were then able to contact the harbour authorities. We were escorted by a pilot boat to a container ship wharf where we were met by our previously arranged for an agent from GAC shipping.

    We stayed tied to the container ship wharf until early morning when we were shifted to Mud Cove jetty and tied up to a barge. The Mud Cove jetty is part of the harbour authority properties and is located 4km from the main town. This is the most secure location as the property is well guarded and gated but it is not that convenient to town.

    Trincomalee is truly a large natural harbour with great potential for anchorages but everything is closely controlled and moving the boat is not an option without advance permission from the harbour authorities.

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