Eastern Caribbean Cruising: Simplified Clearance Procedures Explained

Advance notification systems for clearance in the Caribbean explained.

Published 10 years ago, updated 3 months ago

The Eastern Caribbean includes many different nations, each with its own customs and immigration formalities to be dealt with on arrival and departure. This can be a lengthy process in the majority of island nations and patience and an understanding of “island-time” is definitely worth cultivating.

Help is at hand however with two “advance notification” websites that cater for clearance in some of the Windward and Leeward islands. These two systems are an attempt to ease the clearance procedure for skippers with the possibility to enter all customs and immigration clearance details online prior to arrival, and simply update details as you cruise between islands. This information is then available to the different national border agencies facilitating the declaration process on arrival. Legally, skippers are still required to report to Customs and Immigration on arrival to present their identification documents, however, the time spent clearing in in-person should be reduced.

Both systems in use are similar in name (which can be confusing), and similar in service, however, currently they facilitate clearance for different islands. The most common system is SailClear, with only Antigua now using eSeaClear.

SailClear

http://www.sailclear.com/

SailClear was developed by the Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council.  The system is available for Anguilla, Barbados, Bermuda, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and The Grenadines,  Turks and Caicos Islands.

Starting from May 1, 2024, SailClear, is introducing an annual subscription fee of US$25 which it says will provide seamless customs clearance across these countries.

By registering in advance, Sailclear allows users to enter and update information about their vessel, crew, and passengers while traveling between participating islands. Users of SailClear can submit all yacht details just once and then alter them as needed for ongoing/future voyages.

The majority of Customs offices do have computers available for skippers who are unable to register on SailClear from their boat.

eSeaClear

https://www.eseaclear.com/

This system is currently only used by Antigua and Barbuda, who have been using it for 12+ years. They are however also trialing SailClear, so skippers have a choice as to which system they use when visiting Antigua. Clearly if planning on visiting other islands after Antigua, then SailClear will be a more convenient system to use.

Note: Antigua Customs will decide which clearance platform works best for them at the conclusion of the season (May/June 2024).

Optional and Free

Advance clearance using either SailClear of ESeaClear is not mandatory – however – checking in the “old fashioned way” is slowly being phased out. If you arrive not having completed the advance paperwork online – you may well be asked to do so at an on-site computer, or have to wait while a Customs official does it on your behalf – all very time consuming. You should find that by using the online advance notification services you save yourself a great deal of time.

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  1. October 29, 2023 at 2:37 PM

    Please add St Vincent & Grenadines to the list of countries. Source: The Noonsite page for StVG – Clearance.

  2. February 16, 2019 at 1:56 AM
    Data Entry2 says:

    About this:

    “First, the more established service eSeaClear, which currently works with Antigua & Barbuda following a re-vamp last year when they extended their service to cover all three border agencies. Keen to deliver on their promise of a speedier clearance process, ESeaClear is concentrating on Antigua & Barbuda at present in order to optimize the system before deploying it in other countries.

    Using eSeaClear for clearance into Antigua & Barbuda means that customs, immigration, and the port authority will all have access to your data, making the clearance process on arrival very efficient. Add to this an established eSeaClear office in English Harbour, Antigua, with a computer and staff to assist, it means the service is also available on arrival should you not have had internet access on passage or prior to departure to complete your details.”

    Be aware that “Antigua and Barbuda” in real life in Antigua. We have been told by the Antiguan customs authorities that in Barbuda they have no connection to the eSeaClear system, and thus all clearances are based on old manual procedures. I believe this will not be “very efficient”.

  3. February 16, 2019 at 1:55 AM
    Data Entry2 says:

    From Anonymous.
    I have cruised the eastern Caribbean for 4 weeks in May 2014. Here are some updates, especially on the Sailclear system.

    Anguilla – Road Bay: Immigration: Not using Sailclear yet, Customs: Fully implemented and working – VERY easy
    BVI – Virgin Gorda – Spanish Town: They had not even heard of Sailclear
    St. Kitts – Basseterre – Port Zante Marina – Customs: Fully implemented
    Montserrat – Little Bay: In the entrance hall there was a PC with “Sailclear” in big letters, but it was not working. Staff was aware but said they haven’t been trained nor have any user/pwd to the system

    Data privacy seems to be one BIG thing in Sailclear which I was not aware of: For clearance in St. Kitts, I didn’t submit a notification via Sailclear. Nevertheless, the lady at customs was able to find my boat and all my crew WITH ALL PERSONAL DETAIL. – I was shocked. – Does that mean authorities in all connected countries can access all personal detail entered???

  4. February 16, 2019 at 1:54 AM
    Data Entry2 says:

    My eseaclear account has NOT been carried over to Sailclear, therefore, I would have to re-register and re-enter all my yacht and crew information again to use it. I am unable to find out from the website which countries are actually using the system. It would, therefore, be a complete waste of time to enter the information only to find out that the country I am clearing into is not on the system.

    Oh well, back to paper!
    Anne Hulbert
    PS. Eseaclear always worked well for me and still does in Antigua.