Eastern Caribbean Cruising: Simplified Clearance Procedures Explained
Advance notification systems SailClear explained. See comments at bottom of the report from cruisers who were early users of the system.
Published 9 years ago, updated 4 years ago
This report first posted in October 2013 and updated October 2018
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 organizations are attempting 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, but the time spent there will be reduced considerably.
Both set-ups are similar in name (which can be confusing), and similar in service, however, currently they facilitate clearance for different islands.
First, the more established service eSeaClear is only used in Antigua & Barbuda. 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.
SailClear is being developed by the Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council, who parted company with eSeaClear in July 2012. This system is available in Dominican Republic, Curaçao, Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts, and Nevis, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Dominica, Anguilla and Turks, and Caicos Islands
By registering in advance, Sailclear allows users to enter and update information about their vessel, crew, and passengers while travelling between participating islands. Users of SailClear can submit all yacht details just once and then alter them as needed for ongoing/future voyages.
In 2018, users of the system reported that it works best if you send arrival or departure notices prior to going into official offices. On arrival, they simply reported they used Sailclear and the officer pointed out the documents. While not every office uses the system, and computers are occasionally offline (forcing you to use the old-fashioned method of filling paper out by hand) cruisers report it’s an easy system to use and amend.
Optional and Free
If you are planning on a visit to the Eastern Caribbean this season, then it is likely you will have the opportunity to use both clearance systems. Both are optional services, for which there is no charge. If you still prefer to arrive on the island and proceed with clearance in an old-fashioned way, officials will have no objection, however, you should find that by using the online advance notification services you save yourself a great deal of time.
Feedback from users of both eSeaClear and SailClear is actively encouraged. Comment directly via this report, or contact [email protected]
Related to following destinations: Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, Turks & Caicos
“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”.
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???
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!
PS. Eseaclear always worked well for me and still does in Antigua.