Mauritius: Clearance and Cruising Information
The following port clearance and cruising information is provided to help sailors visiting Mauritius Island. This information is based on two U.S.A. citizens on a 42 foot catamaran. More recent feedback from cruisers on clearance here has been posted at the bottom of this report in the User Comments section
Published 4 years ago
ARRIVAL DAY/ DATE: Saturday, July 11, 2015
ARRIVAL PORT: Port Louis, Mauritius
DEPARTURE DAY/DATE: Sunday, August 22, 2015
DEPARTURE PORT: Port Louis, Mauritius
Consider the navigational information noted below as suggestions, and rely on your own sailing skills for accuracy and safety.
SAILING TO MAURITIUS FROM RODRIGUES
The distance from Port Mathurin, Rodrigues to Port Louis, Mauritius is about 350 nm. If you travel at 6 knots it will take you about 2.5 days. This typically creates a problem for sailing to Mauritius, which requires a very early daytime departure from Rodrigues so that you can arrive in Mauritius during daylight hours several days later. However, Rodrigues officials will NOT allow you to depart at first light. For planning purposes, it is almost impossible to leave Rodrigues prior to 0900, even if you paid a “consideration” for early clearance. So, you have three options:
1. Cruise at an average speed of 7 knots. For most cruisers, this is hard to do, if not downright impossible. Especially given the light winds typically encountered in the wind shadow of Rodrigues for the first 4 hours.
2. Reduce your average cruising speed to about 4.8 knots and enjoy three full days at sea. This option allows you to depart Rodrigues late in the morning or anytime prior to 1700.
3. Sail at about 6 knots and arrive in Mauritius in the dark and anchor out in the channel or one of the bays north of the port.
Most yachts are running in the southeast trade winds during late April, May, June, July, and August of the year. Many yachts leave Rodrigues for a three day 350 nm cruise to Mauritius. In June, July, and August of 2015 the grib files consistently under estimated the winds strength by 5 to 10 knots, and required sailors to rotate (clock) the winds to the south by about 45 degrees. That is, if the gribs stated 15-knot winds from the southeast, the actual winds would be closer to 25 knots from the south southeast. During some periods the waves between the two island were in the 4 and 5-meter range. Choose your weather window carefully. Wise sailors would approach the northern tip of Mauritius from due east, because south-southwestern winds are common, despite the grib file forecasts. Winds tend to accelerate along the coastlines.
Some yachts saw as many as a dozen cargo ships, travelling between Southeast Asia and the southern tip of Africa, during their passage from Rodrigues to Mauritius. Because of high sea,s some of the ships had to reduce their cruising speeds.
Most yachts go to Port Louis after passing the northern tip (Cap Malheureux) of the main island. There are five islands north of Cap Malheureux. Local cargo ships travel between these widely spaced islands and the mainland, and so can you. S/V YOLO sailed through the 3.5 nm gap between Gunner’s Quoin Island and Flat Island in the dark of night, and did NOT encounter any rips, over falls, or breaking seas. During daylight hours I would have saved a few hours and sailed between the mainland and Gunner’s Quoin Island, like other sailboats.
If you closely skirt the northern tip of the main island and hug the western coast while sailing south, you can typically SAIL all the way to Port Louis. The northern part of the island is very low and flat, so the trade winds are in your favour on the leeward side of the island.
PORTS OF CALL
There is only one port of call in Mauritius — Port Louis, the capital city. Even if your last port of call was Port Mathurin, Rodrigues, you must clear in and out at Port Louis.
You are NOT required to have a shipping agent when clearing in and out.
VISA AND BONDS
Most visitors do NOT need a visa for visiting Mauritius. Upon arrival, you can request a 30, 60, or 90-day tourist visit. Immigrations typically gives you 30 days if you don’t say anything. You can stay a maximum of 6 months, during any 12 month period, in Rodrigues, Saint Brandon, AND Mauritius combined. If you want to stay longer than 6 months you must request an “exemption” from the Immigration Department. Your exception request must be in writing and submitted near your 50th day of visitation. Your request will be sent to the Prime Minister of Mauritius for consideration. There are 13 legal exemption categories for extending your stay.
Note: Under most circumstances, yachts are permitted to stay in Rodrigues/Mauritius waters for a maximum of 90 days. A bond worth 10% of the value of the yacht is required for boats staying longer. See the Customs officials for further details.
APPROACHING OLD PORT LOUIS INNER HARBOUR
1. When you are less than 2 nm away from the entrance of the old Port Louis Harbour (20.09 South and 057.29 East) call the Port Louis Port Control on VHF channel 16. Calling the Coast Guard or Port Control prior to this is a waste of your time. Port Control monitor the radio 24/7. They will ask you the following questions:
A. The name of your vessel.
B. Your expected time of arrival.
C. The flag of your vessel.
D. The number of people on board.
E. Your last port of call.
Port Control will advise you when you can motor up the “old” harbour channel to the Customs dock. Motor southeast up the harbour channel as far as you can go, to the Customs House. The big, old, red-brick, warehouse-style building is a good landmark to head toward. The Customs House is a two-story light yellow building with a wood shake roof. It is located on your port side when entering the inner basin. Small patrol boats and water taxis have taken over the wharf area directly in front of the Customs House, so you will have to tie off to the wharf 50 meters to the south of the Customs House, in front of the restaurants with the outdoor umbrellas. The wharf’s Lat/Long is 20.09.59 South and 057.30.03 East. You can hail Port Louis Harbor Coast Guard on VHF channel 16 and request assistance with dock lines when you get near the wharf. The Coast Guard occupies half of the Customs House and is teeming with young men looking for something to do. Have your fenders on your port side, and as near to deck level as possible. The wharf has a nasty deck grabbing lip, which has sawed on yachts with low topsides. Your lines will be tied off to the stainless steel wharf guard rails. There are no cleats or bollards.
NOTE: Some electronic charts show a shallow area in the inner basin of the harbour. Most charts do NOT. As a result, a large number of yachts have hit the “inner basin rock” which is located southeast of the Customs House. Make sure you hug the wharf when going to Customs and when departing the wharf. Back out the way, you approached the wharf, do NOT loop out and away from the wharf. If you do, it is likely you will end up with the other foreign yachts in the haul out yard a thousand meters away, making repairs to your keel. Catamarans even hit the inner basin rock! The Port Captain was asked why the rock is not identified with a buoy, his reply, “We felt we would be legally responsible for the damage by those hitting the rock.” Oh, Mauritius maritime logic, out-of-sight is out-of-mind.
Hint: Some yachts have stayed tied up at the Customs wharf for 48 hours. The nearby officers did not complain. Possession is nine-tenths of the law…
As normal, approach the port with your yellow Q flag flying, even if your last port of call was Rodrigues Island, Mauritius.
NIGHT TIME APPROACH
Port Louis is closed at night and the Port Control does NOT permit ANY vessels to enter or depart the port at night. If arriving at night some vessels anchor just outside the channel leading to the harbour, or in Baie Aux Tortues (or De L’Arsenal) which is several miles north of the port.
CHARTS AND REFERENCE POINTS
For the most part, my C-Map and Navionics charts rang true.
After tying off to the wharf the captain should walk to Customs House and tell the officer at the Coast Guard/NCG Harbour Security desk that you just arrived and want to clear-in. Ask him to call the Immigration, Customs, and Health departments. The Captain should return to his yacht since the officials will typically take 45 minutes to one hour to show up to your vessel.
1. Health Official: You will complete a Health Card for each member of the crew, and complete a Maritime Declaration of Health form. He will then issue you a Ministry of Health & Quality of Life certificate.
2. Immigration: They require the passport of each crew member and a crew list. He will have you complete a Disembarkation Card for each crew member, fill in a PIO (Passport Immigration Office) Crew List form, and a PIO General Declaration form. After signing and dating all the forms he will stamp your passports. You automatically get permission to visit Mauritius for up to 90 days. If you want to stay longer, just ask and your wish will be granted.
3. Coast Guard: He will ask you several dozen questions and will want a copy of your ship’s papers and crew list. Some of the more unique questions are Serial number of your dinghy, the serial number of your outboard motor(s), MMSI number, guns, spear guns, etc. If you declare a spear gun, he will remove it from your vessel for safekeeping at his office.
4. Customs: Continuing the British tradition of generating paperwork, Customs will review your passports, ship’s papers and crew list. Also, make sure you know you call sign number. You will have to complete 13 forms for Customs, they include: IMO (International Maritime Organization) Crew List, IMO Crew Effects Declaration, IMO Passenger List, Declared Goods Manifest, Yacht Declaration Form, Mauritius Revenue Authority, Master Supplementary Declaration, IMO General Declaration, IMO Cargo Declaration, IMO Ship’s Stores Declaration, and IMO Dangerous Goods Manifest. Customs will issue you a Certificate of Clearance and Yacht Declaration Form, which were checked by several coast guard vessels while we anchored in Mauritius waters.
All of the officials requested “boat stamps” on some of their documents. All of the above should take about an hour and cause the writer’s cramp.
NOTE: It is very likely that several friendly locals will greet you when you tie-up to the Customs wharf. They are a wealth of information and will gladly assist you in just about anything (laundry, car rental, tours, shopping, etc.). Keep in mind that the prices they quoted in 2015 were about double those offered by the Mauritius merchants. For example, you can rent a car for one day for about $25 USD yourself, or pay the guy at the wharf $43 USD. Caveat emptor…
During my stay seven weeks stay in Mauritius, not a single yacht was inspected.
You must clear-out of Mauritius if you are heading off to Rodrigues, Saint Brandon, or another country such as Reunion or Madagascar. Your vessel must be at the wharf near the Port Louis Customs House OR in the Le Caudan Waterfront Marina when you clear out. The Captain (not crew members) must go to the Customs House for clearing out. You can clear out ANY day of the year and the officials prefer, and sometimes require, that clearance procedures be handled during the early part of the morning, 0800 to 1000. This requirement is so that they can avoid having to negotiate the near- gridlock vehicle traffic between their offices and the Custom House, which occurs during the noon, afternoon, and early evening hours. Contact the guy working at the Coast Guard/NCG Security desk in the Customs House when you want to clear out. He will contact all the necessary officials. Once you have cleared out, you must depart Mauritius waters prior to midnight, officially.
You will deal with these organizations in this order:
1. National Coast Guard Harbour Security, first visit: Inform the officer that you want to clear out of the country and that Immigrations and Customs should be notified. Or, you can call the agency officials to list on the Contact List yourself, and make an appointment with the appropriate officials.
2. Immigration: You will give him a copy of your crew list. The office will collect your completed Disembarkation Cards, and stamp your passports. Immigration officials often demand that you meet with them between 0800 and 1000.
3. Customs: You will receive a Certificate Of Clearance form. Review the form and make sure that all the information is accurate. The Customs folks like clearing out yachts in the early morning or late afternoon.
4. National Coast Guard Harbour Security, second visit: Inform the officer that you have cleared out with Immigrations and Customs. He will ask you your “arrival date” and then update his large ledger book with your departure information (next port of call).
NOTE: My clearing out process took over four hours! 99.9% of the time was waiting for the appropriate officials to show up at the Custom House near the wharf. Calling the appropriate agencies in advance would probably reduce the wait time if you set up an appointment in advance.
If your yacht is outside of Port Louis and you claim that your yacht is in Port Louis during the clearing out process, you will be caught in your lie. There are over 30 Mauritius Coast Guard Stations (900+ employees). Each coast guard station patrols their waters each evening about sunset and documents the name of all foreign vessels near their station. And, the Customs House staff call the marina office to verify that your vessel is in the marina if that is where you claim your vessel is located during the clearance process.
Under-The-Radar: Given the bureaucratic puzzle noted above, it is nearly impossible to leave Port Louis prior to 1100, especially if duty-free items are being delivered to your boat on your last day in port. Soooo…unofficially some yachts have cleared out the prior day in the AM with Immigration and then cleared out with Customs and the Coast Guard at 1700 on the prior day of departure. And, by way of magic, their boat actually left the marina or Customs wharf at first light the following morning.
National Coast Guard Harbour Security – Port Louis Customs House: Phone 202-0500.
Immigration: Office phone 242-3067, cell phone 5728-2252.
Customs – Port Louis Customs House: 213-4592, Main Office phone 202-0500.
The international country code for Mauritius is +230.
Pets are welcomed at Mauritius, with no prior paperwork. During the clearance procedure, state that you have a pet on board and the officials will contact the local veterinarian for a brief health assessment. There is no charge for the veterinarian visit to your yacht.
Monday through Friday, during normal business days:
There are no fees for any governmental agency.
Saturday, Sunday, and Holidays:
There are no fees for any clearance officials.
The tides during my five-week stay were always less than one metre.
English is the official language of the country, spoken by just about everyone, especially given the huge tourist trade in Mauritius. French and Creole (Frenchish) are the languages of choice by the locals.
UTC +4 is local time in the winter and +3 in the summer.
Mauritius only has a few tourist highlights for world travellers. 90% of the island is sugar cane fields and most of the land near the sea is walled-off hotel complexes.
Most cruisers stay at the Le Caudan Waterfront Marina in downtown Port Louis or anchor in Grand Baie. The marina is cheap, about $10 USD per day which includes electricity, water, Wi-Fi, and showers. Space is limited and rafting is often required. You will tie-off to the marina wharf which is surrounded by public parking lots. The concrete wharf has a lip that extends out for the top two feet or so. Be very aware when placing fenders so they don’t get caught under the lip and get torn off when the tide rises. Expect hundreds of looky-loos and plenty of noise 18 hours per day. The capital city is just another big smoke.
Grand Baie is located on the northwest corner of the island and offers excellent protection from wind and waves. Most yachts anchor in 3 to 5 meters of water, mostly sand and mud/sand bottom. Grand Baie is a tourist town, like the island in general, and comes with all the tourist detractions. All visitors can join the Grand Baie Yacht Club for 30 days, free. I enjoyed their breakfasts, lunches, bar, dinghy dock, and hot showers. There is no dinner service. See the manager for your 30 day pass. The yacht club dock sells petrol and diesel for less than street prices, and for less than $6 USD you can get an unlimited amount of drinking water for your tanks or washing the decks. The yacht club is located at the northwest corner of the bay near all the moored vessels.
The Grand Baie Coast Guard Station is located In the southeast corner of the bay near the large stone block church. Tie off your dinghy on the northern side of their floating dock, which requires you to walk several meters in the shallow water since the pontoon does not terminate on land. Within walking distance is the Post Office, numerous cafes and bars, three large grocery stores, and several malls. Grab the express bus (no. 215) to Port Louis (less than $1 USD) or the local bus (no. 82) to Port Louis, at the bus stops near the Coast Guard Station.
MCB bank ATMs did NOT charge me a foreign transaction fee, or a user fee. Per normal I did have to pay the 1% VISA Plus transaction fee for all withdrawals. MCB banks and ATMs are everywhere. Lots of other banks and ATMs are also available in Mauritius.
Leaving the best for last…booze can be purchased duty-free in Mauritius. Most of the locals drink sugar cane rum (a 1 litre bottle, non-duty free, costs about $8 USD). Duty-free slabs/cases of beer can be purchased for much less than $1 USD per can. Most of the stores which sell booze can make the duty free arrangements. Delivery is usually free and your purchases can be delivered well in advance of your departure. Stop licking your lips. If the booze is delivered in advance a Customs official MIGHT visit your boat and make sure that all of your purchases are being stored in a locked location, which he seals with a metal wire tag. Cruisers are a clever bunch of aquatic nomads, one yacht had over 20 cases of duty-free beer delivered to their boat and placed the slabs in their spare head. The Customs officer did his thing and sealed the door to the head. For weeks while in Mauritius, the cruisers enjoyed their new nectar, accessing their stash via the large hatch above the head. They made sure to only remove the cans from the centre of the slabs, just in case the Customs man returned for a final inspection of the stacked slabs.
VK Duty-Free Shop at 4 Dr Sun Yat Sen Street, Port Louis sells duty-free booze. The owner is Mr Vishnu Karuppan, call 217-4176 or 217-3737. When you go to his shop and place your order, make sure you get a receipt for the items you purchased and the amount you agreed to pay upon delivery. VK has been known to increase the price of the items when they are delivered AND short the number of items being delivered, which was sorted out with a phone call. According to Customs, VK’s purchase paperwork tends to differ from the delivery amounts, with the excess booze making its way into the hands of the locals, duty-free. Just make sure you pay for what you get from whomever you buy from. Net, net the duty-free prices are significant.
Mauritius has over a million people, so you can find just about everything you want at a small store or large box store. If you want, get your yacht hauled out or live at a marina. The island caters to tourism and the prices reflect that focus. Cheap buses can take you to all of the attractions, or rent a car for about $35 USD per day.
Jason Trautz, s/v YOLO
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of Noonsite.com or World Cruising Club.
Reported by Michael George – SV Lusi
We arrived in Port Louis on the 23rd of June 2017. We were directed to tie up to the concrete wall at the end of the harbour for Health authorities to clear our vessel. He was a long time coming and eventually arrived at 12:30. At 12:40, while we were below decks with him, our vessel started crashing into the concrete wall.
There was a large disturbance throwing the boat away from the wall and slamming it back in.
This disturbance was caused by the Coast Guard vessels, who had apparently been doing “manoeuvres” in the harbour and obviously exceeding the harbour speed limit by a considerable amount.
My vessel was hand built by myself out of timber and is very strong, but the extreme violence of the motion was more than she could take. This was both heartbreaking and stressful to both myself and my wife as we tried to prevent the damage. We were also physically endangered such was extreme violence. The health inspector was also very shocked.
The whole incident was witnessed by about a hundred of the public who were also verbally upset at the whole fiasco which carried on for several minutes. As soon as it settled down we left the wall and headed into the Caudin Marina.
If you have to tie up here, the best solution is to tie a vessel to the N/S wall as swell/wakes tend to roll along it, it was full when we arrived so we’re directed to tie to the E/W wall. The swell tends to hit this at 90 degrees so bounces off and is worse. It was calm when we tied up.
The walls are both terrible with any wake in the inner harbour, which happens many times a day. We just got a particularly bad one and on the worst wall.
The walls are not designed to accommodate vessels – there are no bollards or cleats so the boats are just tied to the railings (which are strong). There aren’t any steps, ladders or gates so you must scramble up however you can – difficult with a low tide.
We had 3 fenders out, which worked fine in the normal conditions, but when the extreme roll came they squashed under the pressure.
My vessel has quite an angle inwards to the water line so there was more pressure at the deck level. We were being pushed out about a metre at deck level then slammed back in – it was the most violent thing I have experienced on a vessel in 45 years of boating and 40,000 ocean miles.
Only the health inspector came to the boat and all he wanted was a chat and a crew list. Other crews said he just stayed on the dock.
Just advise not to use E/W wall, fender up as much as possible, get off as soon as health has been as all the other officials are completed by foot.
Caudan Marina is not boated friendly either – there is a nasty lip on the concrete wall that can catch the deck on a rising tide.
Our check-in experience (August 2016) was very smooth. I did have to walk to the Immigration office (1.5km) but it was a welcome change after being cooped up on the boat for the past few days. They said they will be at the customs office prior to 8:15 am each weekday if I preferred not to walk on my outward clearance. There were indeed 30(ish) pages of customs forms, but most of them were crossed out with NIL, on request. The whole process couldn’t have taken more than an hour, and cost nothing.
The rock is now marked, I confirmed this by quite a bit of shouting and gesticulating with the coast guard, as we drifted by. Typical disclaimers apply, but the small yellow marker in the inner harbour should mark the spot.
We are all pretty excited to be back in a bustling city after so many months.
Posted on behalf of Jason Trautz:
Sorry about the delay in the reply. I’ve been sailing in remote areas of Madagascar and Mozambique during the last month.
I do NOT have exact lat and long for “the rock.” SBright is correct in describing the general location of “the rock” and related shallow area, according to my 2014 C-Map charts. I spoke with two captains this week who hit the rock several months ago, and they also concur with SBright’s location in terms of the overall basin layout.
I was at the Customs dock during several days of extremely high and low tides. Several boats (monos) pushed through the mud bottom when advancing beyond the Customs dock area, and while they attempted to turn around in the inner harbour near the Customs dock.
I regret not being able to be more exact…rocks tend to scare me…and I wasn’t willing to survey the area in detail.
I hope this helps.
Jason Trautz, s/v YOLO
Thanks. Yolo’s information is extremely comprehensive and very welcome. Could they clarify one point though? The shallow area/rock in Port Louis Harbour. The report says that it is SE of the customs dock, which would put it on shore. Navionics show a shallow lobe close to the outside of the Caudan Basin Marina (closest part of this to the customs dock is at 20 09′.60S 57 29′.92E).
Is this the same hazard as the one described in the report above, or is there another shallow area/rock closer to the customs dock? We did take the advice to back off the customs dock (thanks) but saw several boats take a fairly wide sweep out forwards without coming to harm.
There is room for about 5 yachts of 40′ size to fit along the wall, next to the cafes, but it’s difficult to see how much space is there on the approach. Plenty of lateral space to the raft as well. Thanks again for the excellent report.