Samoa: Clearing in and out at Apia

Published 8 years ago, updated 4 years ago

Entering the Port of Apia

When looking at the chart for entering the port I was very confident it would be a non-issue and a night arrival would be fine.  That being said, however, after actually being confronted with the reality, which was vastly different to what was expected, I felt the safest thing to do would be to wait for first light. So we’re forced to do a few big circles as Pendana waited for daylight before entering the port.

To the right is the electronic chart for Apia, which, I might add is not dissimilar to the paper chart.

On approach to Apia Harbour at around 4:30 am on the 27th May the problem was, that there was no port marker (RED) and the Starboard marker (GREEN) was not at sea as depicted, but on land.  In the dark one can quickly imagine how confusing this would appear and one couldn’t really get close enough safely to see what was what until one would potentially have a reef either side of the vessel.  So with the motto of “Safety First”, I declared that we would have to circle until making our entry at first light which is precisely what we did.

Lesson Learned – do not believe that the navigation lights, lead lights and symbols will actually be there in real life.  After being caught out twice, once in Fiji with no lead lights and now again in Samoa with no port light and a starboard light that was on land not in water, makes me think that daylight arrivals are the order of the day from this point forward.

Clearing Customs, Quarantine and Immigration

This could not have been easier.  I must confess that this time we opted for the self-service model and as such, didn’t use a clearing agent, and I must say that all went incredibly well.

On arrival (and also pre-departure from Fiji), I notified the charming and very helpful Seinafolava L Tomane, Apia Port Master, via e-mail on [email protected] with our arrival date, crew list etc.  He was happy to have us arrive and instructed me to contact him on channel 16 once inside the harbour entrance.

Apparently, the process is that he then contacts Customs etc. and then they come to the vessel to clear you in.  This is precisely what happened and by 12 noon on the day of arrival, we had Customs, Quarantine and Immigration officials on board.  With a few forms to complete we were cleared in no time and at NO COST.

I must say that this process is changing and one now must contact each department separately via the Samoan Government website which can be found here: However, as they are all such nice people I am sure they will tolerate a few indiscretions every now and then.

Clearing out of Samoa

This was as simple as clearing in but did require a little more work, in fact, a lot more work.

One is required to go to the Immigration Office which is in town (taxi ride $5 tala) first with passports, complete a few forms and then go to the Customs Office to obtain clearance.  A total of $54.00 Tala is payable at the Customs Office, so it’s important to arrive no later than 2 pm as the cash office closes at 4 pm.

Once cleared you to have a few hours to depart, although I did get the sense there was some flexibility on this i.e. maybe even up to 48hours.

IMPORTANT – when you arrive at the often overcrowded Immigration Office DO NOT take a number and sit down as you will be there for many hours. Simply walk up to the front counter and confidentially say “Where do the ship Captains get clearance?” You will be quickly taken inside the office and within ten minutes you will have required paperwork to take to the Customs Office.

Bunkering (re-fuelling) in Samoa

This is NOT a straight forward process, but rather a long-winded tiresome event all around.  The process to take on fuel is as follows:

1.  Go to the Customs Office located near the marina and write a letter asking for permission to get X thousands of litres/USg’s of duty-free fuel.  Once granted, you will be given a letter stating that you can purchase duty-free fuel.

2.  Go to the Port Authority office across the road and again write a letter stating you require permission for PPS (the refuelling company) to be allowed access to the port terminal to allow them access to your vessel for bunkering.  Again you will be given a letter granting permission.

3.  With both letters in hand, jump in a taxi and go to the PPS office at the other side of town.  Show them the two letters, request a time for bunkering and pay in cash (no credit cards accepted) for your fuel.  They may take US$ but my advice is to go to the Western Union in town and have your currency changed into Samoan Tala.  I paid A$75c per litre for fuel – making it very cheap indeed.

4. An hour before bunkering contact the harbour master on VHF: CH16 to request a place to dock the vessel for bunkering.

5. Wait, and wait and wait some more – for the fuel truck to arrive………

If you are staying a while in Samoa my advice is to do the bunkering first, as trying to coordinate all together requires a load of planning, patience and a good taxi driver as one skirts the city back and forth.  I managed the complete task in three hours, but if not for my somewhat pushy nature this could have easily been eight hours.  So the advice is one needs to be prepared to be a little pushy clearing out of Samoa.


The Marina

The local marina is still in disarray with no work being done to repair the second docking area.  This leaves only one arm where boats can tie up with depths of around 2.3 metres available.  It’s not what you would call a first-class facility by any means, but what they lack in the glamour stakes they make up for with a fantastic attitude.

All rubbish on board the boat and during your stay has to be taken to the nearby quarantine office for disposal at the cost of $4 Samoan dollars (Tala) per bag.  It is on offence to dispose of your boat rubbish in any other manner.


Samoa is a great place to visit and all the people here are super friendly, almost too friendly if that’s possible.  I can certainly say that our visit to Samoa was a real treat and it provided us with everything we could have wanted.  Provisioning was a breeze, at an incredibly large number of well-stocked supermarkets, wow, we almost felt like we were back home!  Farmer Joes and Lucky are both great supermarkets with fresh fruit and vegetables as well as fresh meat.  Farmer Joes even has a bottle shop/Liquor store on site.

Samoa is a wonderful place and the score I am giving them for inbound and outbound clearance and bunkering is 8/10.  More can be read about our travels in Samoa here:

James Ellingford

MY Pendana

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