Yacht customs clearance and
Vanuatu Ports of Entry
These instructions are adapted from the Government of the Republic of Vanuatu Customs and Inland Revenue Department Notice to Masters of Visiting Yachts and Small Craft.
We strongly recommend you go to the official Customs Website to get the very latest information and forms for clearance and cruising in Vanuatu:
Vanuatu, like other Pacific Island countries, takes their biosecurity seriously. The offical Vanuatu Quarintine website will provide you with details of what is allowed, and what isn't.
Cruising Yacht Entry Forms
You may download and complete these PDF files prior to arrival to facilitate clearance. (or the clearance officer will provide the forms when you arrive). According to the Customs website if you fill out the required forms and email them to CustomsBorder@vanuatu.gov.vu along with the advance notice of arrival - prior to arriving - it will facilitate clearance.
24hr Advance Notice of Arrival required for entry into Vanuatu
Any vessel intending to visit Vanuatu must email customs at least 24 hours in advance giving the expected arrival time of the vessel, the last port of clearance, the names of crew and passengers on board and the port at which the yacht will arrive. If you are clearing into Port Vila you may provide the information to Customs on VHF channel 16.
Send the email to CustomsBorder@vanuatu.gov.vu (distributed to all 4 ports). According to the Customs website it will facilitate clearance if you fill out the required forms (above) and email them two working days prior to arriving.
Vessels must put up the quarantine flag when entering Vanuatu's Exclusive Economic Zone (200 nm offshore of any Vanuatu Island and to leave it up until they are completely cleared in by both Customs and Quarantine
There are four ports of entry into Vanuatu,
- Port Vila on the island of Efate,
- Luganville on Santo,
- Sola on Vanua Lava, and
- Lenakel on Tanna.
Yachts may not stop at any other island or anchorage in Vanuatu until first clearing in one of these four ports of entry. Note. This definitely means you are not allowed to enter in Port Resolution in Tanna or Aneityum (Anatom). Do not stop there without first getting permission by email as penalties are severe.
Yachts wishing to enter in any other port must first obtain written permission of the Director of Customs. If Customs has to clear a vessel in an undeclared port, the Captain will have to meet all costs (in Cash, Vatu) for the Customs Officer to be present at the undeclared port for clearance.
Again, this is not possible without written permission from the Director of Customs prior to the vessel arriving in Vanuatu waters. If you wish to enter in an undeclared port, such as Port Resolution of Aneityum, send the request for permission to clear into an undeclared port with your email advance notice of arrival and documentation forms. Be sure to give several working days for Customs to respond.
Enter or Depart from Tanna
Many yachts wish to enter in Tanna so they can visit Tanna, Aneityum and Erromango without having to beat to windward from Efate. Clearing in Tanna can be difficult. The anchorage at Lenakel on Tanna is small and subject to heavy swell during winds from the Northwest through the west to southeast making landing difficult. So be cautious on approach and anchoring.
Yachts may NOT clear in at Port Resolution without prior written permission from the Director of Customs.
Customs’ normal operating hours are 0730 – 1200 and 1300 – 1630 Monday to Friday.
There is no Customs charge during normal working hours.
Between 06:00 - 07:30 and 16:30 - 18:00 Monday to Friday there is a fee of VT 1,000 per hour per officer.
From 1800 to 0600 the fee is VT 1,500 per hour per officer and on weekends and public holidays VT 2,000 per officer.
A minimum charge of 3 hours is applicable for all out of normal hours attendances.
Note that the officers require cash - Vatu, Australian, American, New Zealand dollars - they do not take credit cards, travellers cheques or personal cheques. Also, the bank in Lenakel does not accept credit cards.
Port Vila and Luganville Ports of Entry
Port Vila and Luganville are the main ports of clearance and most yachts clear into Port Vila.
Days and Times to obtain clearance
The international and inter-island outward clearance will be granted only on Monday to Friday from 07:30 to 12:00 hours and 13:00 to 16:30 hours.
Clearance between 06:00 - 07:30 and 16:30 - 18:00 Monday to Friday requires a fee of VT 1,000 per hour per officer.
From 1800 to 0600 the fee is VT 1,500 per hour per officer and on weekends and public holidays VT 2,000 per officer.
A minimum charge of 3 hours is applicable for all clearances outside of normal hours.
When you arrive in Port Vila anchor in the quarantine zone near the yellow buoy. This is just north of the lead markers in some 8 to 20 meters depth. You must have your yellow quarantine flag flying. Call Port Vila Harbour Control on Channel 16. They keep radio watch from 7:30 to 16:30. If they do not answer, try Yachting World on Channel 16. They will contact Customs and Quarantine for you. These officials will arrive with their own skiff (or with the Yachting World skiff).
There are no Customs clearance fees if you arrive during working hours (see above).
Quarantine clearance 5,000 Vatu per yacht - if you have a pet aboard there is another 3,000 Vatu pet inspection fee for a total of 8,000 Vatu.
Immigration clearance 4,800 Vatu per yacht for the first 30 days (see below for the cost of extensions beyond one month).
Port Dues payable in cash when you clear out - 7,875 Vatu per yacht for the first 30 days or any part thereof. After 30 days from the date of first arrival, the vessel is liable for an additional charge of 100 Vatu per day. Port Dues are paid at the customs office at the final port of departure. A 12.5% GST is added to the Port Dues.
Allowed Stay and Conditions
Immigration restrictions on length of stay
Immigration officers will issue each member of the crew with an entry permit for one month providing you live aboard and do not take up paid employment. Should you wish to extend your stay you must apply to the Immigration authorities 4 weeks in advance (e.g. when you clear in) in any of the ports of entry except Sola on Vanua Lava and Aneityum.
The maximum immigration stay is 12 months. Immigration charges a per person fee for extending the visa - currently
- 6,000 Vatu per person for up to 4 months
- 12,000 Vatu per person for up to 7 months
- 18,000 per person for up to 12 months.
- Plus 12.5% GST.
Anyone on board ceasing to be a crew member must obtain a return air ticket immediately. Responsibility for advising the immigration authorities when a crew member wishes to leave lies with the master who will be liable for crew member repatriation unless and until released from this obligation.
Customs restrictions on length of stay
Foreign Vessels may enter and remain temporarily in Vanuatu without payment of Customs duty for a period not more than 18 months in any period of 24 months provided that the vessel:
- has entered Vanuatu under its own power on a voyage from a foreign port or place; and
- belongs to or has been hired, chartered or otherwise loaned to a person or person travelling on board the vessel at the time of its arrival in Vanuatu; and
- is intended for the personal use of the person or persons on board and shall not be used for any commercial purpose in Vanuatu; and
- shall not be sold , lent, hired pledged or otherwise disposed of and shall not be used for any commercial purpose in Vanuatu; and
- shall not remain in Vanuatu for a period or periods exceeding a total of 6 months in any period of 24 months, save for reason of circumstance (including a change of residence) accepted by the Director of Customs as being of an exceptional and unavoidable nature.
Yachts will become liable for duty if it is disposed of in Vanuatu, if it is used for commercial purposes, if it remains in Vanuatu for a period exceeding 6 months in any two years, or if it is imported by a resident of Vanuatu or a person taking up residence in Vanuatu after the 18 months concession period of obtaining residency permit (as per the Import or Duties (Amendment) Act) has expired.
If the vessel is worth more than US$2 Million, it is classed as a “super yacht” for which special conditions apply allowing some chartering activities. Details are on the Vanuatu Customs’ website.
Any commercial goods carried on board that will be landed in Vanuatu or are in transit through Vanuatu, must all be declared to Customs authority on arrival by the Masters of the vessels or its crew members. Failure to do so may result with the confiscation of the yacht(s)/pleasure boat(s).
Arms and Ammunition
On arrival all arms and ammunition must be declared and surrendered to the Customs Officer for safe keeping. If Customs is satisfied the firearms and ammunition can be safely secured under seal on board this may be allowed. In cases where no suitable secured sealing arrangements exist, the goods will be held by Customs until departure. You must notify Customs 48 hours in advance of your intended departure from the final port of clearance. If you intend to depart from a port of clearance other than the one you arrived at, it is a good idea to provide at least a week's notice.
Automatic and semi automatic weapons are not to be brought into the country at all as these are strictly prohibited and severe penalties are in place for any breach of these prohibitions.
You may not have on board obscene publications, (including magazines, books, DVDs, digital images, videos), narcotics (other than genuine medical emergency drugs).
Each crew member is allowed:
- Personal baggage consisting of wearing apparel, toilet requisites, articles of personal adornment, and similar personal effects to be owned and used aboard by each crew member and which are not intended for gifts, sale or disposal to any other person.
- Persons over 15 years of age are allowed 250 cigarettes of 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco, 2 litres of wine and 1.5 litres of spirit, 1/4 litre of toilet water and 10 centilitres of perfume.
- Other items up to a value of 50,000 Vatu per person aged over 15 years.
- If the vessel has goods, especially tobacco or alcohol, in excess of these allowances, they must be secured under customs bond until departure.
All visiting small craft must pay port dues of 7,000 Vatu for the first 30 days or any part thereof. After 30 days from the date of first arrival, the vessel is liable for an additional charge of 100 Vatu per day. Port Dues are paid at the Ports and Harbours office, or if unavailable, at the Customs office at the final port of departure. There is a 12.5% GST added to these fees.
Danger, overhead wire.
An overhead electric cable extends from the eastern side of Iririki island and Vila. No vessel with a mast exceeding 25 meters height from the waterline may attempt to pass under the cable. The maximum clearance is 28 meters close to the Vila side of the channel. Violation of this restriction is subject to penalties plus costs of any damages.
All vessels in movement or at anchor in the port of Port Vila shall carry the required navigation or anchor lights between the hours of sunset and sunrise. Reported infractions will make the master or owner of the vessel liable to penalties under the Harbour Light Act.
No live animals, reptiles, birds of any description, fresh meat, fruit or vegetables imported by yachts may be taken ashore. Restrictions on what may or may not be left on board will be determined by the officers of the Department of Agriculture. No foreign garbage may be landed in Vanuatu without permission form the Quarantine Service.
On completion of Customs and Immigration formalities at the port of entry, masters of any vessel wishing to visit other islands in the group must declare their intended movements to the Customs authorities and obtain an inter-island clearance. Download the Vanuatu Inter-Island Cruising Permit Form
Duty-Free goods may be shipped on board any vessel which has cleared outwards, or which is about to clear outwards, for a foreign port. Quantities allowed to be shipped shall be commensurate with the length of the anticipated voyage. Apply at the Customs Office for appropriate forms and conditions at the time of departure.
All yachts leaving Vanuatu for a foreign port are required to obtain an outward clearance from Customs and Immigration authorities at the final port of clearance (Lenakel, Port Vila, Luganville, or Sola). New regulations will permit a yacht to depart from a non-authorized port providing special permission is obtained from the Director of Customs.
The clearance certificate will be issued at the last declared port, if the request is granted approval.
The request can be done via email to Customsborder@vanuatu.gov.vu or just a note left with Customs during working days at least 24hrs prior to departure from the declared port. Once the approval is granted, the departure clearance will be issued.
Port dues will be calculated up to the estimated time of departure from Vanuatu while fuel exemptions will only be granted for the outward journey as per current practices.
So, for example, a vessel can get clearance from Port Vila, but actually depart from Port Resolution (an unapproved port) for New Caledonia, similarly they can get clearance from Luganville, but actually depart from the Torres Islands for the Solomon Islands etc.
There is a Port Dues fee of 7,875 Vatu for the first 30 days and 112.50 Vatu for every additional day the yacht stays in Vanuatu. Fees payable in cash.
Yachts wishing to obtain an outward international clearance at locations other than Lenakel, Port Vila, Luganville or Sola should obtain permission from Customs and Immigration in advance and if such a request is granted, may be required to pay official attendance and travel fees.