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BUSINESS BY THE BOOK ON ARRIVAL IN ANTIGUA
Sunday 5th December 2010

Following a number of incidents recently, particularly in Jolly Harbour, which have resulted in some heavy fines being levied, we thought it prudent to ensure that people arriving for the season are not under the assumption that it is business as usual in Antigua as far as Customs is concerned.  Quite surprisingly, while it isn’t necessarily business as usual it is certainly business by the book, which may not be what you expect in the Caribbean but something it’s most definitely worth paying attention to if you want clear sailing when entering your yacht and crew into Antigua.

Antigua’s Customs laws state that all crew and passengers must remain ‘in the vicinity’ of the vessel until the Master (captain) has cleared the vessel into the country.  It goes on to say that if the crew or passengers need food or drink, the Master can leave the vessel to obtain these things and return to the boat.  It then says that in times of ‘stress’ or for health reasons, others may be permitted to leave the vessel.  In all other circumstances the Master, crew and passengers must remain ‘in the vicinity' of the vessel.

There are a couple of things to note here.  While the wording used is ‘in the vicinity’, Antigua has always advertised its policy as the crew and passengers must remain on board until the Master has cleared the vessel and it appears that this is the way in which the law is being enforced.  With respect to ‘may be permitted’ to leave the vessel for health reasons, note that permission must be granted by a Customs official prior to any member of the crew leaving for health or other reasons, prior to the vessel being cleared.

Two interesting points have been discovered through recent incidents.  One is that the law states that a vessel must not come to the dock after 6 pm.  In the past, most vessels that have arrived in Jolly Harbour after hours have gone straight to the Customs dock to await its opening the following morning.  Apparently that is against the law and all vessels should anchor outside until proceeding to the dock the following morning.  In that case, the same rules as stated above apply and no one, including the Master, is allowed to leave the vessel until it has been cleared in.  Immigration, Customs and Port Authority hours in Jolly Harbour are officially 8 am to 6 pm but there are times when they close early.  It’s a good idea to call Customs on VHF Channel 16 before proceeding to the dock for clearance.

The second point more relevant to Antiguan-registered yachts is that ship’s stores are taxable on locally-registered yachts so you should be careful to declare your ship’s stores accurately and not assume that because they are ‘ship’s stores’ they are duty-free as they would be if you were entering a foreign country.

So, while Customs laws may not have been strictly enforced from time to time in the past, all yachtsmen should be aware that the current policy is to enforce the laws as they are written at all times and therefore act accordingly.  And to be clear, while some of the recent fines have originated in Jolly Harbour, the information contained here applies to Customs clearance throughout Antigua.

To get a full list of all entry and clearance procedures check out http://www.abma.ag/yachting.php?id=5.

Thank you to Eli Fuller for alerting us to this situation and for allowing us to use his blog as the basis for this article:  Eli's Blog.


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