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Clearing in Drama Down Island

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Everyone who’s worked on a yacht in the Caribbean knows that islanders have a special way of life. Time moves slower; issues that seem important in the hustle and bustle of the U.S. and Europe don’t get the same consideration down island. This style of living is exactly why guests and owners want to visit these beautiful locales, for a slice of life that doesn’t move at the speed of light. However, the laissez faire business-style can drive captains and crew crazy. At the Maritime Security Council Sound Security Measures for the Yachting Community Conference at Yacht Haven Grande Marina in St. Thomas, USVI, Capt. Warren Kluttz of M/Y Dream raised this very point. While the conference was on security in the Caribbean Basin, the captains were galvanized by the topic of the difficulties they face entering and leaving various countries throughout the area. Kluttz said that there are no standards. “Rules change all of the time and it makes things very difficult.” A great deal of island economies is based on tourism; Capt. Kluttz stated that yachts will only travel to places that are cooperative. In response, Everton Walters, Chairman of the Port Management Association of the Caribbean and CEO of Barbados Port, Inc., said that there is much work to be done in respect to standardizing; the conference is the beginning of such measures. Walters agreed that a master plan is needed and added that a dedicated clearance facility, one specific location on an island or an island chain that can accommodate yachts, would be ideal.


Kluttz offered an example, which occurred last week in the BVIs. Kluttz was told to fill out paperwork in order to check in the guests. However, when he handed in said documents they were torn up and thrown in the trash right in front of him. His point being that there are not just inconsistencies throughout the Caribbean, but in each country itself.  


At the conference, during a later discussion on firearms on board vessels, one marina security officer was asked the best procedure to declare weapons in the USVI. He responded, but was met with some resistance from a different USVI official, who offered a completely different answer, demonstrating the point that a best practices document might help alleviate some of the confusion amongst countries and within countries and their various departments.


Walters believes that up until now, the measures taken in terms of security and procedures have been reactionary, but with initiatives, such as the security conference, which opened dialog about these issues, solutions can be proactive. Walters said the standardization issue will be put on the agenda.


“I challenge the MSC [Maritime Security Council] to present a best practices document incorporating immigration, the ease of application, etc.,” said Bert Fowles, Vice President of Marketing at IGY Marinas. Fowles agreed that captains must have ease to travel through the Caribbean and this document should be share with all countries in the Caribbean to ensure this.


“These counties and marinas need to realize who the clients are,” said Kluttz. “The captains make many more decisions than are realized. If [Caribbean countries] don’t make visiting their islands easy for captains and crew, we won’t come back.”


Other topics at the conference included the pros and cons of keeping weapons on board vessels, the need for open communication between yachts and authorities as the first line of defense against crime in marinas and ports in the Caribbean, training of security personnel in the Caribbean and the need to view security offices not as “toy cops,” but as real authorities.


Keep an eye out for the full coverage of the conference in the March 2011 issue of Dockwalk magazine.


Dockwalk would like to further investigate the problems captains face clearing in and out of the Caribbean islands. Please let us know: Which islands do you find the most accommodating; which are the worst? We’d like to hear your stories to compile a best-and-worst list. Please share your thoughts and opinions. Email me at


I look forward to hearing more in this and hopefully the local Caribbean authorities making progress in making their ports more inviting.

It would also be great if they would standardize costs and fees. For example, when we cleared into Antigua for the Antigua Charter show it cost us almost $1000 for a 10 day stay!

On top of that, we had to take a 30 minute taxi ride to clear out of customs when we left (which is fine) but because we only had 3 crew lists and not 4, we were turned away.

St Maarten charges a few hundred bucks but at least they have a bridge to maintain. What do we get from Antigua for our precious money?
Posted by: Mike O'Neill at 14/01/2011 00:05

The French islands are by far the easiest, all now done by computer. Antigua is by far the most difficult, very formal and lots of paperwork and expenses, almost difficult enough to consider passing it by, leaving in your wake.
Posted by: Gerry Matt at 15/01/2011 07:32

I agree the French have got it right, the easiest time I've had is in Martinique. Antigua is a nightmare, you would think that as yachting provides such a big boost to their economy that they would make it easy. (drugs, violence, murders, coruption.... why go there?) I am based in USVI/BVI during the winters and would love to see some sort of agreement/system/online checking in/out between the two territories that would make frustrating trips to the customs/immigration a thing of the past.
Posted by: Captain Fox at 16/01/2011 11:31

Just checked in and out of antigua, two days cost me $300 for 5 people,friends. The agents were nice, but the cost was excessive. St barts was $90 for five days, 8 people, st Maarten was $8. I love st Maarten, they have the best food, bakeries, their people are sophisticated and super. Antigua is a beautiful island the people are really nice, but there is no one visiting there. The politicians need to figure it out. Take a look at what st Maarten is doing right.
Posted by: D masters at 21/01/2011 20:58

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