No fear of the authorities in foreign ports

Interview with Sönke Roever (BLAUWASSER.DE)

Sönke has 80,000 nautical miles of experience in his wake, sailed more than 50 countries and circumnavigated the world with his wife Judith from 2007 to 2010. He organizes various seminars, online and at boat shows, and is the author of the books "Blauwassersegeln kompakt", "1200 Tage Samstag" and "Auszeit unter Segeln". Sönke is also the founder of BLAUWASSER.DE and regularly sails with his wife Judith and his children on the HIPPOPOTAMUS, where he has to clear boat and crew in and out of foreign ports again and again.

Exploring foreign waters is the best part about planning a cruise.

Almost every country and therefore almost every port have their own regulations when it comes to entering and leaving. What should you generally pay attention to when dealing with the authorities?

The procedure is overall always the same. When entering the twelve nautical mile zone, the yellow quarantine flag is set together with the courtesy flag. In addition to that, the responsible coastal radio station is radioed on channel 16 and the entry is announced.

Once in port, treating the other party respectfully is very important. In many countries a uniform is a status symbol and the officials are proud to be allowed to wear it. Therefore, you should face them in an appropriate outfit, even if an ocean crossing is just behind you and you might feel a little reckless in your outfit.

And last but not least, it's good to be patient and not to question everything that seems illogical at first. After all, we Germans are very well organized. This is not always the case in other countries and we should therefore not automatically expect it.

Courtesy flag and quarantine flag

... should be set before entering the country.

What’s the best place to get information from about individual countries?

Naturally, the German Foreign Office is always a good source when it comes to general information about a destination. But of course, us sailors also have specific questions about entering a country by sea. Noonsite, for example, is a very informative website. There are many other sites that are helpful depending on the questions. A good overview can be found here.

Which authorities do you usually have to deal with when you enter a new port with your boat for the first time?

That varies from country to country. But usually we have to deal with the following authorities: Port Authority, Immigration, Health Department or Customs. At the port authority, it's all about the formalities for the berth. The immigration officials are interested in the passports, the crew list and, if necessary, a visa. The health department, on the other hand, checks whether everyone on board is healthy, and customs is obviously interested in taxable goods.

Preparing the documents in advance

... makes dealing with the authorities easier.

What documents and papers are needed?

To ensure that dealings with the authorities run as smoothly as possible, the following documents should always be carried on board:

  • •  Proof of ownership: The boat papers or flag certificate is usually sufficient. Vessels over 15 meters in length must also be registered in the register of shipping. It’s also advisable to carry the vessel’s contract of purchase on board.
  • •  Passport for each crew member, which must still be valid for at least six months when leaving the destination country. The ID is not sufficient in many places, as it cannot be stamped.
  • •  Crew lists in sufficient number. The list contains information about the ship and the persons traveling on board. A sample is available here.
  • •  Proof of liability insurance: Some marinas require proof of liability insurance. 
  • •  Boating licenses and radio licenses should also be carried on board so they can be presented in case of doubt.
  •   The frequency assignment certificate must be carried as proof of registration of the marine radio station including call sign and EPIRB.

More info is also available here: