Wouldn't it be nice to sail from country to country throughout the Caribbean without the burden of knowing that you have to set aside valuable time to fill out mind numbing documentation upon arrival and departure? eSeaClear, the Caribbean pre-arrival notification system, is designed to enable small vessel operators to submit electronic arrival and departure notifications to participating Customs offices in the Caribbean. The day is coming when you will be able to travel from port to port with your eSeaClear PAN ID, but for now be prepared to complete paperwork and you may be pleasantly surprised to find that your clearance process has been electronically expedited.
My first encounter with eSeaClear was this summer when I was in a rush to clear a vessel into Curaçao. It was late in the afternoon when Clifford Neuman, of Curaçao Yacht Agency, who oversees a lot of inbound traffic, and I finally sat down. Rather than scribbling vessel ID and passenger passport information on multiple forms in longhand, we logged into eSeaClear and began to type. The final document was neat and clean. We printed out a hard copy of our handiwork, but, in theory, all that was really necessary was a short PAN identification number.
With passports, dossier and confirmation number in hand, we drove to the Curaçao's central Customs office and were processed in no time even though it was after 5:00pm. From Customs, we went to Immigration. Although we worked with a pleasant Immigration officer, the experience was tedious. Either he was not familiar with eSeaClear or was more comfortable with the old system, but we sat patiently while we watched him retype all of our information into his system.
Says Neuman, "My experience with eSeaClear is quite good. I use it as often as possible. You don't need to print anything. You arrive there with your number and they do a check and print out, that's it."
The pre arrival notification system is now available in the following island nations and territories: Aruba, Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Bonaire, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Maarten, and Saint Vincent and The Grenadines. There is optimism that Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago will soon accept eSeaClear notifications also. The Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council (CCLEC) is working with the remaining islands to implement the program.
Every port within each country may not yet be eSeaClear compliant. Aaron Smith, the Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council's ITC Officer, notes, "There is a difference between deployment and implementation. It is a work in progress. There are some problems with deployment in outer ports and it will take a while before everyone operates with an online system. The goal is to have a seamless system that disseminates relevant information to different agencies."
Regatta and fishing tournament organizers in the British Virgin Islands and St. Lucia, where the pilot programs were conducted, highly recommend that participants use eSeaClear, especially when hundreds of yachts and sailors are scheduled to arrive at the same time. Shannel Jallim, Assistant Customs Officer for St. Lucia says the new system makes it easy to clear in and clear out. "It is very helpful when we are working with visitors whose primary language is not English. We don't have to ask too many questions because most people coming in are familiar with the form."
If you are planning a cruise throughout the Caribbean, take the time to register online with eSeaClear. The system enables vessel operators to notify a country of a pending arrival, store vessel and crew information, edit or cancel travel notifications and utilize stored information to easily create new notifications. Most importantly it will enable you to clear Customs quickly and efficiently and let you start enjoying your visit sooner.
For information visit: www.eseaclear.com
Note: The eSeaClearâ„¢ trademark is registered to and owned by Tradebytes Data Corp
Lynn Fitzpatrick's articles on sailing appear regularly in international publications including AARP The Magazine and Cruising World. She has been a highly competitive Snipe sailor and was the 2008 Sports Information Specialist for sailing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.