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Old 02-06-2011, 12:24   #1
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At What Point Must One Clear Customs ?

... In other words, if I leave one nation or territory, would I be allowed to sail within another's territorial waters while underway to my final destination if it were a third country?

And, supposed I ran into a gale and wanted to anchor in a protected cove for the night without getting off the boat. Am I still bound by international law to clear customs? Can I stay in that cove at all, if it is not a port of entry and I have not cleared in one?

I have a feeling that the answer from you folks will be, "well, that depends." But given various nation's quirks, isn't there a general, international maritime "rule of thumb" that applies?

In particular, I thinking of a transit from HK to Taiwan, hugging the China coast for a good part of the way, with no stops unless due to an absolute emergency.

Let me know what you guys think.

Regards.

G2L
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Old 02-06-2011, 12:29   #2
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Re: At What Point Must One Clear Customs?

Don't know where it is, but this subject was discussed at length here recently.
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Old 02-06-2011, 13:43   #3
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Re: At What Point Must One Clear Customs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gone2long View Post
I have a feeling that the answer from you folks will be, "well, that depends." But given various nation's quirks, isn't there a general, international maritime "rule of thumb" that applies?

In particular, I thinking of a transit from HK to Taiwan, hugging the China coast for a good part of the way, with no stops unless due to an absolute emergency.

G2L
And I would say of all the countries in the world China might be a difficult one.

But isn't Hong Kong now China? So you could stay cleared in and clear out up the coast?

Xaimen would be the obvious place to clear out with a new marina there and the 2011 boat show in a few months. It must be cruiser friendly (or the Chinese version of cruiser friendly!).

China (Xiamen) International Boat Show 2011

Its definitly there now

Quote:
Wuyuan Bay marina is located in the center of inner Wuyuan Bay with broad water, beautiful coastline and Commercial Street on the side. Its water clean, air fresh with beautiful natural scenery, warm winter and nice wind all the year, all these advantages won her the praise of “one of the precious boating sports bases in the world”.

The planning area of Wuyuan Bay marina covers a total of 100,000 square meters with 300 berths. At present, it has constructed 56 fixed berths, with 3 clubs moved in. In addition, the Association of Xiamen Yacht Industry and National Sea Fishing Base have also come and settled. It has also hosted famous boat events such as National Club Cup Sailing Boat Challenge and Cross-strait Sailing Boat Challenge.
Quote:
it is now home to 95 boats of varying sizes, including six worth more than RMB 10 million, the highest number of top-end yachts among all marinas in China
Address: Wuyuan Bay, Xiamen
Contact

Telephone: +86(592)5571852
Fax: +86(592)5709706
Email: info@xmmarina.com
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Old 02-06-2011, 16:53   #4
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Re: At What Point Must One Clear Customs?

Hong Kong is not China as far as boating goes. New clearance is definitely needed when entering Chinese port. Recently someone here has shared their experience about Chinese coast, that anchoring is possible, they were not bothered by anyone. I would be certainly careful though.
Clearing in Xiamen possible, but might turn out quite expensive. Generally, as far as I know, one is permitted to transit through national waters, but since that means that national laws start to apply, you should make clear what that would imply.
In Hong Kong, you should have a "cruising permit" if your is foreign. No personal experience with China. Taiwan is basically friendly: coast guard might come to check on you when spotted.
WARNING: entering Taiwanese port directly from China (not HK or Macao) is illegal. So if you clear in Xiamen, you can no longer go to Taiwan. You will be sent back, no discussion. This has happened about one moth ago to a Swedish cruiser on route Kaohsiung-Xiamen-Keelung. He was not permitted to enter Keelung.
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Old 02-06-2011, 18:17   #5
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Re: At What Point Must One Clear Customs?

The answer is, "well that depends". Some countries require you check in before landing on shore. Others require that you check in to the nearest port immediately upon entering their waters. So you need to ask this question of the country you plan to transit within. Failing to follow the law in some countries is no big deal, and in others can result in consequences you might not want to pay. Chuck
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Old 02-06-2011, 18:53   #6
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Re: At What Point Must One Clear Customs?

"hugging the China coast "
Right, China.
They don't always play by the same rules that "western" nations follow. There is a UN agreement (search on International Law of the Sea?) that discusses free and safe passage for vessels in transit, and vessels that break down or are in distress, but your problem comes back to CHINA. Especially if they're not a signatory.

If you enter the US with an unlicensed radio transmitter (i.e. ham radio, cb, whatever) no one cares. If you enter China with a properly licensed transmitter, but you don't have a Chinese authorization to use it? You can be arrested for espionage.

If some paranoid, or simply diligent, Chinese coastwatcher sees your boat and sends out a housewarming party...as they said on tv "Lucy, you got a lotta 'splainin' to do!"

I'd suggest some formal written correspondence with the Chinese government (embassy, tourism, etc.) to ensure that if you are just 'passing through" you'll have documentation and official permission to do so.

What is it, still 3? hikers in prison in Iran? who swear they just wandered across the border while hiking in the next country over. To abuse a phrase, when in Rome don't annoy the Romans. Especially if you're not in Rome.
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Old 03-06-2011, 11:10   #7
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Thanks Folks - This All Helps ...

Klubko, others, and I have discussed related issues on other threads.

My understanding of the various points brought up on this latest thread are as follows:

I have researched Xiamen on "Noonsite" and other threads. Basically, it is impossibly expensive to stop there, one needs an agent, set up in advance to do it, and by no means is HK considered "part of China".

Consequently, you are not "cleared in" to China at HK and cannot clear out in Xiamen. Rather you need to clear in and out of HK, if entering from any other nation. Then you need to clear and out of Xiamen, China.

This being the case, so some of the other cautions issued seem indeed warranted and are appreciated, as is the education in basic maritime law. That is what I was really looking for and I appreciate everyone's input.

Also, as Klubko notes, it is illegal to attempt entry into Taiwan after having visited Xiamen or any other Chinese port. That is one reason which I would not consider such a stop unless in an emergency situation.

Good to hear about the maritime law on that as well, however, as others have noted, the law is not always equally and consistently applied. On another thread someone also warned me that, without speaking Chinese, radio communication with the Chinese Coast Guard would be virtually impossible.

All of this put together has certainly helped me better understand the challenges of such a trip.

Lastly, if anyone has more to add, please do so.

Best regards to all,

G2L
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Old 05-06-2011, 00:22   #8
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Re: At What Point Must One Clear Customs ?

Not specific to China, et. al., but the old International "Safe Harbor Provisions" have been effectively abolished after 9/11. So there is no "international" standard anymore. Each country has its own specific rules and requirements varying from being able to "Q-flag" through all the way to requiring advance notification and/or immediate check-in once you are in their national waters. So you must do the research on each country you will be passing through or stopping at.
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Old 05-06-2011, 08:10   #9
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Re: At What Point Must One Clear Customs ?

FWIW China appears to be an UNCLOS signatory.
Status of the Convention and related Agreements

UNCLOS being the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
www.un.org/Depts/los/convention.../texts/unclos/unclos_e.pdf

AFAIK "effectively abolished" just means most of the players will demonstrate higher paranoia than in previous years. Ergh, improved vigilance. But I don't think anything has changed in terms of legal obligations and treaties.
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Old 05-06-2011, 09:45   #10
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Re: At What Point Must One Clear Customs ?

A few months ago a guy I met did that in the USVI's.
Pulled in there when he had some problem... damned if I remember what it was, but he could have kept going to the BVI's no worries.
Of course he didn't have a US visa.

Radioed and US customs said they would meet him at the warf at 2am or sommit.
So he dropped the pick 100 meters away and didn't go in till morning.

Needless to say the US chappies wern't happy chappies, and then they found a marjuana butt on board. (They didn't plant it)

LOL


Took the guy quite a bit of work to get the boat back together in the next port.


But... and this is the important bit.... I think the way the story was told, that the US guys had no problem with someone being forced to enter. They just didn't like how it was done on that occasion (nor what they found).

So in a real emergency I think one is fine in the US, or most other countries. I would think so in China too because when I traveled there as a backpacker they were OK. But the problem is of language, and landing in some remote spot where the idiots are sent because they failed International Law in Coast Guard school.

As with most things cruising: honesty, integrity and friendliness are as important as sails, engines and provisions.



If I was running into a problem country uninvited I would be on the VHF from 50 miles out giving L&L, the problem and my intentions. Repeating it every hour. Many countries have good shore stations and they could hear you from miles away. But waiting till 12 miles out and heading straight in at 6 knots may look unfriendly.
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Old 05-06-2011, 16:53   #11
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Re: At What Point Must One Clear Customs ?

Mark-
"So he dropped the pick 100 meters away and didn't go in till morning.
Needless to say the US chappies wern't happy chappies, "

Well, presumably either he woke the guys up, or they "had" to be ready to meet him at 2AM so either way their night was shot. And then your friend keeps them waiting six or seven hours? You just know they have to ask, what's he doing for six hours on that boat, that he couldn't have just tied up at the dock?

Rash guess, they brought a dog to sniff out the roach. See, that's why you have to keep all flammable materials stowed in a sealed locker above deck. :-)
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Old 05-06-2011, 19:14   #12
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Re: At What Point Must One Clear Customs ?

"Effectively abolished" was used to mean showing up without prior notification and approval is illegal due to "national security" considerations. There are of course, some officials who are reasonable when a small "non-threatening" yacht enters without prior permission. That usually means the yacht and crew do not have a pre-approved Visa.
- - In past experience such yachts have been told to leave forthwith and go someplace else. Failure to be able to do such due to any circumstances opens up a potential nightmare of bureaucratic BS varying from confiscation to fines to a reasonable official working something out for the crippled cruiser.
- - For larger vessels the situation can get downright dangerous as everybody is totally paranoid of the threat of terrorism, real or imagined.
- - Reciprocity is the key phrase in international handling of visiting foreigners and if one or more countries are downright obnoxious about allowing another countries citizens access then the offended country slaps the same or similar restrictions in retaliation.
- - So you end up with a myriad amount of different rules and restrictions as you cruise from one country to another. And it even varies from one port of entry to another within the same country. Keeping up which country is doing what is the only way to minimize unpleasant experiences.
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Old 06-06-2011, 11:16   #13
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Re: At What Point Must One Clear Customs ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by osirissail View Post
Not specific to China, et. al., but the old International "Safe Harbor Provisions" have been effectively abolished after 9/11. So there is no "international" standard anymore. Each country has its own specific rules and requirements varying from being able to "Q-flag" through all the way to requiring advance notification and/or immediate check-in once you are in their national waters. So you must do the research on each country you will be passing through or stopping at.
Thank you for your input,

Discouraging, but not exactly surpising.

Best regards,

G2L
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Old 06-06-2011, 11:19   #14
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Thanks for the Links - Re: At What Point Must One Clear Customs ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
FWIW China appears to be an UNCLOS signatory.
Status of the Convention and related Agreements

UNCLOS being the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
www.un.org/Depts/los/convention.../texts/unclos/unclos_e.pdf

AFAIK "effectively abolished" just means most of the players will demonstrate higher paranoia than in previous years. Ergh, improved vigilance. But I don't think anything has changed in terms of legal obligations and treaties.
Understood. Thanks for the links. I really appreciate that.

Regards,

G2L
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Old 06-06-2011, 11:23   #15
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Re: At What Point Must One Clear Customs ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
A few months ago a guy I met did that in the USVI's.
Pulled in there when he had some problem... damned if I remember what it was, but he could have kept going to the BVI's no worries.
Of course he didn't have a US visa.

Radioed and US customs said they would meet him at the warf at 2am or sommit.
So he dropped the pick 100 meters away and didn't go in till morning.

Needless to say the US chappies wern't happy chappies, and then they found a marjuana butt on board. (They didn't plant it)

LOL


Took the guy quite a bit of work to get the boat back together in the next port.


But... and this is the important bit.... I think the way the story was told, that the US guys had no problem with someone being forced to enter. They just didn't like how it was done on that occasion (nor what they found).

So in a real emergency I think one is fine in the US, or most other countries. I would think so in China too because when I traveled there as a backpacker they were OK. But the problem is of language, and landing in some remote spot where the idiots are sent because they failed International Law in Coast Guard school.

As with most things cruising: honesty, integrity and friendliness are as important as sails, engines and provisions.



If I was running into a problem country uninvited I would be on the VHF from 50 miles out giving L&L, the problem and my intentions. Repeating it every hour. Many countries have good shore stations and they could hear you from miles away. But waiting till 12 miles out and heading straight in at 6 knots may look unfriendly.
Mark,

Point well taken. Thanks for your input.

Best regards,

G2L
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