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Old 24-09-2015, 00:16   #1
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Extortion for “illegally” entering a country.

On our trip from Madagascar to South Africa we had an electrical problem (could not start motors) and we sheltered in rough conditions in a small port in Mozambique. We worked on the problem, never left the boat.
The next day 4 officials boarded us to check our documents. (Visa & Cruising permit)
They ordered me off the yacht to follow them to their office, where they demanded $300 for a cruising permit and confiscated our passports until the money was payed.
I claimed that under international law I was entitled to shelter for max. 48 hrs under these conditions, to no avail.
I paid in order to be able to continue our trip.
What would have been our options?
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Old 24-09-2015, 00:26   #2
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Re: Extortion for “illegally” entering a country.

Hi Seman - from my experiences in Mozambique over the years since 1992 - you had no options but to pay to get your passports back. A cruising permit should be about Mtz3,500 which is equivalent to about $30.

Sometimes you can push it and put up a strong argument, sometimes it works, sometimes it does not.Sorry to hear about this but it is becoming a real problem and getting worse. This happens in ports and on the road inland.

What was the "small" port you stopped at?
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Old 24-09-2015, 00:45   #3
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Re: Extortion for “illegally” entering a country.

Pebane, Blackie.
They gave me the 3 month cruising permit & told me I will be ok for the next 3 month in Mozambique. No other permits or Visas needed.
In Quelimane they wanted to see our Visa, here we go again!
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Old 24-09-2015, 01:03   #4
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Re: Extortion for “illegally” entering a country.

At least you did not go into Angoche - there you just get arrested and put in jail, not a good place at all. Did you have to stop at Quelimane as well? Normally a permit is issued per Province so you should be ok there as both places are in Zambezia province. Hopefully you don't have to go in anywhere else until you hit Richard's Bay.
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Old 24-09-2015, 03:00   #5
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Re: Extortion for “illegally” entering a country.

I was only testing my new "Cruising Permit" with immigration.
I left in a hurry before they could get me.
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Old 24-09-2015, 04:44   #6
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Extortion for “illegally” entering a country.

Seman. Reading with interest. We, and a lot of other cruisers now in the Nosy Be area, are and will be, heading toward South Africa. Some will have mechanical issues and others weather stops. Its well noted and documented that extortion is rampant in Mozambique but your is the latest story.


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Old 24-09-2015, 06:23   #7
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Re: Extortion for “illegally” entering a country.

UNCLOS allows for "safe passage" in cases of force majeure. Two important things about that, though, are that not all countries are signatories to UNCLOS (the United States is not) and the definition of "force majeure" is left to each country to decide for itself.

So, you anchored in their country, with no life-threatening emergency facing you, and they insisted that you follow all the normal check-in procedures. Doesn't sound to me like they over-stepped their bounds in the least. Sounds like they just expected you to follow their laws. Hardly an unreasonable thing.

I know that's not what you wanted to hear, but it's their country so they get to make the rules. Despite the mistaken beliefs of (it seems) an awful lot of people, there is no "international law of the sea" that is guaranteed to apply everywhere and be enforced in the same way everywhere. If you are going to travel around the world you have to understand that you are subject to the laws of each country that you pass through.

Good luck in the future.
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Old 24-09-2015, 06:31   #8
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Re: Extortion for “illegally” entering a country.

... part of the problem Seman encountered is also, that a lot of boaters just try to safe money 'on short visits to countries' (to just get a nap for instance or break down the trip in shorter segments) claiming they have a problem and trying to avoid to pay 'the proper fees' ...

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Old 24-09-2015, 06:55   #9
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Re: Extortion for “illegally” entering a country.

Quote:
Originally Posted by denverd0n View Post
... Two important things about that, though, are that not all countries are signatories to UNCLOS (the United States is not) ...
The UNCLOS convention has been ratified by 167 parties, including Mozambique (13 mars 1997).
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Old 24-09-2015, 08:39   #10
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Re: Extortion for “illegally” entering a country.

I think that point might not be just paying your legal dues - its the amount demanded. Several years ago a South African boat had their duck (dinghy) stolen off the back and towed away in front of them. They followed the thieves by binoculars and radar and the next morning several dinghy loads of cruisers confronted the thieves. The police were called and openly supported the thieves who claimed they had found the duck. The owners had to buy back their own property and then watch the thief openly pay the police out of the received cash. Many of the cruisers realised that it would have been better dealt with using alternative methods that some politically correct people would probably object to - or at least until the same happens to them.
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Old 24-09-2015, 08:43   #11
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Re: Extortion for “illegally” entering a country.

Sometimes, being right doesn´t matter.
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Old 24-09-2015, 08:55   #12
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Re: Extortion for “illegally” entering a country.

Always let all countries know you are there, even under duress.
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Old 24-09-2015, 08:56   #13
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Re: Extortion for “illegally” entering a country.

Quote:
Originally Posted by denverd0n View Post
UNCLOS allows for "safe passage" in cases of force majeure. Two important things about that, though, are that not all countries are signatories to UNCLOS (the United States is not) and the definition of "force majeure" is left to each country to decide for itself.

So, you anchored in their country, with no life-threatening emergency facing you, and they insisted that you follow all the normal check-in procedures. Doesn't sound to me like they over-stepped their bounds in the least. Sounds like they just expected you to follow their laws. Hardly an unreasonable thing.

I know that's not what you wanted to hear, but it's their country so they get to make the rules. Despite the mistaken beliefs of (it seems) an awful lot of people, there is no "international law of the sea" that is guaranteed to apply everywhere and be enforced in the same way everywhere. If you are going to travel around the world you have to understand that you are subject to the laws of each country that you pass through.

Good luck in the future.


I think the key portion of the post you may have missed is that the cruising permit is supposed to be $30, but they were asked for $300.
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Old 24-09-2015, 09:06   #14
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Re: Extortion for “illegally” entering a country.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GordMay View Post
The UNCLOS convention has been ratified by 167 parties, including Mozambique (13 mars 1997).
Unfortunately, Gord, the local authorities do not know or care about such conventions and are simply looking for a quick buck. They would not have given an official receipt either. When this is attempted with us in Mozambique/Madagascar/Comoro Islands/Tanzania/Zanzibar/Kenya etc etc (and they have all tried at some time over the last 25 years) we pull out a video camera and also insist on an official receipt. If they object to being filmed and still insist on the money we pull out a mobile phone and advise them that we are calling their head of department in the capital city. We also insist on seeing their identity. If none of these are forthcoming then we have advised them that they can retain our passports (after issuing a receipt) and that we shall then get our Embassy involved to resolve with their government department. If they try insisting on keeping the passports without issuing receipts or proving their identity then we insist on calling the police.
At this point they realise that we are not simply going to roll over and pay them and usually burst into big smiles as they realise things could escalate and they shall end up in official trouble. We have been through all of these scenario's and in one instance all of them one after another. We maintain a non-aggressive position and keep smiling (barely concealed grimace) and have only once had to pay. Its all part of the game in Africa.
We only paid once and that was in Morondava, Madagascar in 1995 - long before mobile communications existed. We had our visa'a, cruising permits etc but we still ended up being charged 'overtime' of several hundred dollars as they claimed it was their lunchtime. To show anger or frustration is the worst thing.
In Kenya we imported a new anchor chain and altho' there was no duty to pay the smiling customs official advised that he knew we needed the anchor chain for our boat that we would have to pay him US$200 cash or he would ensure that paperwork was created that would keep our chain in the warehouse until a storage fee was run up in excess of the $200. As we needed the chain and our weather window was limited as we were headed to the Red Sea we were left with very little option. We later wrote and reported the matter to the Customs but there was no evidence - therefore no case.

Going to Mayotte or Mauritius or Reunion etc and we have never been subject to such attempts. We have also transited the Red Sea several times and again have never been subject to such acts ('cept a couple of Suez Pilots trying it on).

However, to get things into true perspective, these incidents have been very, very rare and we are usually greeted with big welcoming smiles. We are reasonably well known in some ports and will sometimes hand out small gifts (for their children!) of a biro or two etc.
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Old 24-09-2015, 09:13   #15
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Re: Extortion for “illegally” entering a country.

Noonsite publishes that the total cost of entry is about $225US (2013). This is in Pemba.
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