Sailing in Jamaican Waters
Important Information about Sailing into Jamaican Waters
Jamaica is a popular destination for people with sailboats or yachts. This island is surrounded by aquamarine colored water that is warm, tranquil, and crystal clear, which is why so many people enjoy spending time sailing.
Of course, it is possible to reach Jamaica by cruise ship but we want to focus more on personal watercraft entry and departure. A personally owned sailboat or yacht can enter Jamaican water but only after going through customs and arriving at an official port of entry which include Bowden, Discovery Bay, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Port Antonio, Port Esquivel, Port Kaiser, and Port Royal.
Remember, a personally owned sailboat or yacht must go through the customs process coming into and departing from Jamaican waters. To be granted permission to sail to one of the ports of entry, the vessel must pass a physical inspection but along with this, numerous forms are mandated to include a crew list and declaration, ship’s registration, departure permission from the prior port of call, and a list of the ship’s stores. Sometimes, an additional form is needed, which replaces a few of the other forms mentioned but also captures other information about the ship’s flag, as well as each passenger such as passport number, nationality, birthdate, and position on the vessel.
Keep in mind that regardless of the point of entry, it is imperative that the vessel fly the “Q” flag or quarantine flag. This flag is raised until such time the Quarantine Officer says it can be lowered, which is proof that customs’ agents were provided the necessary maritime declaration of health but also any other bill of health associated with the prior port of call, often referred to simply as a DE-RAT certification. Immigration clearance is another aspect of getting through customs.
For this, the captain must provide proof of citizenship or passports for all the passengers onboard. If there is anyone on the vessel who is not a United States citizen, a 30-day visa is required before reaching customs. Additionally, the Immigration Officer will need to take a close look at anyone sailing to Negril or other areas of the island planning to stay more than six months. Another aspect of customs is getting Coastwide Clearance, which is obtainable by completing a special form. This clearance is what allows the captain of the vessel to sail to all the different port of entries in Jamaica. After arriving, the vessel can dock at any of the marinas listed below, followed by sailing the beautiful Jamaican island waters.
We also want to mention that for someone interested in sailing to Jamaica but does not own a vessel, there are a number of highly respected charter companies. Because there are different sizes, types of vessels and pricing of vessels it is worthwhile to contact several charters before making the final decision. Of course for peace of mind, an individual needs to conduct research specific to the experience of the captain and first-mate, as well as safety history for both the captain and vessel.