Update from Budget Marine August 11, 2012
As a member of the board of the Curacao Marine Trade Organization, I would like to share that in regards to the tightening up of immigration rules for cruisers in Curacao, we are making progress in communicating with the Curacao authorities.
We just received confirmation that Immigration is aware of the problems concerning the application of the strict “90 days rule” and that this is in conflict with the weather seasonality (Hurricane Season), cruising around Curacao and a thread to the economy of Curacao.
A meeting will be held with all stake holders, including representatives from the Marine Trade organization, within 14 days.
Roeland van Bijnen
Initial Report Posted 07 August 2012
Latest reports from Cruisers and local marine businesses in Curacao, are indicating that all visiting boats need to be aware that immigration rules are being “tightened up”. What was once a relatively straightforward extension of time permitted in the country, is now being denied and many cruisers are confused and concerned, changing their cruising plans to avoid Curacao.
Note, that Curacao customs permit any boat an initial 6 month stay, however this permit can be renewed for another 6 months at no charge. If the boat is placed on the hard in a boatyard, it can stay indefinitely in a “duty-free”status.
The crew however is another thing altogether. If you ask Immigration for a 90 day stay on arrival, it is almost always granted. However, cruisers who have applied for a renewal without leaving the country are now discovering that they are not being granted renewals and are being told to leave the country.
In the past, many cruisers would fly to the U.S. or Europe, stay there for some weeks or months, and then return. On returning, another 90 days was granted. However all this has changed and now cruisers are not being granted permission to enter the country. Reports are that a British couple who flew back into Curacao last week, were told to leave by 0600 with their boat the next morning.
For years, cruisers have been coming to Curacao, staying 90 days, then checking out and sailing off to Bonaire or Venezuela for some weeks, or flying to the U.S. or Europe, and then re-entering Curacao for another 90 day stay. It is this second 90 day stay within a calendar year that is now being denied. Cruisers do say however that it depends on which immigration official is at the airport or at the immigration office in Punda as to whether permission is granted or not.
There does not appear to be an official policy and everyone is currently very confused as to why these stringent regulations have been brought into practice. Even more confusing is that some cruisers are still being granted a 2nd or even 3rd 90 day extension, whilst others are being told to leave, whether their boat is in any fit state to sail or not.
Local Wifi operator Hans Roos gave noonsite an insight into the local situation currently in Curacao, “The situation is far from comfortable. For a long time a few Immigration officials have been causing a lot of problems. After making some noise, these officials were relocated. It is however difficult to know what really is going on.
“We know that immigration management used to allow yachts to re-enter Curacao after a 90 day stay as long as they stayed away for a reasonable time and they did not abuse their tolerance. We know that within immigration their is friction between management and employees. It could well be that this is escalating into a group of immigration officers protesting by means of sticking vigorously to the official rules. What also has happened is that a few cruisers, in the mind of immigration, abused their tolerance by staying for years, living ashore and basically no longer acting as a cruiser.
“What also does not help is that the political situation on Curacao is getting less comfortable. There is more and more resentment against the Dutch government, Dutch people in general and particularly those living on Curacao. In general, there is resentment building up against yachts at anchor anywhere in Curacao waters. This is stimulated particularly by the local sailing clubs who see Spanish Waters as their private territory and would like to see all yachts go. There is no acceptable alternative to anchoring in Curacao.
“A yacht industry that has grown over years (Budget Marine, Island Water World, ABC Marine, Nautical Caribbean, Mari-Caribbean, Curacao Marine Services, Seru Boca Marina, Kimakalki Marina, Royal Curacao Marine and many others) benefiting from visiting cruisers, will feel the pain if that industry is put under pressure. Budget marine has already stated that they are going (again) to take some action. Local pressure groups, that keep on pressing officials in the government agencies on a daily basis, will in the long run book some success.
“At one point in time Customs was pushed resulting in a very bad situation. After negotiations, explaining the reality and apologies from all sides, Customs understood the situation and accepted their responsibility, resulting in a solid set of rules. These rules are seen as extremely Yacht Industry friendly and enabling yachts to do their business without abuse and still obeying the law. No new laws were needed, just the existing laws to be expanded to all maritime activity. High marks for customs for that demonstration of professional attitude.
“It would be nice to see Immigration acting similarly. All we can do is try to mobilize various people and particularly those who have an interest in yachts coming to Curacao.”
One thing is clear, cruisers are changing their cruising plans to avoid Curacao until the situation has settled and the rules are being applied uniformly. Serge Dauvillier of Dauvillier Yaching has told us, “At the moment, Immigration has lost its mind. I am currently in contact with the consulate in Miami and Washington Embassy to get the rules from the Netherlands in the Caribbean and trying to get an appointment with immigration here. For some reason within immigration they invent new rules as you stay in front of them. An update is being requested”.
More news on the immigration situation in Curacao when we have it.
Courtesy of www.noonsite.com