Friday, 11 July 2008

Reader's Update - Customs Clearance and Regulations in Croatia

Many thanks to Mike Forbes for today's posting and photo.

Mike shares his boat with 3 co-owners and is thus one of the unintentional victims of the Croatian legislation introduced in 2005, aimed at preventing illegal chartering, but carelessly drawn up to frustrate a number of yachtsmen simply wanting to enjoy the delights of Croatian waters at an affordable cost.
The government tells us it wants to encourage superyachts, and turns a blind eye in that respect - what about fractional owners?

For more information on the rules and regulations, follow this link - For an update on clearing customs at Gruz, Dubrovnik (don't - go to Cavtat!), link to noonsite.

Mike tells us that he put the Croatia Cruising Companion to good use on his travels and particularly enjoyed Uvala Pokrivenik on the north coast of Hvar (page 175). Mike is a fan of deserted anchorages and probably won't thank us for mentioning another of his favourites, Uvala Rasotica on Brač island, for which he kindly supplied excellent photos (page 12 and 160).

Mike's photo above shows his yacht in splendid isolation at Neum.


To circumvent the Croatian limit on the number of people allowed to sail on foreign-flagged vessels (28 in our case, shared between four owners) we decided to carry out our mid-cruise crew change outside Croatia, namely at Neum in the short coastline of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

On arrival from the UK I went to the Harbourmaster's Office in Split and told them my plan. The Duty Officer told me that all my crew, due to leave me in Neum, would have to appear on the List of Persons, the official List making up the 28 authorised people. I remonstrated saying that people who disembarked outside Croatia did not have to be listed; unfortunately the 2005 e-mail from the Croatian Ministry of the Sea that outlined the Rules, including out-of-Croatia crew-changes, was at home in UK. He was adamant - and so was I. He was eventually persuaded to telephone his boss - it was a Sunday - and grumpily agreed to issue me with a Crew List with their names NOT having to go on the List of Persons. We now have a copy of the all-important e-mail with our Ship's Papers.

Ten days later we checked out of Croatia at the unlovely industrial port of Ploce. All went well until the policeman who came to stamp our passports asked where and when had we registered with the police on arrival in Croatia. This is normally done by hotels, but arriving as we do and going straight to the marina it is not a practice we have followed. The policeman was taking this very seriously and returned to his HQ for further research and advice. When he returned he said the marina at Split had not reported us but he had found reference to me when I had attended some language training at a hotel in Porec in April. After muttering that ignorance of the law was no defence and laboriously taking down our details he let us go.Two hours later we arrived off Neum.

We flew a Bosnia-Herzegovina courtesy flag (made from a computer print-out) but this was the only flag we saw. We were the only yacht there, indeed the largest vessel. It is a somewhat depressing holiday resort with many people for whom we got the impression that this was their first sight of the sea. We secured stern-to the only quay, with an anchor out, and became the centre of attraction to the curious holiday-makers. The only harbourmaster in Bosnia was supremely uninterested in us, neither did the police want to know. I felt it unwise to leave the boat unattended so we dined onboard on excellent take-away pizzas.

Next day my three crew-members departed to Dubrovnik airport by taxi and were replaced several hours later by five others, including my wife and American grand daughter. I was not sorry to leave next morning, and when we checked in to Croatia at Ploce - flying Flag Q - the policewoman arrived armed with arrival registration forms which she filled in before stamping our passports. Within an hour we were off for a very welcome night at the little Hvar village of Sučuraj.

I am not sure whether other yachts use Neum to change crews, or prefer to go to Herceg-Novi, Montenegro. The latter has the advantage that there are other fascinating places to visit, such as Kotor. Whichever we use, the requirement constrains the cruise and provides a complication we could do without. But this has been a fact of Croatian cruising for foreign flags since 2005 which we have learned to live with. Hopefully, eventful EU accession will consign the Rule to history.


As a postscript to Mike's note on registering as a visitor in Croatia, this is an area where we have heard that the police are tightening up. By the letter of the law, all foreign visitors are required to register with the local police within 24 hours of arrival. If you're staying at a hotel or campsite, or on a charter holiday, registration is normally done for you. If you're staying with friends, or otherwise doing your own thing, the onus is on you, and if renting an apartment you should check that the owner has registered you.

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