Yachting in Vanuatu: A captain and crew’s guide
Last updated: 03/08/2016
Located only 1,750km from the North Eastern coast of Australia and 1,000km west of Fiji, Vanuatu is a South Pacific country made up of 83 islands that stretch 1,300 kilometres. It is a nation which has much to offer visiting yachts and superyachts, and Yachting Pages spoke to yacht services company Vanuatu Yacht Services (VYS), to find out what visiting vessels can expect.
Yachting in Vanuatu
Vanuatu Yacht Services reports that the number of yachts visiting each year has ranged from 40 in a season to 10, with an average being approximately 30 per year.
When to visit Vanuatu
The climate is tropical, and yachts usually cruise Vanuatu during the driest months - any time from April to December, avoiding the height of summer and Cyclone season in January, February and March.
Vanuatu has no large marinas or superyacht marinas as such, however stern to berthing for vessels up to 30 to 35 metres LOA is possible at Yachting World and up to 40 metres LOA at certain private wharfs in Port Vila (which is also the capital).
According to Claire from VYS, “In terms of berthing, we have exclusive arrangements with Yachting World and several private berth owners in Port Vila.”
Yachting berthing prices
Costs for stern to berthing in Port Vila depends on vessel size and whether at Yachting World or at a private dock, berth fees range from $200 to $400 (AUD) per day with the higher side of the scale being for the larger yachts of approx. 30 to 40 metres LOA. Water and power is excluded.
Security for berthing in Port Vila is exceptional; full time security guards operate in a well maintained and developed private seafront area.
Yachts can easily get fuel either from the main wharf or at certain stern to berths. The rate is competitive with global prices and duty free fuel available when clearing out of Vanuatu.
Refit and repair facilities
Vanuatu is fortunate enough to have a couple of top-end joiners, engineers, other marine professionals and a couple of fairly decent chandlers. Many yacht crew comment on how much is actually available in Vanuatu (spares, chandlery items etc.) compared with some of the other Pacific destinations.
It is important to communicate directly with your agent to ensure your contractor is above board and has legitimate insurance and qualifications.
Large and small vessel marine surveying (IIMS and IYB surveyors) is possible with Marine Surveyors & Consultants Vanuatu.
Currently superyachts cannot be hauled out in Vanuatu. The Port Vila Boatyard and its sister company Southern Cross Creations (who are NZ qualified boat builders, joiners and fine cabinet makers) do in-water repair work on visiting superyachts. VYS has close links to BSE, which provide out of water refit and repair facilities in Brisbane and Cairns.
Vanuatu has very well stocked supermarkets, excellent organic beef, fantastic local markets and fresh fish. The provisioning in Vanuatu is said to be the best in the Pacific. The liquor stores boast fine wines from all parts of the world and all the brand name spirits. VYS explained that what cannot be sourced in Vanuatu can be air freighted from NZ quickly.
Clearance in Vanuatu is very streamlined. Claire from VYS also explained, “Inward clearance is straightforward; we have it well coordinated with our government departments. We give the actual process a maximum of two hours, but we have usually found it takes about 40 minutes once the officers arrive on board. We do a lot of background work before a yacht arrives to make sure all the required paperwork is done prior to arrival.”
All the usual flags are acceptable, and most people do not require visas. Upon arrival you will receive a 30-day tourist visa, which can be extended for yachts staying for longer periods. The department of immigration is currently looking at changing the current ruling to support the growing yachting industry. VYS is working with the authorities to help create the best possible experience for the visiting yachts. Vanuatu’s department of customs are doing a fantastic job already and are becoming well known (in the yachting community) for their high level of professionalism and friendliness.
Claire described the process for charter yachts, “For charter yachts we arrange all the paperwork allowing for legal charters of foreign registered superyachts in Vanuatu waters. Yacht captains or management companies should contact us directly for more detailed information on the charter requirements.”
There are plenty of resorts that welcome day guests, beaches, bars and clubs. Day tours are always available as well as activities such as diving, fishing, surfing, golf, etc.
Most superyachts want to see the active volcanoes, the unique cultural spectacles (land diving etc.) and scuba dive on the “President Coolidge” and other world class dive sites. Whether its helicopter tours to the rim of Volcanoes, kite surfing, beachcombing, or spear fishing dogtooth tuna - it’s all possible.
Claire went on to say, “However there are numerous official and unofficial attractions and excursions; this is why a discussion with Vanuatu Yacht Services about your preferences allows us to prepare a customised itinerary. Yacht captains and crew can contact us for a copy of our current guide of suggested attractions and excursions.”
Advice from the experts
Stay in close communication with your agent and cross-reference any information you may have found from other sources with your agent. Be polite and respectful of local landowners and villages and most importantly have fun and enjoy the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the people and the environment of the beautiful archipelago.
Vanuatu is known to have “the happiest people in the world”. The Ni-Vanuatu people are very friendly and welcoming and they value your interest in their country. VYS encourages captains and crew to enjoy some downtime (if possible) and take the opportunity to make some friends.