Galapagos clearance procedures

Have a good sea lion defence in place...

Have a good sea lion defence in place…

(Published in May 2014)

Following our recent trip to the Galapagos Islands we thought we’d share some information on arriving in San Cristobal, especially in light of the new hull inspection implemented by the Galapagos National Park Officials.

Key points

  • You will need an agent to enter the Galapagos and obtain a permit, be it for a one port stop or a so-called ‘Autographo’ for multiple island stops. Agent fees vary so shop around and we advise organising your agent well in advance of arrival – the agents typically prefer 6-8 weeks notice for an Autographo as these come from Ecuador. The port authorities in Isabella are only allowing boats with an autographo to stop there – check with your agent as the situation is fluid. See www.noonsite/countries/galapagos for full details on permits.

  • Current agent fees (March 2014) are $150 for a one-stop permit and $450-$650 for an autographo. In San Cristobal, Bolivar Pesantes (Bolivar.pesantes@hotmail.com, Ph: (593) 094 205 158) is considered the most cruiser friendly agent but his English is a little limited. For an Autographo he charges $448. Ricardo Arenas (info@arenas.bz) is more expensive quoting  $650 for an Autographo but he does speak some English. Note these are fees for their services over-and-above other fees charged by the authorities.

  • We were charged the following fees by the authorities: Service and reception on arrival $224 (this is a Harbour Master fee and based on your gross tonnage so around $12 per tonne), Quarantine inspection $100, Immigration $31 per vessel, National Park Fees $100 per person, Governing Council fee $10 per person, Photocopies and transport for authorities $30, Garbage disposal $30 (we noticed that our the garbage we had carefully separated into three different bags, as required by the authorities, was just dumped in one lot on the fishing pier!), hull inspection $25.

  • It is a good idea to mail or phone your agent en-route to advise when you will arrive so you get booked in their schedule and avoid sitting around waiting until they are free once you do arrive. We did and our agent was on hand for our arrival.

  • You will be boarded by a number of officials either all at once or at different times, and usually on the same day as each other but sometimes not. Your agent will guide you through this. These will include Galapagos National Park officials, an official from the Ministry of Environment and an official from the Harbour Master. Expect anything from 6-10 officials in total!

  • The Ministry of Environment official is interested in fumigation and sanitation. He will want to see a fumigation certificate and a sanitation certificate. The fumigation certificate is best obtained from your port of departure. If coming from Panama speak to your Panama Canal agent or if not using an agent speak to Tito (titongservice@hotmail.com, Ph: (507) 444 0600). A sanitation certificate can be self-certified. Make your own including details of your holding tanks then sign, date it and ideally boat stamp it – click on the link at  the bottom of this page to see ours.

  • The Harbour Master official will ask details about your boat, focusing mainly on safety – first aid kit, liferaft, flares, life jackets. He will want to know your last port and next port and will want the boat’s Zarpe (exit papers) from your last port.

  • The National Park Officials will come as a group of 4-6 people. They will examine your boat in some detail and you should expect everything to be opened up, inspected and photographed. And we mean everything – they went through cupboards, drawers, bilges, showers and the engine compartment. While this sounds invasive, our experience was that it was all done in a friendly manner. Any non-permitted foods will be removed. Details on what is/isn’t permitted can be found here www.discovergalapagos.com/sicgal_products_list%20january%2020091.pdf. They may ask you if you have a waste management system. Ideally have one in place – for example have three separate bags for recycleable, organic and non-recyclable items to align with the facilities for waste in the Galapagos. There is a good article all about this on www.noonsite/countries/galapagos/members/sue/R2012-05-18-1  .Our agent also gave us a sign to put up saying (in Spanish and English) “do not throw garbage in the sea”. Expect several questions to be asked about your boat maintenance. We had a boat maintenance log of when we had done oil changes etc. for both the engine and generator and this helped a lot – we talked the official through it and he was satisfied. They clearly don’t want oil changes being carried out in the Galapagos Islands so do them before arriving!

  • The hull inspection is the one thing most cruisers are concerned about at the moment. Your inspection could simply be a look from the surface, a snorkel of your hull or an actual dive with tanks – it seems to be luck of the draw. We did a self-certification including details of our antifoul and cleaning record – click on the link at  the bottom of this page to see ours. It is highly advisable to check/clean your hull before departing for the Galapagos. We did and then also stopped the boat 50 miles offshore and jumped in for a final clean. We took a video and some pictures and these were accepted by the officials. You will be sent 70 odd miles offshore for cleaning at your own expense if your hull is not deemed clean!

  • Overall we recommend having your boat in good order, thoroughly cleaned and being well prepared for the areas you know the officials are interested in (eg. fumigation, engine maintenance, hull cleanliness). Our experience was a good one but we did take the time and effort to prepare thoroughly. As highlighted, we found the officials to be friendly.

  • Finally, your agent will manage your immigration and get your passport stamps. Your agent should also take care of fuel needs, garbage, water etc.

    We hope this is of use – the Galapagos Islands are worth the effort!

    Adina blackwater certification
    Adina hull cleaning certification

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