Cruising the World
The freedom experienced by boaters who set out to cruise the oceans of the world, exploring off the beaten track, is very appealing. With it of course come inherent risks, which ought to be given due consideration before you set sail.
Any well travelled person will tell you that, on land or at sea, every country has its own laws and customs waiting to catch you out and in many countries – even within the western world – a lack of knowledge can see you on the wrong side of the law. In less developed countries the penalties may be surprisingly severe for something you consider to be a simple mistake. “Innocent until proven guilty” does not apply throughout the world especially where the potential for political and financial gains make media exposure desirable.
For each country a yacht and its crew are proposing to visit, the rules and regulations will vary. Customs procedures and immigration regulations will need to be followed and these are likely to be more complicated than if you arrive in the country by plane or ferry.
It is important to be aware that regulations may “kick-in” before you even enter Territorial Waters. Some countries require you to notify your intentions to the authorities by VHF before you proceed to a designated port of entry. You may need to have arranged a visa in advance and you may have to buy a permit for the boat. An inventory of the items onboard may be needed, as may a crew list. It may be necessary to present the passports and ships papers in every port you visit, just at the ports of entry and departure or only if requested.
Even in countries where yacht tourism is commonplace, the rules for yachts can be difficult to establish. For the less frequented countries, someone who has been there before can be an invaluable source of information and may be able to offer contacts within the country to help with customs and immigration procedures, either informally with translating or as a formal agent, which can be required.
There are numerous cruising forums and web-sites which offer information and can be used to make contact with other cruisers, to allow you to build a picture of what may be expected before your arrival. Some of these are detailed under "Elsewhere on the web". If you find other ones to be particularly useful, please email us so we can spread the word.
As well as investigating the boating regulations, take a look at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) web-site for the latest advice on travelling to the countries concerned. This will give advice on political and cultural issues in the country, terrorism threat levels, piracy and details of the UK support available.
Under the Antarctic Act 1994, any British vessel visiting Antarctica or any person on a British expedition to Antarctica will require a permit from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Yachtsmen should endeavour to avoid navigating through waters in which pirates are known to operate. If it is not feasible to avoid navigating such waters you should seek the latest information on piracy activity for the relevant waters from specialist organisations before setting out.
Yachtsmen should be aware that the risk of piracy may increase if pirates are given to understand that cruising yachtsmen offer a potential source of income through the payment of ransoms.
The number of pirate attacks off Somalia in 2012 reduced significantly compared to the number of attacks in 2011, however yachtsmen should not let these figures lull them into a false sense of security. The conclusions of the joint risk assessment for threats to sailing yachts in the High Risk Area off Somalia, undertaken by UKMTO, MSCHOA, NATO Shipping Centre and MARLO, are clear and incontrovertible - all sailing yachts under their own passage should remain out of the High Risk Area or face the risk of being attacked and pirated for ransom. The SOMALI PIRACY WARNING FOR YACHTS filer has been produced by the Counter Piracy Forces to remind yachtsmen of the real risk they face.
International maritime regulations and conventions are sadly not uniformly applied throughout the world nor are they always adhered to. Law of the Sea and the Coastal State explains your status under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Technically a vessel has a right of passage through the territorial waters of another country as long as that passage is continuous and expeditious, but this can only be claimed if the country in question has agreed to UNCLOS.
Be aware of international boundaries and of claimed territories which may extend further offshore. Caution should be exercised in the vicinity of militarised zones and in politically sensitive areas you may need to research the current situation with any disputed territories, especially islands.
Thought should also be given to the preparation of both the yacht and the crew for more adventurous cruising.
Consideration may need to be given to the availability of spares and the skills to fit them, when and where will it be possible to replenish the boats food and water supplies and of course to equipment, to best enable the survival of the crew should the yacht experience difficulties mid ocean, such as EPIRB, a life raft and long range communications capabilities.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) document MSC/Circ.1174 provides basic safety guidance for oceanic voyages by craft which are not regulated by their national maritime authority, to reduce risks that could lead to loss of life or severe physical injuries to both crew and would-be rescuers, to reduce the need for extended and expensive SAR operations. The guidance includes information on the type of craft, provisioning and safety equipment, communications, voyage planning, crew gear and training.
Boats from all over the world are cruising the oceans, exploring and enjoying the adventure. Before you join them take some time to do your homework, as good preparation, careful planning and prior knowledge of the dangers will help you to achieve a successful and enjoyable voyage.