26 August 2012

¡Bienvenidos a Santa Marta!

Set in the quaint yet bustling atmosphere of Colombia's oldest city, your adventure begins the moment you arrive as you find yourself immersed in the mysterious worlds of Customs and Immigration. Your freedom to explore the country will depend on your ability to acquire crucial "papeles." Timing, perseverance, and appropriate attire are everything in this game of random chance and bureaucratic misalignment.

Background information: (courtesy of Sue and Andy Warman on SY Spruce as reported on noonsite.com, http://www.noonsite.com/Members/sue/R2012-07-09-2)

It should be noted the processes for managing foreign vessels in Colombian waters have not been designed specifically to enable visiting yachts to cruise the Colombian coast. The processes have largely been developed to manage commercial vessels and fishing vessels, both Colombian and foreign flagged. 

Agencies Involved
There are three agencies plus your agent who are involved in the necessary formalities and permissions:-
· Port Captain(s) – Responsible for the navigation of vessels entering a defined jurisdictional region within Colombian coastal waters eg Santa Marta, Baranquilla, Cartagena, and for controlling the movements of vessels within Colombian waters. Note that the forms indicate the port captain is acting for the Ministerio de Defensa Nacional – Direccion General Maritima.
· Immigration – responsible for permission for individual crew members and passengers to enter the Republic of Colombia and to stamp visas into passports depending upon the duration of stay permitted for different nationalities.
· Customs – responsible for temporary permission (Importacion Temporal de Vehiculo Para Tourista), depending upon planned duration of visit (see below), to bring a vessel into Colombian waters without being liable for importation taxes.

Sample Game Play Scenario
You arrive at the marina on a Saturday morning, your quarantine flag aloft.  Since you have not yet acquired a sim card or the ability to speak Spanish, the marina contacts your designated agent for you. (NOTE: ¡Bienvenidos a Santa Marta! does not guarantee a successful outcome for players. Several undesirable outcomes are possible. The developers of ¡Bienvenidos a Santa Marta! strongly discourage attempting to play through the game without the guidance of an agent. If in doubt, see Background Information section above.)

A mystery begins to unfold when you are told your agent will meet with you by the security gate at the entrance to the marina. Had something bad occurred in the past? Why is he not allowed inside?  He explains the various levels of play and the "papeles" required for each one. Bring your passport, boat documentation and outbound clearance certificate ("zarpe" in Spanish) from your last port of call. You may pay him his fee later as you do not have local currency. He informs you you may take down your quarantine flag and fly the Colombian courtesy flag even though no papers have yet been filed.

Several days later, you receive an email from your agent informing you that Customs will come to your boat the next day. You are surprised when they arrive during dinner the night before. Are they  ahead of schedule or is it a trap? Upon request, you show your passport and boat documentation. They want copies of each. Penalty for not having a printer onboard unknown. The agent tells you Customs will have your Temporary Importation Permit (level 1 play papel) in a few days. You agree to call him when you obtain your sim card to set up an appointment.

In order to save money for the purchase of more papeles, you choose to leave the marina and anchor in the adjoining bay. Six days pass. You hear nothing more from your agent or any agency.  Are you "legal"? You decide your agent will notify you if there are any problems. Late that afternoon, the guardacosta circles your boat. They explain something in Spanish. You still have not acquired the abliity to speak Spanish, but they seem friendly. Eventually, you are able to piece together that your Customs agent is waiting for you on the beach. You get in the dinghy and attempt to make a beach landing on an unfamiliar beach. Dual Obstacle Alert (DOA): Your efforts are complicated by the fact that one of you has a broken and casted arm greatly inhibiting movement and the other one of you can't swim and is afraid of being in water. You manage to land the dinghy while the Customs agent and half a dozen people look on. He had been waiting on a phone call from you so that you could arrange a place to meet to complete the paperwork and acquire your papel, but you have not yet obtained a sim card. He could think of no way to contact you other than to have the Coast Guard come to your boat. Undesirable outcome scenario avoided. During your meeting, your Customs agent tells you the guarda has informed him that you are not allowed to anchor in the bay. He offers to call them and translate for you. There has been a misunderstanding. The guarda was unaware that you had already collected the necessary papeles. Bonus: you may stay in the bay as long as your visa permits.

You flounder trying to get the dinghy back in the water until a Samaritan shows up to help you off shore.

Several more days pass. Your agent has completed the steps necessary for the acquisition of your level 1 play papeles. You and your vessel are now free to move about anywhere within the jurisdiction. At this time you may opt to acquire the papeles needed for advanced (level 2) play. You can take your chances and cruise beyond the jurisdiction without acquiring these papeles, your agent informs you, but if you do and encounter troubles, the guarda may or may not rescue you. What should you do?

You choose to play it safe and acquire more papeles. He tells you he will need a letter sized copy of the legal sized Temporary Importation Permit (level 1 play papel) you received from Customs. You receive bonus points (use unspecified) for having a scanner on your boat. This copied document is to be submitted to the Office of the Port Captain. You will be provided with an invoice for your Permanent Permit. This Invoice is then taken to the bank where you deposit $175,500 COP (Colombian pesos) into the account of the Port Captain. Your invoice is marked "paid." Your agent will then take your paid invoice to the harbormaster's office as part of the application for your Permanent Permit. Your agent will inform you when your Permanent Permit has been approved.

Once you have your document resized, you make plans to contact your agent. However, the game has put an obstacle in your way. Until you figure out a way around the obstacle, you will not be able to acquire a sim card.  You ask the marina office to contact him for you. You are told it is a holiday, though no one knows what it commemorates. Is this another obstacle or do Colombians have too many holidays? Try again tomorrow. Meanwhile, you succeed in finding a workaround to the sim card obstacle. You contact your agent to give him your new phone number.

You meet with your agent the next day. He has tried to call you, but you have not yet acquired the ability to operate your cell phone. You miss his call. When you meet with him, he tells you the reason that he had called was to tell you that the Port Captain's office is not issuing invoices that day. Reason: unknown. Try again tomorrow.

You meet with your agent the next day, hoping he doesn't notice you are wearing the exact same outfit as before and complete the steps above. You wait for your level 2 play papel...


What will happen next?  Will you get to cruise the waters of Colombia or will you be deported? Not even you can decide when you play ¡Bienvenidos a Santa Marta!

1 comment:

  1. Very funny, Ean! I know your satire will be very much appreciated by the other unsuspecting cruisers who are trying to navigate the Bienvenidos! game. And just think: I could have offered my translation services for free! Do you think it would ever work to use the ipad and do a live face time chat to figure something out? :)