"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

June 3, 2014

June 3 – Small Vessel Reporting System

Lamb’s Yacht Center

Our plan is to go to the Bahamas next spring, so we’ve been doing a lot of research…reading everything we can online, in books and magazines plus talking to anyone we meet that has been there on their boat. One thing we knew we wanted to take care of this year was registering for the SVRS (Small Vessel Reporting System). This program is offered by the U.S. Customs & Border Protection agency to make immigration clearance for low risk recreational boaters easier on their arrival from a foreign port.

It’s a painless process…if you know a few things that aren’t explained well on the CBP (Customs & Border Protection) website. We tried several time to register online when we were in Charleston, but ran into the same problem each time. Their site would lock up when we tried to enter the information on our vessel. We tried calling the number on the website for information and even sent an email, but we got no response. Later we talked to a CBP officer on the dock, he told us we could register without the vessel and add it later. That seems weird…isn’t this called Small Vessel Reporting System? He also told us everyone on board needs to register…no where on their website does it tell you that! Maybe it should be called the Passenger Reporting System. So the secret is to register each person and schedule a time for an interview and bring your vessel information with you.

The SVRS is a free program. If you have a SVRS number all you have to do is call the CBP when you arrive back in an U.S. port. They will ask you a few questions and clear you, your passengers and vessel by phone. If you DON’T have a SVRS number you have to report in person to the nearest CBP office within 24 hours of your arrival. Our interview wasn’t much of an interview…we had heard they would take our pictures and fingerprint us, but that didn’t happen. All they did was take our boat information and issue each of us a SVRS number. The process was simple and painless.

We wanted to get registered in this program while we had our car, because the interviews are only done at certain CBP locations. Those locations can be hard to get to when you arrive on a boat. We found out that one of the easiest places to register if you don’t have a car would be Fernandina Beach, their office is close to the marina.

Vessels also need to have a DTOPS (Decal/Transponder Online Procurement System) decal. It’s a yearly decal (cost $27.50) that is required by the CBP for vessels 30 ft. or more in length that travel in and out of US waters. The decal will be displayed on our boat and lessen our chances of being detained or boarded for inspection by CBP. We’ll go online this fall and apply for the 2015 DTOPS decal, because it can take 4-6 weeks to arrive and we want everything done before we leave for the Keys after Christmas.

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