David and Jose-Anne Ockhuijzen

Second vessel refused entry into Portimão as border authority confirms ‘door is closed’ to recreational boats

Another vessel has been refused entry into Portugal after its crew completed a two-week quarantine period at Portimão Marina only to be told at the end of it that they could not enter the country.

The news came at the same time that the country’s immigration and border authority (SEF) confirmed to the Resident that the docking of all “recreational boats” and the entrance of crews into the country is forbidden. The “exceptions to the rules are Portuguese citizens and citizens with residency permits”.

David Ockhuijzen, skipper on the catamaran “ZILT”, arrived with his wife Jose-Anne in Portimão on May 8.

“We came from the Mediterranean Sea and, at the time we arrived in Portimão, we had been ‘locked’ on our boat for nine weeks because of Covid-19,” David told the Resident, adding that they are both Dutch citizens and that their boat is sailing under a Dutch flag.

“We received permission to anchor in Portimão from the port authority. The maritime police that came to our boat stressed that we had to stay in quarantine on our boat for 14 days. For obvious reasons, we were not happy with that, but we respected this condition,” he said.

However, the day before completing the quarantine period, David was called by a representative from Portugal’s health authority to inform them that they still were not allowed to go ashore and had to wait until June 15.

“The representative said that this is the law, and these are the rules,” David told us.

“What makes the situation even more painful is the fact that while we are locked on our boat, people are flying into Lisbon from abroad and doing whatever they want, no questions asked! We know of several examples at the Portimão Marina where people flew in over the last two weeks, went to their boats and sailed out to anchor next to us and went ashore by dinghy without any restrictions.

“When I asked the lady from the health authority about this, she said: ‘Yes, sorry, but the rules for airplanes are different from the rules for boats’.”

David and his wife will now wait in Portimão until they are allowed to enter.

“The winds are not really favourable to sail up north this time of year. So, we will wait until we are allowed to come in,” he told us.

“It is good to have rules, but rules have to make sense. When employees of the various authorities are hiding behind rules without being able to explain the rationale behind the rules, and when at the same time these rules are applied differently depending on who you are dealing with, things are seriously going in the wrong direction,” David said.

The outrage is echoed by Sven Taylor, captain of the 104-year-old Joseph Conrad vessel which left Portimão last Saturday and set sail for Croatia after also being refused entry into the country.

“The distinct lack of reason and common sense shown by European countries is incomprehensible,” he said, amazed at how the yachting community and their income is usually welcomed only to now be “segregated in such an inhumane manner”.

“Thankfully, other countries are realising that our sea time is equivalent to quarantine as our clearance papers from the last port of call, ship’s log and electronic tracking devices clearly show that the vessel has not stopped anywhere,” said Sven.

He added that “we are not infected and have had no opportunity to be”.

Meanwhile, SEF has also confirmed in its written response to the Resident that cruise ships are also not allowed to stop at Portuguese ports to let off their passengers or crew, although some exceptions could be made, with the consent of Portugal’s health authority, for a crew switch or to let off passengers who are returning to their country of residence, with the exception of national citizens and citizens with residency permits. Travelling by boat between Spain and Portugal is also ‘off limits’.

By MICHAEL BRUXO
michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com