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One of the things I have always loved about cruising is that we go to places that are very hard or impossible for a normal tourist to visit. For example, Beveridge Reef or the Lau Group of Fiji. In planning our Indian Ocean crossing, we had one special stop that we set our sights on: Chagos.
About the British Indian Ocean Territory and Chagos
The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) is an overseas territory of the UK, made up of seven atolls and over 1,000 islands. The native name for the island group is Chagos. The largest island is Diego Garcia, the site of a joint US and UK military base. Other than the base, Chagos is uninhabited – the UK kicked out about 2,000 Chagossians to claim this territory. A few months ago, the International Court of Justice ruled that the British government should return the land to Mauritius, where most Chagossians now reside.
While there are no local peoples or infrastructure, cruisers have been stopping by Chagos with the permission of the British Government.
Timing Your Permit Application
We sent in our application on January 26th and we received our permit April 30th. It is advised to give at least six weeks for processing, but every cruiser we’ve talked to has had back and forth verifying the requirements for the permit. It will take time, and we often waited weeks to receive a response via email.
There are two major requirements for the application:
-Salvage, wreck recovery and removal, no amount specified
-Medevac, with a minimum of $100,000 per person onboard
When filing your application, the administration asks that you highlight the relevant sections of your insurance documents. Our boat insurance policy included the required salvage requirements. However, the staff misread the exclusion restrictions and thought that we weren’t covered in Chagos. I sent back an email highlighting the exclusion zones and an image showing the area we aren’t covered (approaching the Suez).
Our health insurance policy did not have high enough medevac coverage, so we contacted our broker who got us a 2-month supplemental policy to cover up to $1,000,000 medevac. Our new policy cost us $113.82.
We had to send an international wire transfer for $400 USD to the administration office in London.
As always, Noonsite has excellent information on applying for the permit to Chagos.
The BIOT website contains the application, instructions, and other pertinent information.