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Politicians ‘seem afraid’ to shake up yachting industry

Left to right – Marlon Penn, Delores Christopher, and Julian Fraser

By Horace Mills, BVI News Online Staff

An air of helplessness permeated the parliament this morning as lawmakers from both sides of the political divide clamoured for legislation to help put an end to what they consider to be the injustice facing natives of the British Virgin Islands in the yachting industry.

They claimed that owners of charter boats are sidelining local captains and crews, and are instead hiring expats.

Government lawmaker Delores Christopher indicated that the complaint has been circulating for umpteen years, and there appears to be no listening ear.

“It just seems as though there is no place to take your complaints, because I have heard this thing around for quite some time. We have to correct these things. I do agree, we must bring another bill here to regulate this cruising permit industry not only from the fee aspect…” she told the House of Assembly during a debate on the Cruise Permit {Amendment) Act 2017.

Christopher further said it appears BVI belongers are losing their stake in their country.

“We should be the ones capitalizing on this benefit, but everyday it seems to be slipping and slipping and slipping further away from us… We are being taken for granted here in this little tiny dot. This little nature’s secret; other people are taking it away from us.”

Christopher also dismissed what she considers to be the reason given for not prioritizing locals in the yachting industry.

“We’ve come to the point where our local captains are groaning because of some [inaudible] story that the captain and the maid or the cook or whomever must now be together and share one cabin; it’s a trick. Madam Speaker, it’s a trick… Some outside forces come in with their families and their whomever and they are sharing the room on the pretense that it creates another room for guests. All these things are wrong,” added the Government legislator who also represents the Fifth Electoral District in the House.

‘Everyone in this room knows’

Meanwhile, Opposition lawmaker Julian Fraser, who was the first to raise the issue this morning, suggested that the discrimination locals face in the yachting industry is no secret to members of the House.

“Everyone in this room knows what happens in the industry out there,” he declared without any objection from his colleagues.

Fraser joined the call for legislative action to protect local interests.“We have to be bold; we have to be courageous; we have to look out for our own people,” he trumpeted.

While noting that persons who have helped to develop the industry should be given credit, Fraser continued: “It (the yachting industry) has turned into one of the most lucrative ventures in these Virgin Islands. Unfortunately, Virgin Islanders don’t benefit from it as they should.”

“We can’t even get our people to be captains out there or crews on the yachts without some form of hassle – without some form of discrimination. It should be seamless. As a matter of fact, the only crew out there should be our trained people as long as they have been trained,” Fraser further told the House.

‘We have a lot of newly trained captains’ 

Adding his voice to the debate, Junior Minister of Trade Marlon Penn said BVI are qualified to take up the various positions in the yachting industry. In fact, he told the House that he is probably the only person in his community who lacks the boating proficiency.

“We have a lot of newly trained captains especially in my community in East End… We have the capacity but we as a government should ensure that the laws and the policies are put in place to ensure that our people are not sidelined and are not left behind.”

“We have the hospitality expertise as well. We’ve been in the hospitality industry for years. So we just lose that skill all of a sudden? I don’t want to sound cynical, but I think there is something happening here, and what is happening we need to get to the bottom of it, and we need to ensure that whatever portion of this industry is still available must be preserved for our people,” Penn further said.

‘There seems to be a fear’

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Fahie said it appears lawmakers are afraid to pass legislation to safeguard locals in and out of the yachting industry.

“There seems to be a fear to put legislation in place to protect our people,” he lamented.

Copyright 2018 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

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