Underscoring the importance of the maritime sector to the British Virgin Islands, Premier Andrew Fahie said 21 changes are being made to the territory’s existing Merchant Shipping Act of 2001.
Of the 21 proposed amendments, the Premier said new changes would include extending duties to professional seafarers — both on and off-duty — who may be called upon to act in emergency situations.
While on duty, boat captains would be required to have a prescribed (unspecified) alcohol limit as it relates to alcohol consumption, Fahie explained.
The law will also be amended to give a police officer the right to enter a ship/vessel or any other place where a drunk seafarer might be located.
“Clause 16 [of the amendmends would provide regulation to be made with respect to compulsory insurance and security,” Premier Fahie explained while speaking in the House of Assembly recently.
He further said a new section will be added to the existing law and will address the implementation of “counter pollution and environmental conventions” for the sector.
Adopting international maritime laws
Addressing last Thursday’s sitting of the House of Assembly, Premier Fahie said some of the changes reflect what is known as the International Maritime Organization’s ‘Triple I Code’. These are international maritime laws that govern the sector and that should effectively be adopted by governments globally.
According to Premier Fahie, his government’s proposed amendments to the territory’s Merchant Shipping Act will come in two phases.
“Phase one is essential for Triple I Code being done immediately, and in phase two — the liability conventions that are not Triple I Code-related — is being done later,” the Premier said.
In the meantime, the Premier said the amendments are critical to the local sector.
“It is a fundamental piece of legislation that governs our maritime sector which is the cornerstone our territory’s tourism, fishing and financial services economy. Its passage is critical to the preservation of our category-one status as a member of the UK’s Red Ensign Group — the premier registry of the maritime vessels in the world,” Fahie said.
He further said the proposed amendments support the government’s plan to revitalize the territory’s marine sector and to confirm the BVI as a sailing and maritime capital of the region.