More than 100 vehicles belonging to BVI residents are sitting in storage facilities in other parts of the region at the growing expense of the car owners; says local port agents Island Shipping, who claim they are being treated unfairly by the state-owned BVI Ports Authority (BVIPA).
As the local agent of the ship responsible for transporting the vehicles, Managing Director of Island Shipping, Christopher Haycraft, said his company has been trying to get these vehicles into the BVI since March 22.
However, when the vessel arrived in the territory on that date, Haycraft said the BVIPA turned it away after it had docked.
“We had to then write a letter to try and understand why the Port Authority would allow us to bring the ship to the dock, why the government — the Environmental Health [Department] — would give us permission to bring the ship to the dock but then the Port Authority would turn around and say ‘you can’t discharge your cargo’,” Haycraft explained to BVI News.
According to a BVIPA letter addressed to Haycraft and later shared with our news centre, non-essential cargo — for an indefinite period — will not be accepted into the territory because of health concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In its letter, the BVIPA further described non-essential cargo as “goods and merchandise that does not fall into the category of food supplies, sanitation and other COVID-19-related response supplies, fuel, and medical supplies”.
But after making inquiries with other local shipping agents, Haycraft said they have not had the same experience.
“Other agents have said no, they have not received a letter telling them they cannot import non-essential cargo. And the port, to this day — if you go down there right now — is full of non-essential cargo being offloaded from boats,” said Haycraft, who claimed he has tried to seek recourse from other authorities.
“I am being blocked from operating in the same manner as other agents and other carriers by this letter … and I feel immensely frustrated because I cannot get an answer from the Governor’s Office, the Deputy Governor’s Office, the Premier’s Office or the Port Authority — all of whom I have written to,” he added.
“Daily we are contacted by the cargo owners for an update and I have nothing to tell them. The ship owners who operate worldwide can’t believe I cannot update them on the status. It is embarrassing.”
HEOC has not issued advice on any non-essential cargo
BVI News then made inquires to the Department of Environmental Health about the guidelines they employ when approving cargo vessels to land in the territory.
When asked if there were any instructions to the Ports as it relates to COVID-19 and non-essential cargo, Cheif Environmental Health Officer, Lionel Micheal said: “No, there is no instruction. They (the BVIPA) would depend on Environmental Health to give that advice because we deal with the items coming at the ports.”
He continued: “We have not dealt any restriction on cargo. There have been restrictions on travellers because the crew members coming on a cargo ship are not allowed not come off the ship at the port … It (directives on cargo restrictions) would come from the Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) and we are on the HEOC. So, that would have to be discussed there and a decision taken. I don’t recall us discussing that. That’s not a high-risk area for us at this moment.”
Over $50,000 in expenses and climbing
Haycraft, in the meantime, told BVI News that the cargoes continue to incur storage charges in countries such as Jamaica and Guadeloupe where the vehicles are being kept because of the BVIPA’s restrictions.
He said the latest storage expenses amounted to $43,000. This sum is in addition to the $12,000 expense for the ship just to dock at Port Purcell without discharging its cargo on March 22.
But Haycraft is not the only party being adversely affected. Frustration is also growing among residents who purchased their vehicles and continue to wait on the shipments.
Jost Van Dyke resident Susan Zaluski has been awaiting the scheduled arrival of her vehicle since early April. She said ‘a chain of emails’ has been shared between her and the Japanese company from which she purchased her vehicle.
“On March 24th they said: ‘We’ve been notified by the shipping company that the schedule has been delayed due to the coronavirus’. I kind of kept asking and then the last two weeks or 10 days has been them telling me it’s either in Guadeloupe of Trinidad or Jamaica and them saying that the port in Road Town is closed. I keep saying, ‘no the port is not closed,” Zaluski said.
The BVIPA’s response
When BVI News sought a comment from the BVIPA, Operations Manager Dean Fahie said: “We’re just trying to clear up the backlog on the ports with containers, right now, so we could make space for when the vehicles start to come in. We’ve asked everybody to give us a week or two before we start to accept more vehicles.”
When questioned specifically about Island Shipping, the BVIPA Operations Manager replied: “That one there, you’ll have to discuss with the Managing Director. I don’t know the situation with that. You’ll have to discuss that with her, Mrs [Oleanvine] Maynard.”
Efforts to contact Maynard — via voice call and email — have been unsuccessful up to press time.
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