There are indications that the US Virgin Islands (USVI) was preparing to take retaliatory measures if the BVI chose not to relax measures that were previously in place for charter boating between both territories.
The BVI’s strict policies for foreign charter boats were implemented last year and are believed to have a crippling effect on the maritime industry of both territories.
In a statement released this week, USVI Governor Albert Bryan Jr said his administration met with Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley, Deputy Premier Kye Rymer and members of their administration in September.
During those discussions, Governor Bryan said the BVI was warned that they were likely to face harsher penalties if they didn’t relax charter boating policies to give USVI boats easier access to the BVI’s waters.
“The USVI had advised the BVI government that, if they could not come to agreement on a reciprocal entry system, water taxis and charter vessels for pick-up and drop-offs had to comply strictly with established provisions for doing business in the USVI and that such access and use was not for free and could be fully regulated by the USVI and federal government agencies,” Governor Bryan said in his statement.
The statement further said: “Governor Bryan and Lt. Governor Tregenza Roach thank the Premier Wheatley and Deputy Premier Rymer for coming to an agreement on new requirements for chartering in both waters that will benefit the economies of both the BVI and the USVI.”
Speaking in the House of Assembly today, Premier Natalio Wheatley also confirmed that the BVI relaxed its policies for foreign charter boats in an effort to avoid retaliation from the USVI.
“We all know that we rely heavily on traffic from the USVI waters and let there be no doubt — the USVI government was prepared to implement retaliatory measures if not for quick intervention on our part,” Premier Wheatley explained. “We believe it is the right thing to maintain good relations with our USVI neighbours.”
As of today, November 15 — the BVI will no longer require trade licenses from foreign charter operators and will also not require work permits for crew members working on those vessels.
These measures are expected to increase traffic in the marine tourism industry of both territories as yachters will be able to cruise the waters with less hassle.
Premier Wheatley also said it will take some time to fully develop and implement the proposed changes, but advised that there is an immediate need to make the adjustments.
Some sections of the local marine industry are not in favour of the new measures. They have described the measures as unfair. These stakeholders have also expressed concern that the new measures will decrease business for local operators in the recreational charter boating sector.
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