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An article written by our staff and featured in The Charter Connection

Update on HOMELAND SECURITY ISSUES for THE US VIRGIN ISLANDS
adapted from a VICL press release.
February 2006

As we mentioned in the last newsletter, any vessel carrying paying passengers or paid crew entering or leaving US waters must now electronically file a Notice of Departure and Notice of Arrival on each international voyage.  A voyage into BVI waters is classified as an international voyage.  The regulation, in effect since October 4, 2001, initially applied only to vessels over 300 gross tons.   At this time the regulation applies not only to day sail and term charter vessels but also water taxis and dive boats.  Currently, ferries, bareboats and private vessels entering and leaving US waters are exempt.  It is understood that these exemptions will be ending soon.

On Saturday, January 21, in a meeting called by USVI Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen, The VICL, Federal  and local Homeland Security/Customs and Border Protection officials were greeted by a crowd of over 50 yacht owners and marine related business operators who are still asking for some relief from this federal regulation that began to affect day and term charter yachts on October 4, 2005.

Assistant Commissioner of Congressional Affairs Thad Bingel, Director of Passenger Automated Programs John Wagner and Acting Director of Field Operations Keith McFaquar left the meeting without clear solutions to the problems but did promise that the concerns aired would be taken into consideration on the federal level.  Bingel said “I don’t think we have the answers today, but you have all made some compelling points."

Delegate Christensen ended the meeting with a pledge to continue pushing for new legislation amending the rules, a waiver to the rules or “anything that would make these rules less onerous to The Virgin Islands charter boat industry.”

Prior to the meeting, The Virgin Islands Charteryacht League planned a trip to the BVI and a clearance back through Cruz Bay for the clearing in process.  Due to high seas and strong winds, the trip plans changed at the last minute.  Red Bailey (owner/operator of Abigail II) took the group – including local Homeland Security officials and parties from several segments of the marine/boating industry – on a short motor trip showing the group the close proximity of the BVI.  The trip culminated with a walk-through of customs.  “It was ironic,” Pamela Wilson (VICL) said “As we left, the power on the island went out.  We pointed out that had our trip included plans for the BVI we could not make the trip.  Changes had been made in the boat, our passenger manifest and our arrival time at Customs and Immigration. We could not amend our electronic notifications.”

We hope that progress can be made in 2006 to ease this situation for all concerned.

For more information, contact Pamela Wilson at the Virgin Islands Charteryacht League 340-774-3944 or pamela@vicl.org.


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