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New Charges

Threaten the Yachting Community  –  For all those sailors who have been complaining about overuse of anchorages, too many boats in the BVI waters and general overcrowding, good news is at hand.

Beginning July 15, the BVI Government will impose new charges that could effectively gut the cruising and bareboat industries—from chandleries to supermarkets, liquor suppliers to massage therapists, taxi drivers, dive operators, restaurants and the like.

These charges, amendments to the Port Authority Regulations, are aimed at prising money from the wallets of the owners and operators of vessels visiting the BVI.  Every boat entering and operating in the Territory will be required to pay port fees of $1.00/foot for the first day in BVI waters, 75 cents/foot for the second day and 50 cents per foot for each subsequent day spent in BVI waters.

 

Exemptions to these charges will be for vessels registered in the BVI, vessels licensed in the BVI (Commercial Vessels License), or for vessels owned at least 51% by a Belonger.  Exempt vessels will still be required to pay the first day's charges of $1/foot.

Not surprisingly, the comments recorded in various message boards and travel forums have tended towards the apocalyptic (as well as the apoplectic) as cruisers and commercial operators debate and wonder at the somewhat opaque regulations.  Will they apply only to commercial operators?  How about bareboaters from outside the Territory?  Private yachts?

Will this be the end of the cruising paradise thousands of sailors know and love, which many of the international sailing magazines promote (with the blessing and assistance of the BVI Tourist Board and other official entities)?  Judging by comments on the Internet forums, it would seem so.

Perhaps the flotillas from Puerto Rico will be less frequent visitors, as might the daily influx of USVI-based power boats.

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The Dutch Government recently instituted severe penalties for cruising yachts in Sint Maarten, driving much of the sailing community to the French side of that island (and doing wonders for the Saint Martin economy).  Perhaps this new round of taxes on yachtsmen will have a similar effect in the BVI (leaving the beaches free for those who profit off cruise ships to exploit at their leisure).

Whatever the outcome, it would seem clear that things are about to change dramatically on the water.  However, as with many aspects of life in the BVI, things will take a while to clarify—and likely the worst fears of the doomsayers might not be realised.

Things might be clearer after July 15.  If yours is the only yacht bobbing in the bay next charter, you'll know how it all turned out. 

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