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Foreign charters restricted to drop-offs at local ports

File photo of travellers arriving at the Road Town Ferry Terminal after the April 15 reopening of the territory’s seaport to international traffic. (Photo credit: Ronnielle Frazer/GIS)

The territory’s leader has offered new information in relation to a change in the government’s policy that is expected to provide a more efficient and streamlined experience for the BVI’s guests entering by sea.

Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley recently announced that the government will no longer require BVI trade licenses for foreign-based water taxis and commercial recreational vessels conducting day or term charters nor will it require work permits for the crew working on these vessels.

But some operators expressed concerns following the Premier’s announcement over what they perceived as unfair competition and an uneven playing field between local boat operators and USVI operators with the change in policy.

Yesterday in the House of Assembly (HOA), Premier Wheatley clarified that some restrictions will still remain in place for foreign vessels.

“I wish to underscore that with the ease in requirements stated, foreign-based water taxi operators are still restricted to passenger drop off at the ports of entry and persons operating foreign charter companies are still required to obtain a commercial recreational vessel license from His Majesty’s Customs,” the Premier said.

According to the Premier, the territory must continue to do business within a legal framework.

Dr Wheatley further advised that other requirements such as the certificate of registration, safety commercial vessel certificate, and insurance for the vessels remain in effect. He further said the requirement for a captain’s license, valid STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping) certificates, and a valid passport for all crew and guests remain. Applicable fees based on the level of charter engagement will also still apply. 

He assured that updated guidelines will be published by HM Customs for foreign charter companies to ensure everyone remains knowledgeable about the revised requirements. 

Premier Wheatley said the decision to remove the requirement for business trade licenses is an interim measure while the government continues to work on broader ranging reforms in the marine industry.

The Premier also pointed out that in making the new policy, the territory was able to avert retaliatory measures threatened by the neighbouring USVI government.

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