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BVI UPDATE NOVEMBER 18TH
BVI Premier Attempts to Clear Up Confusion Caused by Recent Public Announcement
"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."
BVI UPDATE NOVEMBER 17TH
RECEIVED THIS MORNING FROM THE AGENT WE ARE WORKING WITH WHO IS IN TORTOLA:
My apologies for the delay in responding to your email, as you may be aware this announcement by my Premier has caused quite a stir with everyone!
However, we are at a stand still at the moment as customs will not issue any CRVL for the vessels unless the company has a trade license. The law has not changed, and even though the Premier made that announcement Customs is still guided by the law. So they are not accepting any applications for CRVLs if the company has not obtained their trade license. This situation basically has everyone who has yet to obtain a trade on a stand still.
We are currently trying our best to figure out what this means for our clients and what is the way forward which seems very unclear at the present moment."
We'll keep you posted! Keep checking back here.
BVI UPDATE NOVEMBER 16TH
We were able to glean a little more information today concerning the new requirements related to foreign vessel chartering within the BVI Territory. As discussed in our last two updates, the BVI opened for Trade Licensing and Charter Recreational Vehicle Licensing on November 1st and our application/documents have been submitted for approval.
After the November 12th announcement, we no longer need the Trade License for VIYC, and our Captains who work our Captain-only charters do not need a work permit to take our guests into BVI waters.
Our boats DO need MCA Small Commercial Vessel Code of Safety, better known as Blue/Yellow Code. This is the same vessel safety inspection standards used by the BVI Shipping Registry inspections. US flagged vessels can no longer obtain these inspections from the BVI Shipping Registry, so we use a local company based here in St Thomas.
A US flagged vessel of a USVI charter based charter company wishing to operate in the BVI must have either the SCVC (Small Commercial Vessel Certificate or Letter of Compliance) from CVLA or the Certificate of Inspection (COI) from the USCG to meet the requirement for a valid Vessel Safety Inspection Certification.
The CRVL (Commercial Recreational Vessel License) issued by the BVI Finance Department is what we applied for earlier this month. THAT is what we are waiting for at this point.
Again, hang tight . . . we're getting there! LITERALLY!
BVI UPDATE NOVEMBER 15TH
Well, never a dull moment . . . .
For those of you keeping up, you will understand the excitement AND frustration we are feeling right now in light of the continued difficulties over travel restrictions into the British Virgin Islands. After being closed to foreign-flagged vessels for over two and a half years, the BVI Government and other agencies put into place a strenuous application process and opened up for registration/applications on November 1st (see blog below).
Our team spent the last three months preparing for November 1st so we would be one of the first to get our applications submitted and approved in order for our guests, who choose to do so, to head into the BVI Territory. And, as promised, we did just that.
TWELVE DAYS LATER, the rules changed. Well, at least some of them from what we can figure out.
I know you all will see videos and posts from local publishings, but they are making it sound much easier than it actually is.
So, here's what we know:
The BVI and USVI Governments have come to an agreement that will hopefully make traveling between the two territories much easier. Yep, that pretty much it. That's all we know.
We will learn more over the next few days, so just hang tight if you have a charter coming up soon and know we are working on getting clarification on all the details and will pass that along as we possibly can.
Hard to believe, but it has been two and a half years since the British Virgin Islands first closed their “doors” to the world and effectively shut down a flourishing charter industry. Companies, like ours, are still having to jump through seemingly endless hoops to in the hope of sending charter vessels into the BVI Territory. Even after re-opening to charter companies based within the BVI and ferry service to and from St Thomas, foreign-flagged vessels, like ours, have not been allowed to travel between the two cruising grounds.
The impact on the charter business in the USVI and the local businesses in the BVI, especially on islands like Jost Van Dyke, has been tremendous. But the US Virgin Islands answered the call as many new restaurants, beach bars, and other local industries stepped up to offset the resistance put in place by the BVI Government. And, in doing so, tourism is alive and well in the USVI and doing better than ever before.
With that being said, the BVI still calls, and we miss her. Long days at Soggy Dollar with a Painkiller in hand or quiet nights at Cooper Island or Saba Rock are beginning to look like possibilities again. With a new, cooperative effort between the two tourism boards and other government entities, there is hope. Maybe not for the day charter business, but certainly for bareboat and crewed yachts wanting to spend a few days in the old familiar waters of the BVI.
Beginning November 1st, charter companies like ours will be able to officially apply for BVI Trade Licensing and other special permits that, in the past, have not been required. This is a significant expense to our boat owners and to our company alike, but we feel it would be doing our valued and loyal charter guests a huge disservice by not working through the process to make traveling to the BVI an option.
As mentioned in previous posts, we are working directly with an agency based in Tortola that is assisting us in pulling together all the required documents for our company and each vessel within our fleet to ensure we are ready to submit our application on November 1st. Each of our yachts is going through extensive inspections to meet the rigorous requirements, (one might say obstacles), put in place with the recent changes.
Unfortunately, we do not know how long it will take to receive the final approval but are optimistic it will not be an extensive process once the paperwork is in place. We also do not know what the fees will be to charter there and are hoping for clarification and clear guidelines for entry through BVI Customs and Immigration.
All we can say is that we feel you . . . and our team here at Virgin Islands Yacht Charters is working hard to make available BOTH options when chartering with us.
We'll continue to keep you posted!
BVI Entry Application/Licensing Begins November 1st
for Foreign-Flagged Vessels and Charter Companies
October 15, 2022