COVID-19 Impact

Dear VIPCA Members,

GOVERNMENT UPDATE FOR THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS MARCH 20th:

The U.S. Virgin Islands has 3 individuals who have tested positive at this time, 8 tested negative, and 33 test results are pending. The Government is strongly urging that residents and visitors utilize social distancing to help us contain the Virus and prevent spreading throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands (https://doh.vi.gov/). Effective March 21 at 6 a.m., a maximum of 10 people will be enforced on all social gatherings/events, including bars and restaurants. Large retailers (Home Depot, Kmart, PriceSmart, Plaza Extra & Cost-U-Less) will still be allowed a maximum of 50 and on Mondays from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., Plaza Extra will be open for senior shopping only. Please refrain from shopping during this time if you are not a senior citizen. Government services will be restricted March 23 through April 6. There will be a 60 day extension on license renewals to include motor vehicles and business licenses. There is also no curfew in place at this time; however, the Governor would prefer if all businesses suspend or highly restrict services and there are national recommendations to refrain from non-essential travel.

MINUTES FROM EMERGENCY VIPCA BOARD MEETING MARCH 19th:

1. Since an arriving charter guest or yacht owner could be exposed to COVID-19 during air travel and may not be able to social distance adequately upon arrival in the U.S. Virgin Islands, VIPCA recommends to its members that charters are discontinued as of March 22nd for 30 days minimum. 

VIPCA’s concerns are for…

a. …the crew who could be exposed to COVID-19 through contact with the charter guest / yacht owner;

b. …the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands who could be exposed to COVID-19 through contact with the charter guest / yacht owner between the airport and the yacht; and,

c. …the charter guest or yacht owner who could contract the virus during travel either to, from, or in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

GUIDANCE FOR CHARTERER: As of today, Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas and Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix are open for inbound and outbound travel;  however VIPCA has been advised by the Governor that guidance from the CDC should be utilized: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-in-the-us.html

GUIDANCE FOR CAPTAINS: Please talk to your clearing house if you have concerns and refer to this document for further support. You may always reach out to VIPCA. https://www.ics-shipping.org/docs/default-source/resources/coronavirus-(covid-19)-guidance-for-ship-operators-for-the-protection-of-the-health-of-seafarers.pdf?sfvrsn=6

NOTE ON BEACHES AND RESTAURANTS: If voluntary social distancing is not maintained by beachgoers, the Governor will consider beach closures as of this weekend. Restaurants have a limitation of 10 people as of Saturday March 21 at 6 a.m., and therefore will likely transition to take-outs only.

2. VIPCA’s Recommended Protocol for Charter Cancellation / Re-Scheduling:

 
a. The specific terms of the particular charter contract control, but there are many different contracts, and even the “standard” CYBA contract is often changed by brokers through their insertion or deletion of clauses. Given that there is no one standard contract, and the facts and circumstance can vary widely, VIPCA cannot recommend a set course of action for yachts regarding cancellations, rescheduling, or escrowed funds.  Worldwide, great legal minds are looking at various force majeure clauses as a result of the pandemic and they are often unable to agree on whether Covid-19 is or is not a force majeure event given a clause’s particular wording.  Ultimately, the courts will need to resolve many force majeure issues. For that reason, VIPCA recommends, whenever possible, that the parties to the contract amicably agree to any required changes by way of addendum to the contract. And, of course, if the yacht is unsure of their legal obligations under a contract, they should contact an attorney.
 
b. While the charter contracts may contain a cancellation clause, VIPCA recommends that in order for the charter industry to remain competitive in tourism that re-scheduling should be permissible for charters that are 30 days out.  Clients should be able to reschedule a charter to occur within one year of their original dates. If the charter rate has increased, the guest should be expected to pay the additional amount. 

a.    HOWEVER, yachts may wish to inquire if there is trip insurance available. While it appears “most” trip insurers are not providing pandemic coverage under “most” policies, if there is a “Cancel for Any Reason” (CFAR) trip insurance policy, then the guest has the ability to cancel the charter – usually this needs to be done at least 48 hours before the start of the charter, but the particular policy terms will control.  Often times the payout under CFAR is not for the full charter amount, but if there is insurance available, the client should avail themselves of the coverage and allow escrowed funds to inure to the benefit of the yacht, at least in part, if not entirely.  If necessary, the yacht could work with the guest in terms of pricing for the second charter.  There is no reason for the yacht to take a financial hit when there are insurance benefits available.  

b.    If there are no insurance benefits available and the client reschedules their current charter for either later in 2020 or 2021 and the client subsequently cancels for any reason, there should be 100% forfeiture of the funds.  Guests should be encouraged to purchase trip insurance for a rescheduled charter if they have none.

d. The addendum should be signed PRIOR TO the current charter date. 

e. VIPCA does not condone Charter Brokers threatening to blacklist any yacht which requests a rebooking fee since same is a commercially reasonable item. It should be left up to the guest as to whether they accept a rebooking fee, and not for the charter broker to dictate. VIPCA would encourage yachts to be reasonable in regard to any rebooking fees and would not recommend yachts requesting a rebooking fee in excess of 10%. 

3. VIPCA will continue to serve as a conduit for information and to send emails to members pertaining to:

a. Virgin Islands Government updates

b. U.S. Coast Guard updates

c. V.I. Port Authority updates

e. Marine Vendors (chandleries and marine service suppliers)

For updates with regards to marine vendor hours of operation or potential temporary closure: Please see this link to a google spreadsheet being updated where members can learn of the marine businesses status of operation; VIPCA encourages members to comment if they learn new information not included already.

4. VIPCA has inquired as to the Government’s actions with regards to business loans and unemployment:

The following was replied by the Governor’s Office March 20th: “$30 million dollars in small interest loans was made available by a Presidential Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Declaration, last week, through the U.S. Small Business Administration for Coronavirus-related economic disruptions. The process for U.S. Virgin Island’s business, to include charter vessels and maritime support business, to access SBA’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Disaster Relief Lending requires Governor Bryan to issue a U.S. Virgin Islands Economic Injury Disaster Loan Declaration. Today we have successfully completed and forwarded our  package requesting an SBA Economic Injury Declaration. Our SBA representative forwarded our package to headquarters shortly after receiving it. We were informed the process may take up to five days before we obtain approval. However, at the rate headquarters has been processing requests, the time frame may be shorter.” Mr. Toya V.A. Malone, Policy Advisor, Officer of the Governor.

March 2020, First Quarterly

IVIC – Inter Virgin Islands Council (with the BVIs)

VIPCA shall present accompanying the USVI Governor Bryan to the BVI Premier on February 4th. VIPCA has submitted its requests of the BVI concerning foreign vessel entry fees and fishing vessel licenses.

On January 27th VIPCA presented to the USVI Government and on January 31st shall discuss the white paper’s proposals by conference call in advance and preparation of the meeting in Tortola with The Premier on February 4th 2020.

For more information contact Oriel Blake: info@vipca.org

Meeting with Sport Parks and Recreation

VIPCA has met with the asst. Commissioner of Sport Parks and Recreation and the following came about:

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SWIMMING
 
  1. VIPCA’s vision would be that all children at Virgin Islands Elementary schools are taught to swim. This could be facilitated with funding through the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation of school bus transportation and lessons at the St Thomas Swimming Association pool (STSA).
  2. VIPCA would be interested to know if there is funding available within the Dept. of Sports, Parks and Recreation for the charter of a bus and driver and swim training with STSA? If not, VIPCA and its 501(c)3 Marine Rebuild Fund in CFVI would be willing to assist in raising a grant and partnering to run the school swimming program.

Governor Convenes First Meeting of Marine Task Force, 31 Dec.2019

Governor Convenes First Meeting of Marine Task Force
By Source staff -January 3, 2020

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. convened the first meeting of his Marine Task Force
Tuesday, according to a news release issued by Government House.

The task force is a group of private sector individuals representing all
aspects of the marine industry in the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to
Government House, the Marine Task Force’s purpose is to revitalize and grow
the V.I. marine industry, to boost the economy, create jobs for residents
through workforce development and enhance the USVI’s tourism product.

The task force is intended to be a public-private partnership between
marine-based businesses and the Government of the Virgin Islands.

At its inaugural meeting, the group discussed a wide range of topics
including:
– Building up marine infrastructure
– Increasing moorings throughout the territory
– Developing marine apprenticeship programs to broaden job opportunities for
residents in the marine industry
– Maximizing the potential of Benner Bay on St. Thomas
– Expanding the marine service industries to encourage additional vessels to
stay in the U.S. Virgin Islands for marine maintenance and annual vessel
haul-outs
– Streamlining the U.S. Customs process

Bryan described the meeting as “very productive” and a start to his
administration’s goal of increasing the marine industry and the revenue it
produces as well as offering more to visitors.

Those at the meeting reportedly discussed multiple actions that would be
productive including:
– Identifying derelict properties surrounding Benner Bay Lagoon and Salt
River Bay
– Identifying government properties for additional vessel haul-out and
marine service facilities
-Facilitating Krum Bay clean-up with a $2 million CZM Marine Debris Removal
Grant through the Department of Planning and Natural Resources
– Increasing the number of permanent and day moorings
– Providing funding for existing marine apprenticeship programs
– Increasing participation by Virgin Islands students in vessel charter,
marine service provider and shipbuilding employment opportunities

According to Government House, DPNR vessel registration for 2020-21 will be
available online and DPNR is mapping all registered vessel moorings in the
territory on Google Earth. When the mapping project is complete, it will
allow DPNR to connect the mooring to the owner quickly in the event of a
disaster.

Also, the V.I. began installing new mooring cleats along the St. Thomas
Waterfront on Tuesday. The cleats will reportedly allow luxury yachts up to
23 metric tons to berth. Installation should be completed in two weeks, and
cleats will then be installed on the Crown Bay excursion dock next, followed
by Red Hook and Cruz Bay, St. John.

Along with administration officials, at the meeting were:
– Kelvin Bailey Jr., board chairman of the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club
– Oriel Blake, executive director of the V.I. Professional Charter
Association
– Scott Bradley, representing My Brother’s Workshop’s Marine apprenticeship
program
– Dare Blankenhorn, owner of Charter Caribe
– Rich Difede, owner of Gold Coast Yachts shipbuilders
– Guilderoy Sprauve, organizer of the USVI Poker Run
– Harald Tapp, representing Offshore Marine service provider

The task force plans to meet next in February.

December Fourth Quarterly 2019

170 new moorings to be installed in V.I. waters to help protect reefs

Virgin Islands Daily News

170 new moorings to be installed in V.I. waters to help protect reefs

The Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Division of Coastal Zone Management have joined forces to install 170 new moorings in the bays of the U.S. Virgin Islands that will reduce anchoring near ecologically important coral reefs as well as organize the bays to appeal to transient vessels.

Third Quarterly Newsletter

VIPCA October 2019 Third Quarterly.

Moe’s Fresh Market Named Official Provisioner & Caterer of the 2019 USVI Charter Yacht Show

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Over half (54 percent) of U.S. adults named food as one of the most important attributes when choosing their vacation destination, according to Statistica.com. Indeed, dining is one of the finest pleasures of a boutique crewed charter yacht vacation in the Caribbean. Thus, the Virgin Island’s Professional Charter Association (VIPCA), organizers of the 2019 USVI Charter Yacht, set for November 11 to 14, 2019 at IGY’s Yacht Haven Grande, are pleased to announce that Moe’s Fresh Market, a locally owned and operated chain of upscale gourmet food markets located near St. Thomas’s major ports, is the show’s official provisioner and caterer.

 

“With our Moe’s Fresh Market locations in Red Hook, on the Waterfront in Charlotte Amalie and by year’s end at IGY’s Yacht Haven Grande, we look forward to providing the Virgin Islands charter yacht community and their guests with a wide selection of fine foods and beverages, as well as catering to charter chef’s special ingredient requests,” says Willie Hamed, vice president of Demah, Inc., dba Moe’s Fresh Markets.

 

Fresh foods departments are a signature feature of Moe’s Fresh Markets. Yacht crews can find pre-cut and cut-to-order name-brand selections of meats, poultry and seafood, including fresh fish and live lobsters. Produce arrives twice weekly on flights from the U.S. mainland, plus Moe’s staff has formed relationships with local farmers and those in neighboring islands such as St. Croix, Puerto Rico and Dominica, to supply just-picked fruits, vegetables and herbs. Moe’s Fresh Markets are the only approved Boars Head representative on St. Thomas, a signature feature of the store’s deli, in addition to a range of imported and domestic cheeses, house-prepared traditional and trendy salads, Moe’s StoneHouse Sub-brand sandwiches, and amply stocked salad and hot bars. The bakery offers daily fresh-baked crusty breads and artisan loaves. Catering with these items is available with 24-hour notice. Numerous organic, gluten-free and international ingredients are available throughout the stores.

 

On the beverage front, Moe’s Fresh Markets’ StoneHouse Cellars offer the largest fine wine selection on the island, with offerings, including spirits, sourced from around the world. There’s also local and specialty rums, beers, liquors, non-alcoholic beverages and waters. Of note, Moe’s Yacht Haven Grande location will boast a special wine room on its second level. Here, regularly hosted wine and food tastings can acquaint yacht crews with what’s new. Crews can Email their provisioning lists to provisions@moesvi.com

 

“We are very fortunate to have Moe’s Fresh Market in the Virgin Islands since an exceptional charter experience depends on a capable supplier for provisioning,” says Oriel Blake, VIPCA’s executive director. “Having Moe’s onboard catering all events throughout the yacht show as a sponsor attests to the company’s commitment to the charter yacht industry. Food and dining are a big part of both the charter yacht industry and the show. Moe’s representatives will be onsite throughout the show and look forward to meeting crews.”

 

Get Your Spot on the Dock! Register Now for the USVI Charter Yacht Show!

 

Some 70 crewed yachts are already registered for the USVI Charter Yacht Show. The largest to date is Columbia, a 141.37-foot steel hull replica of the original 1923- Gloucester-built fishing schooner of the same name, constructed by the Eastern Shipbuilding Group, in Panama City, Florida, and launched in 2014.

 

“It’s the first full winter season that the yacht is available for charter in the Caribbean,” says Captain Seth Salzmann. “We love the sailing grounds and would love to spend more time chartering in the Virgin Islands.”

 

What sets Columbia apart from other sailing yachts, says Salzmann, is the luxury vessel’s speed, grace and traditional beauty. Along with modern amenities such as air-conditioning, jacuzzi and satcom communications, Columbia is the perfect blend of history and elegance. Seeing the crew manage the sails as the ship effortlessly cuts through the crystalline waters of the Virgin Islands while receiving super yacht service is an un-paralleled experience.

 

Eros, a 115.16-foot, wood and steel hulled schooner launched in 1938 by Brooks Motor Craft, in Lowestoft, UK, and refit in 2016, is another classic beauty that will be on show.

 

“We are giving the USVI show a shot because the Antigua Show is now mostly large motor yachts and therefore we decided to join a sailing show,” says Cameron Riddell, manager. “We especially love chartering in the Virgin Islands. Therefore, we hope to introduce Eros to some new brokers, and spend much of our time in the idyllic waters of the US and British Virgin Islands.”

 

Recent upgrades to Eros include adding a second water maker in order to produce 1,300 gallons daily and the addition of a beautiful U-shaped couch in the saloon for relaxing, cocktails and movie watching. This upgrade actually adds two more bunks to the vessel, enable Eros to charter with up to 12 guests.

 

Crewed Yachts can register online at: www.vipca.org/vessel-registration/

 

Over 110 charter brokers registered last year, with even more expected for the 2019 USVI Charter Yacht Show. These brokers are based in the Caribbean, U.S. and Europe.

 

Charter Brokers are also encouraged to register online at: www.vipca.org/charter-broker-registration/ Visit www.visitusvi.com for accommodation. Accommodation discounts are available at the Emerald Beach Resort and The Green Iguana Hotel. Book transport at www.vitaxiassociation.com.

 

Latest Show Updates

 

“There are a number of exciting activities this year, including a culinary demonstration for yacht chefs by Chef ‘Benji’ David Benjamin at the Blue Eleven restaurant located on the Yacht Haven Grande property. This takes place during the final afternoon after the show, on November 14. Chefs can register for this at: vipca.org/chefs-network-demo-cook/. Best Stoli and Captain Morgan’s Cocktails will also be judged at the Blue Eleven restaurant on November 13,” says Blake.

 

The 2019 USVI Charter Yacht Show’s dynamic action-packed schedule features four days of yacht viewing: an outstandingopportunity for yachts and crews to highlight signature services, features and amenities to brokers. Plus, there will be a crew cocktail party, awards dinner, sunset cruise, marine expo, and the always anticipated ‘State of the Industry’ address, which highlights many of the off-the-beaten-track anchorages in these world-famous cruising grounds.

 

Sponsors of the USVI Charter Yacht show include the USVI Department of Tourism; Yacht Haven Grande; IGY Marinas; Offshore Marine; Gowrie Group; Denison Yacht Sales; Moe’s Fresh Market; Captain Morgan, distributed by Bellows International; Stoli, distributed by West Indies Company; Northern Lights Generators, distributed by Parts and Power; the Charter Yacht Broker Association; Cardow Jewelers; Harbor Shoppers; La Royale Cosmetics; and the Pamilco Group.

 

ABOUT VIPCA: VIPCA is the territory’s 501(c)(6) nonprofit marine association, whose purpose is to promote, protect and further the capabilities of charter yachts and the marine businesses that sustain them. Projects and initiatives VIPCA membership supports include producing a marine directory of local information, technical advice and resources; improving Customs and Border Protection facilities; gaining ease of access for charter vessels between the USVI and Spanish Virgin Islands; compliance guidance; moving forward a proposal to manage territory wide new transient moorings; marine vocational training for V.I. youth; and surveying and cleaning up bays and mangroves under the organization’s charity fiscally sponsored by Community Foundation Virgin Islands (CFVI.net), VI Marine Rebuild Fund. vipca.org

Entry upon returning to the USVI from the BVIs

One our members brought to VIPCA’s attention the fact that some unidentified day charter operators (not necessarily VIPCA members) have been relying on a federal statute (19 U.S.C. Sec. 1441) to support their decision to not make entry with their passengers upon returning to the USVI from the BVIs.   On its face, an amendment to 19 USC 1441 in 1984, which exempted excursion boats departing from the USVI from having to report arrival or make entry upon return, seemed intriguing and worth investigating further.  On August 26, 2019 correspondence was sent to Director Todd Bellew, the CBP Area Port Director for the USVI. Promptly thereafter, VIPCA received both a telephone call from Director Bellew, as well as an email from Chief Supervisory CBP Office Allen Smith, regarding VIPCA’s inquiry.

As mentioned above, the amendment to 19 U.S.C. Sec. 1441 that was of particular concern to VIPCA was enacted in 1984 — and hence before the fateful 9/11/2001 attacks.  Following those attacks, new laws were implemented in 2003 that did away with the separate agencies previously known as the “Immigration and Naturalization Service” and the “Customs Service” as both agencies were absorbed into the newly formed US Department of Homeland Security.   A branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the single unified border and port of entry agency of the United States. The CBP joins together the Customs Inspector, the Immigration Inspector and the Agriculture Inspector at the nation’s points of entry — borders, airports, and seaports.

Importantly, 19 USC Sec. 1441 was a statute that applied solely to the Customs Service, not Immigration and Naturalization.  So, while the statute may have exempted an excursion vessel from having to undergo clearance with Customs, it did not address the Immigration requirements at the time.

As Director Bellow explained to Oriel Blake,  “formal clearance” is for vessels with cargo and that our members are exempt;  however, member vessels still need to report at a CBP facility in person for acknowledgment of crew and passengers.

CBP Officer Smith also emailed as follows:   “Customs and Border Protection was created in 2003 to merge the former US Immigration Service and US Customs Service. CBP not only enforces 19 CFR for Vessel entrance, also 8 CFR for Immigration affairs. [(§235.1 Scope of examination. (a) General. Application to lawfully enter the United States shall be made in person to an immigration officer at a U.S. port-of-entry when the port is open for inspection, or as otherwise designated in this section”.]

Officer Smith also offered these websites as a resource for our members:
https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CFR-2011-title8-vol1/pdf/CFR-2011-title8-vol1-sec235-1.pdf.
And
https://www.cbp.gov/travel/pleasure-boats-private-flyers

In summary, while it would have been quite advantageous for both term and day charter vessels to be exempted from making entry upon arrival back into the USVIs from the BVIs, given the departmental changes in 2003 and the creation of the Customs and Border Protection, 19 USC Sec. 1441 does not provide legal justification for failing to make entry upon return to the USVI.   Notably, a failure to make such entry carries with it stiff penalties:

 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Notice of Violation: Civil penalty: any master of a vessel who fails to report arrival is liable for a civil penalty of $5000 for the first violation and $10,000 for each subsequent violation, and any conveyance used in connection with any such violation is subject to seizure and forfeiture.[1][1]

 

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