Letter to Members from VIPCA President

Dear Valued Members,
As the world continues to confront this unprecedented global pandemic, our hearts and minds continue to go out to all those affected.  Specifically, in this community we are feeling the economic impacts of these circumstances and they will have long lasting effects.  It seemed like our industry and our islands were finally back to full stride since the storms of 2017 and now we have been challenged again.  Once again, it’s time to show our resilience, our humanity, our determination, and our love for these Virgin Islands.
Currently, revenues for our tourism businesses are null and void.  There are resources and opportunities available to all of us and VIPCA has highlighted those on our website and social media pages.  If you have questions relating to these assistance packages, please feel free to reach out via email or social media.  Please take care of your employees and contractors and encourage them to seek out all opportunities that are available to them.  Our industry’s strength lies within the people working with us.  Once this pandemic ends, lets strive to be as strong as we can be.
Many of our members have voiced concerns over contractual relationships with clients and many of our contracts have done a poor job of providing direction as to how we handle a pandemic.  Unfortunately, this has burdened everyone involved.  I am recommending to all of our businesses that we take care of our clients in the best way possible as we will need them now more than ever.  Let’s lead with our ethics and encourage them to appreciate our practices as we strive to forge long-term relationships with them.  Let’s work together with our industry partners to find reasonable solutions that may sit outside our current contract definitions.  The tourism industry around the world is feeling the same pain.  Let’s please keep our niche industry and Virgin Islands culture away from criticism for the betterment of our future.  VIPCA has begun the process of addressing our contractual dilemmas and is dedicated to working toward better solutions for our term-charter industry moving forward.  Our mission has always been to represent the crew, vessels, charter brokers and marine vendors, while advocating a positive reputation locally and internationally.  This comprehensive view of our industry will guide us through this process going forward.  Your input as members is strongly encouraged.
I encourage all of you to take a look around you today and to consider what you can do to evoke a positive change on our Virgin Islands.  Now is the time for all of our members to be ambassadors for our marine environment and infrastructure.  There are more visiting yachts in our waters today than ever before, and while social distancing and “stay-at-home” policies must be adhered to, we should do our best to pass the important and pertinent information on to those that have just entered our waters.  All of this information has been provided by VIPCA through our social media pages and website.  I would also encourage all VIPCA yachts to fly their burgees as a beacon of information and support to these visiting yachts and yachts-people.  In order to protect our Virgin Islands, we need to inform everyone of the current policies that affect those currently residing within our borders.  Everyone can play a part in passing the word.  As a group we can be effective.
Now that we have the time, let’s put our best foot forward.  The natural beauty of the Virgin Islands is one of our greatest assets and we should continue to show that to the world.  Please stay positive and active on your social media accounts and with your marketing efforts and let’s keep the Virgin Islands and its wonders in the minds of our clients. They want to be here with us, and that day will come soon.
In closing, I’d like to reiterate one fact. Now more than ever, we need to lead by example as it pertains to all of the circumstances that have fallen upon us.  Please encourage the Social Distancing, Quarantine-if-needed, Holding Tanks usage, and respecting the policies on our beaches to all of those around you.  Our role as an industry is to protect the waters, the shores, the people and the culture of the Virgin Islands from a marine perspective.  Let’s all work together.
Stay Safe, and let’s continue to build on our collective future.
Cheers,
Dare Blankenhorn
President, VIPCA

VI National Park update Re. COVID-19

VI National Park is not collecting trash at this time. This means that boaters trash, piling up at full bays like Francis Bay and Maho Bay, are being collected by the truck-load on a volunteer basis by our staff and others in the community. We are working on getting a better solution as this is unsustainable as the duration of time we anticipate ports closed elsewhere lengthens. Additionally, the park has waived the moorings overnight use fee for this time period understanding the challenges facing cruisers in particular. We ask that everyone please be mindful as possible as we all learn to work together in new ways! Thank you!

Unemployment Insurance and Layoff of Employees

VIPCA has updated the following link:

 

COVID-19 Unemployment Insurance

SBA Tools, FAQ and Guidelines

VIPCA has updated the following link:

SBA Loan / Disaster Relief

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