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HomeNewsArchivesFINANCE HEARS WOES, PLANS OF MARINE INDUSTRY

FINANCE HEARS WOES, PLANS OF MARINE INDUSTRY

Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen said Thursday she is "ready to be radical" when it comes to getting back the millions of dollars that once powered the territory's marine industry. Hansen told a group of marine industry representatives, "You better get excited," because she was going to need their help to revitalize the beleaguered industry.
As chairwoman of the Finance Committee, Hansen called her first hearing of the 24th Legislature to address the issues that have caused the once flourishing industry to all but fall apart, going from a $100 million industry in the 1980s and at one time projected to reach $200 million by 2000, to a fraction of that $100 million today.
More than two dozen industry business owners and representatives showed up to offer testimony or to simply listen. Nick Bailey, former owner of Jasper and Bailey Sailmakers, challenged the committee to get radical by "looking at every fee," and every tax assessed against the industry and do "what we can to decrease taxes."
Bailey, who was born and raised on St. Thomas, talked about being forced out of a business that he said was once the largest sailmaking enterprise in the Caribbean. Bailey said he eventually couldn't compete with other islands where the government supported the industry with tax breaks and by even paying some of the wages of employees of shore-based marine businesses.
Bailey also said part of the problem that drove boaters away was what he described as the gun-toting government welcoming committees of the '70s, who would greet boats coming into the harbor asking, "How long are you going to be here?"
Rik Van Rensselaer, vice president of Virgin Islands Marine Industries Association, opened the day's testimony with a history of all the initiatives that had taken place for 25 years, and a wish list of 22 items needing to be addressed.
Among the items mentioned in Thursday's testimony: exemption from the U.S. Coast Guard six-pack rule, change in local perceptions about the industry, the expeditious rebuilding of the Yacht Haven Marina property, mooring systems for both pleasure and hurricane mitigation, establishment of a maritime academy in the Virgin Islands and tourism advertising dollars directed toward the marine scene.
Hansen asked testifiers to identify what could be done immediately. They cited review of taxes and fees, expeditious permitting for the demolition and rebuilding of Yacht Haven, and formation of an action-oriented public-private task force.
Judy Knape, executive director of the Virgin Islands Charter Yacht League said later of the immediate solutions, "Pump up the Tourism budget and insist that a portion go to support the marine industry—specifically the charter industry."
Knape also said she was encouraged by the fact that the design team hired by the new owners of the Yacht Haven property were also working on the plan to beautify the Charlotte Amalie waterfront.
Another looming issue addressed was the need to improve the relationship with the British Virgin Islands, where much of the lost business sailed off to. Van Rensselaer said at one time he and former Minister H. Lavity Stoutt were close to an agreement on establishing a limited "free sail" zone, an idea that has resurfaced many times over the years. However, like the six-pack rule, it would have to be addressed on a federal level.
Hansen promised a task force would be formed immediately that would include not only local private sector members and government officials, but also "very influential federal officials."
Despite years of disappointment, the mood of some marine industry representatives was guardedly optimistic.
Gary Xavier, owner of Gary's Marine and Awesome Power Boat Rentals, said it seemed the senators were serious about looking for solutions, "not just going through the motions."
Harry Clinton, executive director of the V.I. Gamefishing Club said it was too early to tell, but he did have meetings set with both Sens. Donald "Ducks" Cole and Norma Samuel.
"We'll just have to see, won't we?" he said.
Senators in attendance at the meeting were committee members Cole, Samuels, Carlton Dowe, Norman Jn Baptiste and Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg. Majority Leader Celestino White was also in attendance, though not a member of the committee.

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Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen said Thursday she is "ready to be radical" when it comes to getting back the millions of dollars that once powered the territory's marine industry. Hansen told a group of marine industry representatives, "You better get excited," because she was going to need their help to revitalize the beleaguered industry.
As chairwoman of the Finance Committee, Hansen called her first hearing of the 24th Legislature to address the issues that have caused the once flourishing industry to all but fall apart, going from a $100 million industry in the 1980s and at one time projected to reach $200 million by 2000, to a fraction of that $100 million today.
More than two dozen industry business owners and representatives showed up to offer testimony or to simply listen. Nick Bailey, former owner of Jasper and Bailey Sailmakers, challenged the committee to get radical by "looking at every fee," and every tax assessed against the industry and do "what we can to decrease taxes."
Bailey, who was born and raised on St. Thomas, talked about being forced out of a business that he said was once the largest sailmaking enterprise in the Caribbean. Bailey said he eventually couldn't compete with other islands where the government supported the industry with tax breaks and by even paying some of the wages of employees of shore-based marine businesses.
Bailey also said part of the problem that drove boaters away was what he described as the gun-toting government welcoming committees of the '70s, who would greet boats coming into the harbor asking, "How long are you going to be here?"
Rik Van Rensselaer, vice president of Virgin Islands Marine Industries Association, opened the day's testimony with a history of all the initiatives that had taken place for 25 years, and a wish list of 22 items needing to be addressed.
Among the items mentioned in Thursday's testimony: exemption from the U.S. Coast Guard six-pack rule, change in local perceptions about the industry, the expeditious rebuilding of the Yacht Haven Marina property, mooring systems for both pleasure and hurricane mitigation, establishment of a maritime academy in the Virgin Islands and tourism advertising dollars directed toward the marine scene.
Hansen asked testifiers to identify what could be done immediately. They cited review of taxes and fees, expeditious permitting for the demolition and rebuilding of Yacht Haven, and formation of an action-oriented public-private task force.
Judy Knape, executive director of the Virgin Islands Charter Yacht League said later of the immediate solutions, "Pump up the Tourism budget and insist that a portion go to support the marine industry—specifically the charter industry."
Knape also said she was encouraged by the fact that the design team hired by the new owners of the Yacht Haven property were also working on the plan to beautify the Charlotte Amalie waterfront.
Another looming issue addressed was the need to improve the relationship with the British Virgin Islands, where much of the lost business sailed off to. Van Rensselaer said at one time he and former Minister H. Lavity Stoutt were close to an agreement on establishing a limited "free sail" zone, an idea that has resurfaced many times over the years. However, like the six-pack rule, it would have to be addressed on a federal level.
Hansen promised a task force would be formed immediately that would include not only local private sector members and government officials, but also "very influential federal officials."
Despite years of disappointment, the mood of some marine industry representatives was guardedly optimistic.
Gary Xavier, owner of Gary's Marine and Awesome Power Boat Rentals, said it seemed the senators were serious about looking for solutions, "not just going through the motions."
Harry Clinton, executive director of the V.I. Gamefishing Club said it was too early to tell, but he did have meetings set with both Sens. Donald "Ducks" Cole and Norma Samuel.
"We'll just have to see, won't we?" he said.
Senators in attendance at the meeting were committee members Cole, Samuels, Carlton Dowe, Norman Jn Baptiste and Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg. Majority Leader Celestino White was also in attendance, though not a member of the committee.