Jan. 18, 2006 — Federal representatives will soon have the opportunity to hear firsthand how new boating restrictions have negatively impacted the local charter yacht industry.
A press release sent from Delegate Donna M. Christensen's office Wednesday said representatives from Customs and Border Protection, under the Department of Homeland Security, will be in the territory later this month to meet with members of the V.I. Charter Yacht League and other stakeholders in the boating community.
The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21 at the American Yacht Harbor's Marlin Deck.
Meetings to discuss the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS), which requires all vessels transmit a passenger and crew manifest to U.S. Customs and Border Protection prior to departure from and arrival at a U.S. port, have already taken place between local stakeholders and local Coast Guard and Customs officials.
At these local meetings, community members said the restrictions have been most problematic for day charter boats which have had difficulty transmitting the lists prior to taking passengers on short trips to the the British Virgin Islands. (See "Charter Boat Industry Joins Forces to Fight Onerous Regulations".)
The regulations, enforced by the federal government after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, were established primarily to monitor larger commercial vessels operating between foreign ports. Boating companies that take money for carrying passengers have to file their manifests 96 hours prior to departure for a voyage that is more than 96 hours, or 24 hours in advance of departure for a voyage that is less than 96 hours. If the round trip is less than 24 hours, the filing is done 60 minutes before departure and arrival.
At Saturday's meeting, residents will also have the opportunity to press for a full waiver from the restrictions, the release said.
Attempts made by Christensen over the past three months to obtain a full waiver have been unsuccessful. (See "Christensen Tells Charter Boat Operators She is Still Working On Waiver".)
Instead, Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, has allowed the agency to instruct its ports to exercise "prosecutorial discretion" and waive the 24-hour turnaround time requirement for vessels that are engaged in short voyages, and amend the regulation so that operators could transmit their manifests no later than 60 minutes prior to departure.
"The meeting on Saturday is a fulfillment of my pledge to continue to press for a full waiver," Christensen said in the release. "Though it will take time to achieve, I hope we can use this meeting to educate federal officials on the real impact of APIS on the industry and make a case for the full waiver."
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.