April 3, 2006 – A nine-member task force formed to negotiate a new agreement between the U.S. Virgin Islands and the members of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association will hold meetings this week to gather input from the public on the negotiation of a new pact.
The first pact was signed five years ago by FCCA President Michelle Paige, on behalf of the member cruise lines, after the two groups came to an agreement to ward off a move to impose an additional $2.50 per-head tax on each cruise ship passenger coming into the Virgin Islands.
A review of the original Cruise Ship Long-Term Operating Agreement leaves questions as to how well either side lived up to the agreement, which included a promise from the cruise lines of a 25 percent increase over previous years in ship calls to St. Croix and a 10 percent increase on St. Thomas. (See "More Ship Calls in Lieu of Head Tax Increase").
Some say the failure of the Tourism Department to create and implement a marketing plan for St. Croix is the reason the cruise lines are not keeping their end of the bargain. Others say the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were the problem.
Attempts in recent weeks to get comment from government officials on the status of the agreement have met with failure.
Meanwhile, a release from Government House on Monday said George E. Goodwin, assistant to the governor for public policy, has been tasked with the chairmanship of the Cruise Ship Task Force. Goodwin was not a member of the first task force.
The other members are Ted Bast, president of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce; Diane Butler, president of St. Croix Chamber of Commerce; Sen. Lorraine L. Berry; James O'Bryan Jr., St. Thomas island administrator; Pamela Richards, Tourism commissioner; Robert O'Connor, former senator from St. John; Edward Thomas, president of the West Indian Co.; and Rick Carrington, assistant to Lt. Governor Vargrave Richards.
Berry, O'Bryan, Thomas, Pamela Richards and Vargrave Richards were members of the original task force.
The first meeting will be held on St. Croix at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Legislative Conference Room in Frederiksted. The second meeting is Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the St. John Legislative Complex. The third meeting will be Thursday at 6 p.m. at the West Indian Company Ltd. conference room on St. Thomas.
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