VIPA to Hold Public Hearings on Jan. 8 Regarding Marine Tariff Fee Increases

St. Thomas Harbor at night (Gabriel Padilha photo).

The Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) invites the public to a hearing at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, to discuss increases of the pilotage and other fees in its marine tariff. The public hearing will be held in the VIPA conference room at 161-A Sub Base, Crown Bay Center, St. Thomas. It will also be teleconferenced to the VIPA conference room on the second floor of the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport Terminal on St. Croix.

The V.I. Port Authority Board of Governors voted to increase VIPA’s pilotage fees listed in Section III, Part A of its marine tariff at its Dec. 3rd meeting. The pilotage rate will be increased in quarterly increments over a 12-month period beginning Jan. 1, 2019, until the rate is equal to $20 per draft foot, with a minimum of a 15-foot draft.

VIPA’s board also voted to:
increase the fee per Gross Registered Tonnage (GRT) from $0.006 to $0.01 per GRT — with a minimum of 10,000 GRT;
implement a harbor use fee of $100 per entry effective April 1, 2019; and
amend the shifting fee to $300 plus GRT rate effective Oct. 1, 2019.

Rate Change Schedule

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April 1, 2019/ July 1, 2019/ Oct. 1, 2019/ Jan. 1, 2020
$10.65/ $14.05/ $17.45/ $20.00
$0.01/ $0.01/ $0.01/ $0.01
$100 harbor use fee/GRT Minimum/Shift Min./Draft Feet Min.

Pilotage fees have not been adjusted since 2006. The VIPA board will review its marine rates every five years to ensure they are adequate to cover VIPA’s operating expenses, including fuel and maintenance costs, employee salaries and regulatory requirements. VIPA’s St. Thomas-St. John marine operations currently incur over $5 million in operating expenses, but its existing commercial pilotage fees generate just over $400,000 per year. VIPA is a self-sustaining autonomous government agency and must generate revenues to fund its operation and fulfill its legal obligation to protect the territory’s natural resources encumbered by commercial necessities.

VIPA’s pilotage fee is computed on the deepest draft to the nearest foot. All vessels over 100 gross tons must pay pilotage entering or leaving a harbor that is controlled by VIPA in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Pilot services are provided by a VIPA pilot on a 24-hour basis, and payment is mandatory even if the service is not used.

Vessels that are 100 gross tons and over and exempted from the use of a pilot or granted a waiver from the required use of a pilot according to Section 131-12 of the VIPA’s Marine Rules and Regulations must pay a harbor use fee. The change in VIPA’s pilotage rates will not increase the rates paid by cruise ships to the Port Authority.

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