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.