New Tax on B.V.I. Cruisers

If plans for new fees on visiting vessels go through, some cruisers--including the Caribbean 1500 rally--may opt to forgo to popular destination altogether.

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This cruising boat leaving Bermuda will probably choose a different caribbean landfall if proposed fees take effect in the BVI.Andrew Burton

A tropical storm is brewing in the British Virgin Islands. But the only wind involved is emanating from the legislature. According to reports in the BVI Beacon and noonsite.com the B.V.I. Port Authority is all set to impose new fees that will cost private vessels entering the British territory a lot of money. The fee is $1 per foot for the first day, 75 cents per foot for the second day and 50 cents per foot for every day thereafter. To do the math for you, that's $650 to bring a 40-footer in for a month. And that's on top of customs fees. For instance, if you have two people visit for 30 days, it'll cost another $240.

Fees were due to take effect on July 1, 2008, but have been pushed back to July 15. But like many things governmental in the B.V.I., details are still murky. One would think that customs would be collecting the new fees, yet one gentleman CW spoke to at the main customs office had no knowledge of them. Neither did the woman CW spoke to at the port authority.

Steve Black-who operates the Caribbean 1500 rally From Hampton, Virginia, to Tortola every November-estimates that the 74 boats in the rally last year spent a collective million dollars during their extended stays in the B.V.I. last winter. In fact, some boats are still there, hauled out for hurricane season while their owners spend the summer home on the mainland.

According to the BVI Beacon, the paper of record in the B.V.I., Premier Ralph O'Neal told the legislature, "This is one source of tourism revenue that the Virgin Islands cannot afford to lose any longer and all, I repeat all, attempts must be made to set the house in order and collect the tax."

Black says he is seriously considering moving the destination of the Caribbean 1500 to a different island should the government continue with its plan. He believes that the B.V.I. will lose a great number of boats to other destinations, and in the long run, many who work in the marine industry will see huge losses.

Boat owners whose boats are now in boatyards around the B.V.I. will be especially hard-hit as the fees will apply to them and they won't have the choice to go elsewhere until the end of hurricane season, when many insurance policies allow boats to be relaunched.

Nothing is finalized, yet, but the legislature has surprised many people with this announcement. Anyone interested should contact the BVI Tourist Board with comments.