STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
HONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
ON SAFE RESUMPTION OF THE MARINE INDUSTRY
19th March, 2021
Good day and GOD’s Blessings to all.
My people, I came to you on 10th November, 2020 and spoke on the Phase III Reopening of the borders of the Virgin Islands.
I advised at that time that the December 1st reopening at the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport would allow us to gauge whether we could move ahead with the planned reopening for our Seaports.
Whilst things have been running smoothly with the airport reopening there have been some interruptions along the way in terms of reopening the Seaports.
I am pleased to say that the BVI Ports Authority (BVIPA) and partnering agencies have been getting ready to reopen to International Ferry Transportation at the Road Town Jetty on 15th April, 2021, adhering to all established health protocols for COVID-19.
My people, we must keep moving forward and as we continue to successfully rollout and vaccinate more persons in our community, we can enable the different sectors of Tourism to safely resume. It is time to further open our borders to allow the entry of more of our marine sector.
Protocols to permit Mega Yachts were passed on 6th November 2020, and we have already successfully welcomed back some of these yachts and their guests.
Measures are being put in place for the private vessels and will be announced in the not too distant future.
As a Government, we recognise that the marine industry has been challenged since the onset of COVID-19.
In the form of a stimulus to the marine industry, I am pleased to announce that your Government has extended a reduction of fees for the 2020 to 2021 season, for the licensing year 1st November, 2020 to 31st October, 2021.
This is a stimulus for our marine industry!
This is in accordance with the Customs Management and Duties Ordinance, No. 6 of 2010, as amended, a 50 percent reduction of licensing fees as outlined in the Commercial Recreational Vessels Lisensing Act, 1992 fee schedule.
In accordance with Section 4 of the Act, these licensing fees became due on the 1st November, 2020. Consequently, all licensing fees are now due to be paid by 15th April, 2021.
On 11th January, 2021 we began to host our Warm Layup calls with Royal Caribbean Group and the initial time frame was extended due to the success of our efforts in offering this service, while adhering to all established health protocols.
We now look forward to the next phase for this sector and that is the resumption of a healthy return to service for cruise ship operators that can meet our health requirements. More information will be coming forward on this.
To ensure that the port can effectively prevent Coronavirus outbreaks when it does resume for cruise operations, our health team continues to be the guiding force for the resumption of all tourism sectors including that of the marine industry.
There will be additional requirements to accept the resumption of cruise calls and a stakeholders group comprised of BVIPA, BVI Tourist Board, Cyril B, Romney Tortola Pier Park, Health Officials and our local agents will work with the cruise lines during this initial phase.
Cruise operators must demonstrate adherence to embarkation testing, social distancing, masking and 100 percent vaccination requirements for guests over 18 and all crew. These are just some examples of the protocols that will be placed for this sector.
Whilst we work to define this guidance, we may see it fit in the initial phases to safely accept cruise ship calls as something that is known as a ‘bubble concept’ and this helps to ensure that passengers and residents do not intermingle.
We have now integrated additional measures across the Territory, for all tourism sectors and service providers as examples; the physical distancing, compulsory mask wearing and sanitisation. These mitigation measures plus additional requirements will allow for cruise guests to call to our port in a safe manner.
My people, I have been open with you from the start of this pandemic and have not shied away from indicating the many difficult decisions that this Government has had to make. But these decisions are always in keeping with our first priority - the health and safety of YOU the people.
We must come to grips that COVID-19 will be around longer than we like. Hence, we must learn how to live and work with COVID-19. We are now moving stronger towards this direction in the ‘New Regular.’
This is a significant opportunity for our vendors, taxi operators and all those of our people working in the Tourism industry. Although not mandatory, we must ready ourselves especially in the area of being vaccinated.
But we are a Territory that depends on Tourism, we must continue to reopen to reboot and to revive our economy and in doing so, we want all our visitors to experience a safe and authentic BVILOVE.
Thank you and God’s speed to all!