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HomeNewsArchivesINS LIFTS BAN ON CREWS LEAVING CRUISE SHIPS

INS LIFTS BAN ON CREWS LEAVING CRUISE SHIPS

Sept. 20, 2001 – Cruise ship crews were out and about before they went back to the ship Thursday, gladdening the hearts of Havensight-area merchants who had seen their sales drop sharply earlier in the week in the absence of those thousands of regular weekly customers.
"They're back in force," Jeff Salpis, owner of the Delly Deck in Havensight Mall said with a smile in his voice.
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, starting Sunday, had prevented crew members who were not U.S. citizens from disembarking while their vessels were in port in the Virgin islands. The decision was apparently part of security measures instituted following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. No ships were scheduled to call in the territory in the days immediately following the attack, so it appeared that INS had implemented the ban at the first opportunity.
Calls to the INS office on St. Thomas were referred to the Puerto Rico office, where spokesman Ivan L. Ortiz said he would not comment on the subject. Ortiz also would neither confirm nor deny that the crew members had not been allowed off the cruise ships.
While the Delly Deck had a full patio for lunch Thursday, Salpis said crew members were slow to fill up the seats. Usually, the place is pretty busy by mid-morning, he said, but they didn't show up in any numbers until noon.
At the Modern Music store, manager Jim Burke said he had seen a few crew members by mid-day. "Usually we get busy later in the day," he said. Crew members often rent videos from the shop, to return them on their next visit to St. Thomas.
West Indian Co. spokesman Calvin Wheatley said INS officials decided late Wednesday to let the crew members resume getting off their ships. He said WICO President Edward Thomas, cruise ship company officials and U.S. Coast Guard staff worked with the INS on getting the procedure reversed.
Wheatley said the crews cause no problems for St. Thomas. Most are foreign nationals hailing from Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and Europe. Two ships were in port at St. Thomas Thursday, he said.
Cruise ships typically carry 900 to 1,000 crew members, and their shopping, along with that of passengers, helps to fuel the territory's economy. WICO estimates that crew members on average spend about $73 per person each time they come ashore while in port at St. Thomas.

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