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HomeNewsArchivesCHARTERING SIGNS FOR SEASON ARE ENCOURAGING

CHARTERING SIGNS FOR SEASON ARE ENCOURAGING

Sept. 29, 2001 – At a meeting Friday to finalize plans for the coming charter season, local and regional marine stalwarts agreed that the V.I. chartering industry is alive and showing signs of good health, despite turndowns in other tourism areas in light of recent world events.
Sen. Lorraine L. Berry said in a Thursday press release "that the Virgin Islands should give a prayer of thanks to our marine industry." In talks with "leading members of the yachting industry," including the Virgin Islands Charteryacht League executive director, Susan Chandler, Berry said, she learned "that not only have charter yacht bookings not been canceled, but that they have increased." The senator she said she felt especially thankful "in view of the fact that the territory has not always been overly friendly to the boating community."
Chandler confirmed that the season has not felt any backlash from the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks on the U.S. mainland. The VICL, representing 82 term-charter and 90 day-charter vessels, has referred "10 term-charter bookings to local brokers during the last two weeks," she said, and has "not received any cancellations."
Also, Chandler said, the VICL Fall Charterboat Show, an annual event to show off crewed charter vessels between 45 and 105 feet in length to charter brokers, "filled up early this year." She's now placing boats on a standby list for the Crown Bay Marina event.
Berry met informally Friday morning with Chandler; the commanding officer of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in San Juan, Cmdr. Joseph A. Servidio; and the Virgin Islands Marine Industries Association acting president, Rik Van Rensselaer. Her objective, Berry said, was to encourage their ongoing plans to systematically return the local marine industry to its former importance in the V.I. economy.
The news of increased marine activity, including the imminent return of the cruise ship Norway, "amounting to millions of dollars in revenues, is particularly gratifying in view of the hotel industry's dire predictions of economic disaster," Berry said in her release. She renewed her commitment to support legislation "friendly to the boating community."
Servidio, who was on St. Thomas Friday hosting a small passenger vessel seminar at the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas Resort, reported "district level Coast Guard approval" of a proposal advanced by the Marine Advisory Taskforce Group, which Van Rensselaer chairs.
As a result, Servidio said, inspectors from the St. Thomas Marine Safety Detachment will be looking at the first two uninspected 65-foot Irwin "overnight charter yachts" with a eye to establishing a specialized local-equivalency certification moving them in the future into the ranks of annually inspected vessels that typically carry eight to 12 guests.
The goal, Van Rensselaer said, is to "create a level playing field" between yachts homeported in the U.S. Virgin Islands and those in the British Virgin Islands, so as to encourage "large charter vessels to homeport here in the USVI." In the neighboring B.V.I. the international standard allows at least 12 guests on all charter yachts.
According to Van Rensselaer, "in 1988, the USVI was the charter yacht capital of the world, putting a hundred million dollars into the local economy — with a goal of two hundred million by the year 2000." Of course, he added, "It did not happen, and by 1992 the industry had been reduced to $20 million."

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