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HomeNewsArchivesTaking Care of Business: Dispute Between Feuding Agencies Ends

Taking Care of Business: Dispute Between Feuding Agencies Ends

Jan. 24, 2007 — Two feuding government agencies mentioned in the governor's State of the Territory address Monday have resolved their dispute, the chairman of the V.I. Port Authority announced at a board meeting Wednesday.
VIPA Chairman Robert O’Connor Jr. announced the conclusion of the dispute between his board and the West Indian Co. Ltd. Board. On Monday evening, Gov. John deJongh Jr. pointed to the dispute as an example of the territory failing to take care of its own responsibilities.
"Two agencies that are owned and controlled by the government of the Virgin Islands, and whose operations are critical to our future, were sitting before federal officials because, back home in the Virgin Islands, we were not taking care of business," deJongh said.
The dispute has been resolved without proceeding to the next level, VIPA officials said. It concerned an agreement VIPA signed with Princess Cruise Lines to dock exclusively at Crown Bay, bringing visitors to the port year round. The agreement also includes the Cunard Cruise Line and P&O Cruises, runs for a period of 10 years and hinges on the cruise line bringing in a minimum of 230,000 passengers annually.
Fearing a loss of ships docking at Havensight, West Indian Co. Ltd. (WICO) sent a letter to the federal Maritime Commission, an independent agency responsible for the regulation of ocean-borne ships. WICO expressed concern about the agreement but did not file a formal complaint. VIPA attorney Don Mills, who flew to Washington, D.C., with O'Connor to address the issue, explained that without a formal complaint, the dispute ceased.
“We need to look to the future,” said Darlan Brin, VIPA's executive director. “There will be enough business for both areas, but we are in competition with the eastern Caribbean. We have slipped from No. 1 to No. 3. We have bonds that have to be paid and this agreement guarantees revenue.”
Improving and maximizing the dock facilities is necessary to enhance competitiveness, officials said, and the dredging of the south berth at Crown Bay to accommodate large vessels, like the Queen Mary, is 90 percent complete. Barring unforeseen delays, the dredging should be finished within three weeks, Brin said.
As of Sept. 30, 2006, VIPA’s operating loss increased 35 percent while the operating costs increased only 2 percent to $38,366,331, according to a financial report. Issues remain with the cost of supplying U.S. Customs, but accounts receivable are coming in at a higher rate because of stepped-up prosecution of delinquent accounts, VIPA officials said. After using the accounting firm of Price Waterhouse for the past 20 years, VIPA hired Ernst and Young to conduct audits for the next three years.
The VIPA board approved the leases for businesses in the eight buildings of the Crown Bay Center. In addition to local businesses, the Tourism Department will open a welcome center and UVI will open a bookstore. Many vacancies remain at the center. Diana Rocjards, Crown Bay Center property manager, said she could not announce an opening date until she knows when the various businesses will open.
Vieques Air Line was approved to establish a terminal counter at Cyril King Airport for flights between St. Thomas and Fajardo.
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