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BVI Customs Problem! #159993
04/30/2018 03:37 PM
04/30/2018 03:37 PM
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 1,207
Colorado and Sailing the World
Maria_and_Steve Offline OP
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Maria_and_Steve  Offline OP
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Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 1,207
Colorado and Sailing the World
It seems that the BVI's just don't want sailors returning to their country and waters, based on this FaceBook post from a friend of mine. What is the problem with encouraging sailors to come back to BVI waters and helping the local people after all the hurricane destruction??? Geeze.

"BVI Customs is targeting USA flagged boats and extorting very large fines. I had to pay $2,000 for not immediately clearing in, even after hours, with health and safety reasons. Now I can make this report being safely in US waters. Last Thursday, after a very hard Anegada crossing in my sail boat, at around 4:30 pm, I picked up and paid for a ball at Peter Island. It was too late to clear in at Tortola and being dead tired we decided it was too risky to try to make it to St. John in the dark not knowing what kind of hurricane damage/obstacles there were. We flew a yellow flag and friday morning, a BVI customs boat and immigration/police boat were stopping at each boat in the Peter Island mooring field. A German boat that came in a little after us and anchored after picking up a mooring ball and were told they'd have to pay was passed over. When they saw my American flag they bypassed 2 more boats and came to question me. The police boat had an official armed with a machine gun, with is finger on the trigger. They were extremely rude and made me read the statute which stated that no matter the reason the captain is subject to a fine between $0 and $10,000 stopping in BVI waters without clearance. We were told to proceed to tortola to meet with a magistrate that would determine our fine. Every BVI official was rude and seemed pissed off at Americans. We docked and I was taken to the Customs office where I was told that the magistrate was not available but the assistant magistrate would be meeting me in a few minutes. 3 hours later after forcing me to wait in a stifling hot room (adjoining an air conditioned room where local people waited, I was told to just sit and wait, When I requested a mens room, they told me it was off limits and I would have to go on the street to find a mens room, but if the magistrate came out I'd lose my place. During this time I registered a complaint with the US Coast Guard and spoke to the US embassy in Barbados. Mr Steven at the embassy, said it clearly sounded like extortion. I finally was sat before an interrogation team of 4 officials, the lead interrogator, Mr. Lettsome, was assistant head of customs and not a magistrate. After harassing me with repeated questions and telling me that no matter what, I was in violation of their rule, Lettsome ask me what I thought was a fair penalty. I was thinking the price of a speeding fine on the road and said $250. He said I was "out of my mind" and he demanded $3,000. We actually haggled and I was told that if i didn't admit guilt and pay $2000 (our agreed haggle amount), my sail boat would be impounded and I would have to wait to meet with a judge and this could be days. So I paid $2,000 to line Lettsome's pockets. Proceed through the BVI with CAUTION. I am sick about this and spent the last 3 years in the Caribbean, always following rules and always clearing in and out when required. I had previously cleared in and out of the BVI's at least 10 times, which the interrogation team noted.

Mitch Pierce
S/V BreeZen"

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Re: BVI Customs Problem! [Re: Maria_and_Steve] #160002
04/30/2018 06:44 PM
04/30/2018 06:44 PM
Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 5,645
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GeorgeC1 Online content
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GeorgeC1  Online Content
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Wow, if the story is all true it’s disturbing. I have never seen a machine gun equipped patrol boat in the BVI. If he arrived after hours and flew a yellow quarantine flag there should be no issues as long as everyone remained onboard. I don’t know the official hours of customs in Roadtown.
G

Re: BVI Customs Problem! [Re: Maria_and_Steve] #160003
04/30/2018 07:06 PM
04/30/2018 07:06 PM
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 5,428
An island state of mind
tradewinds Offline
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tradewinds  Offline
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An island state of mind
I assume he meant to say Anegada Passage crossing, otherwise it sounds like he had been on Anegada without checking in.

Re: BVI Customs Problem! [Re: Maria_and_Steve] #160011
04/30/2018 10:04 PM
04/30/2018 10:04 PM
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 832
road town
sleepychef Offline
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sleepychef  Offline
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road town
why didn't he check in at Spanish Town, he moored at 4.30pm at Peter Island? Also what time in the morning did Customs check on him, as I would not think it was before 10am

Re: BVI Customs Problem! [Re: Maria_and_Steve] #160022
05/01/2018 08:39 AM
05/01/2018 08:39 AM
Joined: Jan 2018
Posts: 61
Massachusetts
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Sea&SkiPJ Offline
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Sea&SkiPJ  Offline
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Massachusetts
I'm just wondering...

Not that I'm condoning the behavior of potentially abusive officials, but if a U.S. flagged vessel must check in with customs upon entering the BVI, then wouldn't it have made sense to leave Anegada early enough to ensure a timely entry into the appropriate BVI port of call? It's a 3+ hour sail from Anegada to Spanish Town, so departing by 9:00 am would have afforded plenty of time to check in and then reach one's desired anchorage. If these officials are truly resorting to extortion, then I would think one's options would be to plan effectively, allow sufficient time to comply with regulations, or to avoid the BVI altogether.

Re: BVI Customs Problem! [Re: Sea&SkiPJ] #160024
05/01/2018 09:02 AM
05/01/2018 09:02 AM
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 2,025
Charlotte, NC
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NCSailor Offline
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NCSailor  Offline
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Charlotte, NC
Originally Posted by Sea&SkiPJ
I'm just wondering...

Not that I'm condoning the behavior of potentially abusive officials, but if a U.S. flagged vessel must check in with customs upon entering the BVI, then wouldn't it have made sense to leave Anegada early enough to ensure a timely entry into the appropriate BVI port of call? It's a 3+ hour sail from Anegada to Spanish Town, so departing by 9:00 am would have afforded plenty of time to check in and then reach one's desired anchorage. If these officials are truly resorting to extortion, then I would think one's options would be to plan effectively, allow sufficient time to comply with regulations, or to avoid the BVI altogether.


Anegada is in the BVI.

Re: BVI Customs Problem! [Re: NCSailor] #160031
05/01/2018 09:47 AM
05/01/2018 09:47 AM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 1,076
USVI
LocalSailor Offline
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LocalSailor  Offline
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USVI
The original post on this site was copied from a St. Martin Facebook group so I would think the 'Anegada crossing ' statement refers to a SXM- BVI passage.
The poster was Mitch Pierce on SXM cruisers Facebook.

Last edited by LocalSailor; 05/01/2018 09:50 AM.
Re: BVI Customs Problem! [Re: Maria_and_Steve] #160036
05/01/2018 10:50 AM
05/01/2018 10:50 AM
Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 5,645
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GeorgeC1 Online content
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GeorgeC1  Online Content
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The poster was not coming from Anegada. He sailed the Anegada passage from St Martin. I guess the key to if he was treated wrong is what time of day did the patrol boat find him. He is required to proceed basically as soon as possible to clear customs in the morning if you arrive after customs is closed. If it was 8 AM when the patrol boat showed up The whole thing is BS. If it was 11AM than the BVI authorities are probably correct.
I suspect they did target the US flagged vessels because boats coming over from the USVI without clearing are rather common. Since in his post he stated his destination was the USVI they probably felt he was going to leave and sail to the USVI that day and not clear in and out of the BVI.
G

Last edited by GeorgeC1; 05/01/2018 10:50 AM.
Re: BVI Customs Problem! [Re: Maria_and_Steve] #160037
05/01/2018 10:51 AM
05/01/2018 10:51 AM
Joined: Aug 2013
Posts: 489
Jacksonville, FL, USA
onlymedication Offline
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onlymedication  Offline
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Posts: 489
Jacksonville, FL, USA
So just trying to recap the issues here to make sure I (and possibly others such as myself who are less well versed on cruising procedures and C&I matters) understand correctly.

Here's what I perceive to be facts or logically deduced "facts":
It sounds like he made the passage from St. Martin, arriving at Peter around 4:30pm on a Thursday. He says the crossing was rough.
He picked up a mooring ball and paid for it.
He flew the yellow "quarantine flag".
BVI law requires that vessels under such "quarantine" be anchored in an official port of entry.
Official BVI ports of entry are Road Town, Spanish Town VG, Beef Island, West End, and Great Harbor JVD.
He was not in an official port of entry.
On Friday morning, BVI Customs and Immigration boat (or was it two boats, seems to be two, one C and one I, based on reading his account again?) came by and asked for documentation.

Here's some conjecture:
He was aiming to pass straight to USVI and make it to St. John. Otherwise, his first stop would obviously have been (and according to BVI law, should have been) Spanish Town, VG, Road Town, or West End.
He doesn't reference any specific injuries, but it sounds like he and his crew were pretty beat from a long, rough crossing, and sought the first refuge they came across. (again, it seems unlikely Peter would have been in their direct line if they had planned to stop in BVI)
Even so, it seems likely that, had they been up and off the ball at dawn or shortly thereafter, they would have been to Spanish Town, Road Town, West End, or even out of the BVI and into USVI waters by the time any customs office opened, or any enforcement boat would have come around to check on documentation.

At this point, it's difficult to know what else to think about the story given that emotions are obviously involved and, well, people are people, on both sides of this table. Even if all of the above is true, and the skipper of S/V BreeZen appears to have not specifically followed the correct procedure, the story of his treatment (not necessarily the fine), again if true (and even if he behaved poorly) is troubling.

I don't know what to make of all of this. One thing I do know is, in this day and age of media/social media, where an airline can be wrong even when a belligerent passenger completely unlawfully resists lawful authority, BVI Tourism Board unfortunately does not win the battle of public perception on this one. I have absolutely no agenda here, and no interest in stirring any pot, just trying to read between the lines as someone basically unfamiliar with this process from a cruisers perspective (and one who tends to go out of the way in advance to avoid these sorts of issues, where possible), and understand what likely happened here.

Re: BVI Customs Problem! [Re: Maria_and_Steve] #160053
05/01/2018 02:26 PM
05/01/2018 02:26 PM
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 832
road town
sleepychef Offline
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sleepychef  Offline
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Posts: 832
road town
I think the problem is he paid for a ball at Peter Island so did he land in the BVI or did someone dingy up to collect either way he had commerce in the BVI without clearing in and so broke the law.

Re: BVI Customs Problem! [Re: Maria_and_Steve] #160067
05/01/2018 06:17 PM
05/01/2018 06:17 PM
Joined: Apr 2004
Posts: 234
BVI
Tortolian Offline
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Tortolian  Offline
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BVI
Quite difficult to comment given only one side of the story, but it’s hard to see why he couldn’t have checked in at Spanish Town given that he was moored at Peter by 4.30.

it definitely sounds like things got heated on both sides but if it all happened as per his post then he seems to have been in the wrong 1) for not checking in at his first point of entry (Spanish Town) 2) for going to Peter instead of stopping at a port of entry overnight if Immigration was shut and 3) by picking up a ball when he should have been at anchor.

He was obviously more than steamed, judging by the tone of his post, and if he threw that sort of attitude at the C&I officers who first approached him I bet they were pretty unaccommadating.

Re: BVI Customs Problem! [Re: Maria_and_Steve] #160072
05/01/2018 07:32 PM
05/01/2018 07:32 PM
Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 5,645
GA/NC
GeorgeC1 Online content
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GeorgeC1  Online Content
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I guess the real question is did he intend to check in and out of the BVI that day before heading to the USVI his destination or did he intend to simply sail there without clearing and paying the fees. Only he knows the answer to that question.
G


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