Re: Foreign Based Charter Vessels Entering the BVI
I've spent an awful lot of time in the last two days researching this subject by tediously tracing through official BVI government proceedings in the Gazette (the official newspaper of the Government of the Virgin Islands, https://eservices.gov.vg/gazette/
). And I believe what follows is the straight dope on the subject of foreign-based charter vessels entering the BVI.
In a Cabinet meeting 9/29/21 the BVI Government decided to allow foreign-based charter vessels in. Gazette #103 dated 10/7/21 includes Cabinet Decisions - Meeting of 29th September, 2021 which records at item 7.c. that "The Cabinet ... Decided ... that adjustments be made to the Entry Protocols to allow all vessels with fully vaccinated captain, crew and passengers, INCLUDING FOREGIN BASED CHARTER BOATS [emphasis mine] to travel to the Territory and enter at the designated, fully vaccinated ports of entry (Great Harbour – Jost Van Dyke, Sopher's Hole - West End and Spanish Town - Virgin Gorda)."
I've put those two documents on my Google Drive as well, for folks who don't have access to the Gazette:
As a result of that decision on 9/29/21, the BVI's COVID-19 public health order was amended in the Gazette #101 dated 10/1/21 to remove the prohibition against foreign-based small vessels (<78 feet LOA) from entering the territory with paying passengers on board or conducting commercial activity while in the territory. Sepcifically, the BVI PUBLIC HEALTH (COVID-19 CONTROL AND SUPPRESSION MEASURES) (NO. 4) ORDER, 2021 of Gazette #67 dated 7/6/21 stated at item 18.(2) that "A foreign-based small vessel shall not be permitted to (a) enter the Territory with paying passengers on board; or (b) conduct commercial activity while in the territory." BUT, in the 9th amendment to that order, gazetted 10/1/21, item 18 was replaced to read: "18. (1) Subject to this Order and to such guidelines as may be issued, a person (a) operating a private or commercially registered small vessel may be permitted to enter the Territory for the purpose of sailing or anchoring in Territorial waters; (b) may be permitted to operate a Water Taxis. (2) For the purposes of this section “small vessel” means a vessel that is under 105 feet length overall."
I've put all those documents on my Google Drive as well:
Furthermore the BVI Government this year enacted a new Cruising Permit and Home Port Act, included in Gazette #83 dated 8/10/21 as Act. No 29 of 2021. This Act sets up a new fee schedule for foriegn-based charter boats to enter BVI waters, at $16/person/day. That act was put into force as of 10/12/21, by notice from the Minister of Finance in Gazette #104 dated 10/12/21.
Again I've put those documents on my Google Drive:
All of this would seem like good news, except on 12/15/21 the BVI Government issued revised requirements for foreign boats to apply for approval to charter in the BVI. These requirements place a burden on charter companies to provide all of the required information. I received this BVI Customs document via friends who captain and crew a USVI-based charter vessel. They received it from the vessel's owner via his charter broker. The charter broker's color commentary on the requirements document added that the BVI Government is so short-staffed in multiple departments that it can hardly keep up with the processing demand for BVI-based vessels, let alone foreign-based charter vessels. So it appears to be an uphill battle.
So, bottom line, from a legal perspective the BVI have been open to foreign-based charter boats since October 1st. However from a practical perspective charterers should check with their charter company and perhaps not have high hopes. And I believe that to be the straight dope, after much research and checking with people in the charter business.