Jan. 27, 2004 – Tuesday afternoon a cruise ship sitting in the Charlotte Amalie inner harbor was ordered to leave by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Oceana, owned by Princess Cruise Lines, entered the harbor Tuesday morning without having given a notice of arrival to the National Vessel Movement Center. "It's the same as a no-fly list airlines use to check names on their manifests," said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. John Reinert, speaking on WVWI Radio.
"When a ship arrives in U.S. waters, depending on where it comes from, a 95-hour notice of arrival with passenger and crew names is required. This particular vessel failed to do this, and it is not the first time for it, so it has received a letter of warning prior to this. This is the second time. My boss, the captain of the port in San Juan ordered that the vessel be ordered out of the harbor."
Reinert said the new regulations have been in force since Sept. 11, 2001. "It's not a customs issue or an immigration issue; it's a homeland security issue," he said. The ship will receive a heavy fine, Reinert said, although he did not indicate the amount.
Princess Cruises is the U.S. division of P & O Cruises. The Oceana has a maximum passenger capacity of 2,250. Edward Thomas, president of The West Indian Co., the ship's V.I. agent, was very disappointed at the turn of events. "Unfortunately, that ship didn't have its paperwork in place for the federal authorities," he said. "They are required to present documentation, and this problem has occurred before with the ship and they got a verbal warning from the Coast Guard, so they will take action this time.
"We had hoped the ship would go out of the harbor and get its paperwork squared away and come back, Thomas said, "but the captain elected to leave. I guess he was just annoyed. He said he is not coming back."
Thomas rued the lost revenue the ship represented. "It was carrying 1,970 passengers with about 700 crew," he said. "And one of the ship's tenders was approaching the waterfront when it was told to turn back. I can imagine the passengers' frustration."
When asked why the ship didn't have its paperwork in order, Thomas replied, "It's a British ship, and it operates directly out of British headquarters, so I'm not sure they were aware of the rules. It's not like Royal Caribbean or Carnival Cruise Lines, who are regular callers."
In contrast, Thomas reflected on Saturday's call from the Queen Mary 2, a day when 11,000 cruise ship visitors came to our shores without any paperwork problems.
Although the lost revenue from the Oceana is troubling, Thomas said he looked forward to Wednesday's arrival of eight ships.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice… click here.