Community Shows No Interest In VIPA Fee Hikes

Feb. 9, 2005 — "If they have any comments, I'm sure they will be sending them in writing," Darlan Brin, director of the V.I. Port Authority, said Tuesday following a public hearing called to get input from the community on proposed rates changes. Brin made the statement soon after he called the meeting to order, asked for testimony, questions or comments, and, hearing none, adjourned the meeting. No testifiers were present; in fact no one from the St. Croix community attended the meeting which was the second of three public hearings set by the authority. A similar meeting was held in St. John on Monday. (See St. John Source story Authority Proposes Increases to Ferry and Barges Fees). The final public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday on St. Thomas at the VIPA conference room. The public hearings are intended for representatives of companies that utilize Port Authority facilities.
"The shipping companies do not consider this a major change," said Brin. VIPA is proposing marine rate increases that average 8 percent over 5 years. Brin said the proposal is available for all affected persons to review. "We can reopen the issues at any time," Brin said, indicating that anyone who has questions or problems with the proposed increases can send a letter with their comments to the authority. Brin said he sent copies of the proposal to shipping companies and other marine related industries that do business in the territory. "The increases are over a period of time," Brin said, adding that companies can work the increases into their yearly projections.
According to VIPA's report the increases will affect the following fees: pilotage, ship's dues, wharfage, docking fees, bunkering fees and demurrage. Demurrage is the fee paid by cargo that is stored on the pier or wharf in excess of the allowable free time period.
Other potential revenue sources that will be affected by the changes as cited by the report include St. Thomas/St. John inter-island ferry traffic, boats which service the tourism industry and privately owned mega-yachts.
The report also projects revenues from cargo growth. In St. Thomas, cargo is projected to grow 2 percent in 2004 and 2005 and increase to 3 percent in 2006. However, the report does not anticipate any rise in cargo growth in St. Croix, instead, it states, any increase is "contingent upon the return of cruise traffic and the timing of the various development projects slated for the island."
Copies of the proposals are available on St. John at VIPA's Marine Office at the St. John's Administrator's office. On St. Croix the proposals are available at the VIPA marine office and the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport. St. Thomas residents can pick up a copy at the Charlotte Amalie Marine Office and at the Port Authority Office at the Cyril E. King Airport.
Interested persons can fax their written comments to Brin at 774-0025.

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