Feb. 15, 2005 The V.I. Port Authority has gone on the offensive to let the world know that it does not intend to institute a fee for boats to cruise the territory's waters.
The misperception appears to have begun when the Port Authority issued a schedule of proposed rate increases in advance of its series of public hearings last week. The scheduled listed a cruising fee, but Port Authority Director Darlan Brin said it was actually a fee for boats to tie up at the Port Authority's docks.
"At the St. Thomas meeting, there were charters there who were concerned," he said Wednesday.
The erroneous cruising fee information went out on www.caribbeannet.news. The Cayman Islands based Web site quoted an unnamed source as well as Brin in its Feb. 10 story.
Brin said in the press release that the Port Authority would in no way implement user fees that would negatively impact the yachting industry. He said the authority plans to improve the Charlotte Amalie waterfront apron, extended its lease with Crown Bay Marina, which hosts yachts, and will shortly determine if it is feasible to convert the Gallows Bay, St. Croix cargo dock to accommodate yachts and small cruise ships.
Brin said that the docking fee will go up. It is currently a daily charge of 30 cents per foot for all boats, but will be changed to a weekly, monthly or annual fee. For example, boats 30 to 45 feet will pay $5 a week, $20 a month or $100 a year to use Port Authority facilities. The fee rises according to the size of the boat. The biggest boats – those over 120 feet – will pay $40 a week, $160 a month or $800 a year.
The increased fees are intended to help the Port Authority's bottom line. Brin said at the St. John public meeting, held Feb. 7, that these and other proposed fee increases would raise $13 million.
Ferry and barge fees are also increasing. However, Delrise Varlack, of the St. John-based ferry company Varlack Ventures, said Tuesday she had heard fees would increase but was not aware of last week's public hearing. No ferry or barge company representatives attended the hearing held at the St. John Legislature building.
She said the ferry companies will not be able to pass the increased fees onto their customers because they are regulated by the Public Services Commission.
"We'll have to dig our hand in deeper into our pocket," she said.
Efforts to reach other St. John-based ferry and barge companies were unsuccessful.
Ferry companies now pay 30 cents per foot of vessel length per day at each dock they use. A fee of 25 cents per passenger was approved but never implemented.
Under the proposed increase in rates, ferries will pay a flat dockage fee of $450 per month on vessels with a capacity under 100 passengers. The fee rises to $675 for vessels with a passenger capacity between 100 and 200. Those that carry more than 200 passengers will pay $900 per month. The companies will also pay a wharfage fee of $25 a month per passenger based on the total capacity of the vessel.
Barges also currently pay a daily fee of 30 cents per foot. The companies are also supposed to pay a $1 per passenger fee, but Brin said at the St. John meeting that the Port Authority has been unable to collect that money.
Under the proposed increase, barges of less than 10 gross tons will pay $450 per month docking fee. Those over 10 gross tons, will pay, $900 per month. The wharfage fee will run $220 per month for all sizes.
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