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HomeNewsArchivesNew Customs Rule Eases Passage for Recreational Boaters

New Customs Rule Eases Passage for Recreational Boaters

Nov. 6, 2006 — Recreational boaters who register in advance will no longer have to clear customs when they return home from foreign locations.
The Local Boater Option allows small boat owners to phone in their arrival and passenger list and declare imported goods if they register in advance. The rule applies to boaters returning from locations such as the British Virgin Islands.
"It will be a quicker process," said a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Puerto Rico, Wendy Vallejo. The new rule began last week, she said.
The rule does not affect commercial charter boats, which still must forward their passenger lists via a website to the U.S. Coast Guard. This process is called the Advance Passenger Information System.
All U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents 14 years and over are eligible for the new procedure. Both captains and passengers may register. To participate, applicants must contact the nearest customs office. They will then get an appointment to present all required documents to officers.
If the officer asks them, however, registered passengers and captains may be required to clear customs in person. Enrollment is voluntary.
One St. Thomas boater, who asked not to be identified, said that if he could sail in to get registered, he might do it. But making an appointment to register seemed cumbersome, he said.
Boaters on longer trips might find some value in preregistration, he said, but people just out for the day often bypass the formalities even if they've dropped anchor in the BVI.
According to customs officials, boaters who don't clear in face a $5000 fine for the first violation and $10,000 for each subsequent violation. The new ruling also applies to Puerto Rico, Tampa and Miami.
Enroll at the following locations:
— St. Thomas: the Edward W. Blyden Terminal, Veterans Drive, Charlotte Amalie, 774-6755.
— St. John: the Customs and Border Patrol facility adjacent to the public parking lot across from the post office, 776-6741.
— St. Croix: the Gallows Bay Marine Facility, 773-1011.
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