At a public hearing on St. Thomas, V.I. Port Authority officials proposed four amendments to its existing marine tariff: two will go into effect, while the remaining two were tabled after local shipping companies expressed concerns about everything from billing to Customs delays.
Before the discussion got in depth, Port officials said two of the amendments were already federal law, and needed to be incorporated locally. The first dealt with the unloading of hazardous cargo, which now needs to be done in a specific facility, while the other mandates the presence of an agent or “person in charge” for handling property. That agent would be responsible for cargo left sitting at the dock for multiple days, and would cut down on concerns from the U.S. Coast Guard when the property needs to be identified, officials said.
Thursday’s public hearing was to inform local shipping agents of the changes; Port officials said that both would go into effect almost immediately.
The other two amendments, meanwhile, were tabled in light of concerns from local shipping agents who requested that additional agencies, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection, be included in the public hearing process. The two proposed amendments were to cut down on free cargo storage time at St. Thomas and St. Croix docks. At the end of the meeting, Port officials, who were receptive to the concerns, asked that the agents write a letter highlighting their proposed changes.
According to officials, both amendments would help cut down on congestion at VIPA docks. The first cuts down free time for cargo from five to two days on St. Croix, while the other cuts cargo storage time down to 12 hours on St. Thomas. The consensus from agents was that Customs delays alone could hold up cargo delivery for more than a week, and once fees start to accumulate, those charges would have to be passed onto the customers. Many described the amendments – especially the 12-hour pick up window on St. Thomas – as “simply not realistic.”
Additional hearings are expected to be scheduled.