The Premier said he believes this perspective may not be a consensus view held by most yacht operators in the marine industry, as is being portrayed.
“We have a way of saying in our country that a lot of people say something. There are about 40,000 people here, so we have to see what the ‘a lot’ is,” the Premier told reporters at a press conference last week.
“When we say a lot of them are leaving, I also say that we have to just name the problem, and not say who’s leaving or who is coming. Because where I sit, a lot more persons have requested licenses and also other resources that they have asked for to come in [to the marine sector],” he added.
According to the Premier, several areas were flagged as the BVI recently emerged from its Instruments Implementation Code (IIIC) evaluation by the International Maritime Organisation.
In the process though, the BVI was able to retain a category-one registry status which permits the territory to register vessels of unlimited tonnage, type and size.
“We have to maintain the category-one shipping that we have. If we lose category one shipping, we now would lose the potential to make millions of dollars in a new area which we have already started with heavy tonnes of ships asking to be registered in the BVI since they have seen how we have undergone our assessment,” the Premier related.
“Now a lot of commercial boats were out there without insurance. So there was a lot of yachts being rented to persons without insurance. The law enforcement saw that that was flagged in the audit,” Fahie stated.
He added: ”So we now had to address that. But let’s be for real, how could you be operating commercially with yachts, with boats, with persons lives at stake and doing so without insurance?”
The Premier said now that this is being enforced, some persons have been saying it has become a problem.
He said his government continues to be in conversation with the marine sector and has made compromises, allowing for payment plans for some persons given the financial restraints faced by boat owners.
While stating that he understood the concerns held by some of the yacht operators, the Premier promised to hold a symposium of law-enforcement officers and the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry to further ‘ventilate’ those concerns.
He said the symposium will also be attended by himself and some of his junior ministers and will be open to the public and the media.
The Premier stated that the challenges are not insurmountable and promised that his government will get them fixed.
Premier Fahie has also consistently challenged the view that the BVI‘s marine industry has been largely yielded to its neighbour in the US Virgin Islands (USVI) following the implementation of curfews and travel restrictions emanating from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, the Premier said the BVI has been able to manage its imposed curfews in such a way that the economy has begun to boom again.
“More yachts are in every harbour, hundreds of yachts. More businesses are reopening, yes we are managing the COVID,” Premier Fahie said.
He also said that taxi drivers and car rental establishments have seen increased business as a result of the upsurge in arrivals to the territory.