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Freeze the fees! BVICCHA says new Port charges “unacceptable”

Freeze the fees! BVICCHA says new Port charges “unacceptable”

The BVI Chamber of Commerce & Hotel Association (BVICCHA) has called for the BVI Ports Authority (BVIPA) to withhold the recent hike in fees and hold consultation with stakeholders who will be affected by the increased costs.

Last week, BVI News reported that our news centre received complaints from some sections of the business community that are dissatisfied with the BVI Ports Authority’s (BVIPA) decision to hike fees as of March 1, 2021.

A public release from the BVIPA said the adjustments in select fees are overdue and are necessary to efficiently and properly operate and further develop the territory’s port facilities.

However, the BVICCHA has called the Port Authority’s decision “unacceptable”, adding that business owners weren’t given adequate notice.

“This month (January), we now learn that increases were put in place in December 2020 and announced in January 2021 with no notice, consultation … This is unacceptable. The cost of doing business is already too high. These increases will have to be passed on to consumers who are already struggling to make ends meet in some cases,” BVICCHA said in a release.

The organisation said it has been receiving numerous complaints from disgruntled business owners who will have to pass the costs on to consumers.

Bad governance

In its release, BVICCHA said: “Cost increases are one thing. Rate spikes for whatever reason without consultation are pure and simply an example of bad governance.

The organisation also explained that some fees have jumped by 500% and added that a simple press release from the BVIPA doesn’t count as consultation.

“For the most part, businesses are already doing their part. Businesses pay their fair share of mandated fees and taxes. And yes, cost increases (inflation) happen, but when you see a fee increase of 500% — that’s from $500 to $2500 — that’s just borderline madness.” BVICCHA’s statement said.

“Considering the only information to explain the increases is what’s heard in the rumour mills, which the BVICCHA has not been able to validate, something more than a press release should have been sent before the fee increases,” the organisation argued.

Renewed call for Recovery Plan

The BVICCHA also said a review of the increased fees structure by economists and strategists would have shown that now is not the time for fee hikes.

It then renewed calls for the government to implement an Economic Recovery and Development Plan, in consultation with all stakeholders.

“The BVICCHA has championed for an economic plan since the summer of 2020 …The Virgin Islands can no longer endure a piecemeal approach. The country needs a comprehensive and realistic economic plan that includes all stakeholders,” the organisation said.

The BVIPA hasn’t commented on the public outcry against the new fees structure and whether it will revise the fees to assist residents and businesses that use port services.


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