September 24, 2020

US House passes bill to level charter yacht playing field between USVI and BVI

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john_de_jongh8From News Now

WASHINGTON, USA — The Coast Guard Reauthorization Act, which includes the US Virgin Islands six-passenger exemption, passed the House of Representatives with an overwhelming vote of 413-3. The bill was authored by House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster and Coast Guard Subcommittee Chair Duncan Hunter. No other legislation has garnered so much bipartisan support during the 113th Congress.

A previous version of the bill passed the House earlier in the year. The current version (HR 5769) is the product of a joint conference with the US Senate, which will enable both chambers to vote on identical language before being signed into law by the president. The Senate is expected to take up the measure this week under the stewardship of Senior Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.

Passage of this legislation is the crucial first step towards the USVI’s goal of reclaiming its place as the yachting capital of the world. Prior to 1993 and the imposition of a six-passenger limitation on US uninspected vessels, the US Virgin Islands’ harbours were filled with hundreds of vessels, bringing into the local economy over $100 million in annual revenue and hundreds of jobs. Following the six-passenger rule limitation, much of the industry moved to the British Virgin Islands, which followed international standards and a 12-passenger limitation. The USVI could never compete fairly for charter yacht customers when the rules were so drastically tilted against the territory.

During his visit and, in addition to the vessel exemption issue, USVI Governor John de Jongh met with congressional leaders on other initiatives aimed at strengthening the territory’s economy, one of which was the US Virgin Islands special visa waiver.

“One of the greatest obstacles to promoting our economic development is the inability of Congress to reconcile differences and legislate on important matters to the Virgin Islands that would allow us to be competitive in the Caribbean region. The special visa waiver, which would allow entry for marine regattas, Caribbean sporting events, and shopping; and would allow for visitor traffic to our VI medical facilities such as the Virgin Islands Cardiac Center and the Kimelman Cancer Institute, all of which draw the participation of foreign visitors for a short period.

“Overall the visa waiver will help generate new revenues from these events and activities specific to our territory. Current requirements for visitor visas make it prohibitive for increased participation by non-US residents.

“The special visa waiver has been bogged down in congressional immigration reform debate since its introduction in June of 2013 in the Wyden amendment (SA1308). The final disposition for the amendment will most likely be taken up when the 114th Congress convenes,” de Jongh said.

The governor expressed cautious optimism about this week’s six-passenger exemption in the Senate.

“Restoration of this important sector of our economy will offer a milieu of technical and entrepreneurial opportunities in the boating industry. This legislation is a critical first step in our journey to regain our position as the world’s leader in this important industry sector. We are grateful to for working with Government House and our Marine Economic Development Council on this initiative, and thanked the 416 other members of the House of Representatives for voting to level the playing field for the territory,” de Jongh said.

IMAGE: Governor John de Jongh

For more on this story go to: http://caribbeannewsnow.com/headline-US-House-passes-Bill-to-level-charter-yacht-playing-field-between-USVI-and-BVI-23940.html

 

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