BVI adds new $5 security fee to departure tax


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ST. THOMAS - The British Virgin Islands is hiking up the cost to visit and leave its waters once more.

The BVI Port Authority will require a $5 security fee from all visitors leaving the islands, no matter where they are returning to.

Why it is called a security fee is not clear, as BVI Port Authority spokeswoman April Glasgow did not know whether any of the revenue collected would go toward boosting the security of the BVI's ports.

Beginning July 1, the fee will be tacked on starting to the BVI's existing departure tax, which increased in August last year.

The BVI Office of the Premier and the BVI Ministry of Finance voted in June last year to bump the $5 per person departure tax, which applies to residents and non-residents, to $10 per person for residents and $15 for non-residents.

With the security fee, residents now will pay $15 per person, and non-residents will pay $20.

"When it went up from $5, I was surprised, but, now? Wow," said Kelly Kiernan, a member of the V.I. government's Marine Economic Development Council.

The charters can only absorb so many of the increases, Kiernan said, and many of them may be at a tipping point and will have to pass the cost on to their clients.

"There are deeper pockets that they could be going to," Kiernan said, noting that cruise ship companies are unaffected by the fees imposed by ports. "People may start rethinking going to the BVI."

BVI Premier Orlando Smith has said the boost was necessary given that fewer people now are traveling to the BVI by plane, and more are doing so by boat.

The money collected from the security fee will go toward improving the BVI Port Authority's existing facilities, according to Glasgow. She did not say how much revenue the BVI Port Authority expects to collect from the increase.

"With the new fees, they can expect to see better facilities," Glasgow said.

Smith and the BVI Ministry of Finance approved the new fee in June last year, alongside the departure tax, Glasgow said. At the time, Smith said that the tax increases would help counter the stagnant revenue intake resulting from fewer flight passengers and more boat passengers coming into the BVI.

The BVI Port Authority has received calls from the owners and operators of both BVI and U.S. Virgin Islands vessels about the new fee, along with the tax increases in recent months, Glasgow said.

Many of the U.S. Virgin Islands owners and operators have been equally upset with the V.I. Port Authority, after it raised fees in April.

The V.I. Port Authority increased its ship dues from 85 cents to $2, and raised inbound and outbound wharfage fees from $1 to $3 per passenger for all commercial vessels using V.I. Port Authority facilities on their way to or from waters outside of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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