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Yacht Charter Pros Answer – Will New Rules In British Virgin Islands Impact Private Yacht Charter Guests?

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In what appears to be a case of “Security versus Tourism,” the British Virgin Islands (BVI’s) have initiated a new policy wherein everyone coming into the territory by sea is now required to present himself/herself IN PERSON to immigration authorities.  This includes guests on both bareboat yacht charter and superyacht charter vessels.

The policy takes effect immediately…

New immigration rules in BVI require yacht charter travelers to check in with security in person

According to a government spokesperson, Her Majesty Customs of the Virgin Islands has, “…taken this step to minimize the potential entry of criminals, firearms and illegal substances into the territory.”

Will the revamped policy affect charter passengers?  Jana Sheeder, President of 1-800 Yacht Charters, explains how the new procedure differs from prior requirements: “In the past, only the captains of yachts were required to disembark and take with him or her all of the passports of the onboard guests. Now everyone is required to present themselves with their passports and their belongings.”

No one disputes the sovereignty of the local authorities to safeguard their islands and residents. Still, for an island economy that depends heavily upon charter yacht tourism, the new policy seems a bit draconian, especially when there is little evidence to suggest tourists, and not local residents of the US and British island chains, are responsible for any uptick in criminal activity.

So, are local authorities barking up the wrong tree?  Sheeder thinks so.  She questions the necessity to impose upon well-heeled travelers who have already been “pre-screened” through the yacht charter reservation process. “The idea that firearms and illegal contraband will be brought ashore by luxury yacht charter guests is misplaced,” says Sheeder.  “Clients sign a charter agreement that clearly outlines firearms, narcotics, and contraband are not permitted onboard.  Furthermore, being in possession of such contraband can lead to the immediate termination of the charter – without refund.”

If any illicit materials are discovered by the crew, the yacht will proceed to the nearest port, where the guests will be escorted off the yacht. With so much at stake, there seems little need to further screen these guests and their crews upon entry into the BVI.

How will the new regulations impact yacht charter tourism in the BVI?   It’s too soon to tell, as the new rules went into effect September 1st.  It is possible charter vessels will simply bypass the British portion of the Virgin Islands and modify their itineraries to focus solely on the US and Spanish Virgin Islands, where captains can still clear the passports for all onboard guests.

British Virgin Islands government administration building where cyacht charter guests must check in


In the the short-run, Sheeder is confident the impact upon charter clients can be minimized.  “We pride ourselves in delivering the superyacht experience. We will offer our clients alternative destinations in the US and Spanish Virgin Islands, and throughout the Caribbean.  For those clients who still wish to explore the BVI, we know we can rely on the captains and crew.  If they need to carry the luggage and escort the guests into the immigration office and back to the yacht, we know that they will do so in the most efficient, professional, and friendly manner.”

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