For the first time ever, boaters who use the Cruz Bay dinghy docks or any V.I. Port Authority (VIPA) dock throughout the territory will be charged a fee, according to VIPA spokesperson Carol Henneman.
Boat owners in Cruz Bay only learned of the new tariff when a sign was posted on the dinghy dock in mid-March.
We are in charge of the ports, so we dont need anyone to tell us what fee we can charge, said Henneman.
$3 to 5 Per Day, $150 to 200 Per Year
All non-commercial boats measuring 20 feet and under will be charged $3 per day or $150 for the year, and boats 21 feet and over will be charged $5 a day or $200 for the year.
The marine tariffs will be collected at the VIPA St. John Dock Masters office at the Cruz Bay creek bulkhead.
The revenue will be used to cover maintenance costs of the dock, according to VIPA officials.
Over the years, VIPA has not collected any fees from the people who use the dock, said VIPA marine manager Maria Walters. Weve had to do repairs and maintenance, and I think its about time that we started charging fees.
Boaters Question VIPA Maintenance
VIPA officials regularly install cleats and replace worn wood along the dock, according to Walters.
Local boaters who regularly use the Cruz Bay dinghy dock, however, disagree.
People who live in the harbor have told me that it never has maintenance done on it, said a Cruz Bay boat owner. In fact, people have asked Port Authority if they can do the repairs themselves because it was in such tough shape a year or two ago.
Some boaters in the area also questioned why they should pay for use of the dock when only one side of it is usable.
The town dinghy dock is so inadequate the shore side is too shallow for boats to get in and out, said the Cruz Bay boat owner. If someone does tie up on that side, they may not be able to get out because there isn’t enough water to be able to go around the blocking dinghy. Also, the lack of space is pretty bad.
Boaters who pay the yearly marine tariff are not guaranteed a space at the crowded dinghy dock.
VIPA officials will eventually issue stickers to people who pay the yearly fee, but they have not been printed yet, Walters added.
Commuters Cant Wait for Dockmaster
Many live-aboard boaters use the dinghy dock to commute to work and cant wait for the dockmasters office to open, another boater added.
Some of those dinghies belong to live-aboards that have to go to work everyday and need a secure place to keep their vessel for the day, said the Cruz Bay boat owner. Its not very likely that they will be able to wait for the Port Authority to open up at 9 or 10 a.m., pay their $3 and go to work.
Even if boaters pay the annual fee, however, it is only valid for use of the Cruz Bay dinghy dock.
Fee Valid for Cruz Bay Only
I called the Port Authority when I checked the sign out, and they said that you could pay annually although they don’t have the stickers yet but the sticker is only good for that one Port Authority dock, the Cruz Bay boat owner said. So, if you go to Red Hook or anywhere else, you have to pay again.
All commercial vessels, including ferry boats, already pay a user fee, Walters explained.
All commercial vessels pay a daily fee at all port facilities, she said. Every boat that comes to St. John, or St. Thomas or St. Croix, pay a daily fee. These people have been using the dinghy dock for free for all of these years.
But, the dinghies will now be paying a fee also, Walters continued.
No Fines Yet
The new marine tariff went into effect on March 1, but VIPA officials are not issuing any fines, yet, for people who do not comply.
We want everyone to pay every day, but we are not charging any fines at this time, said Walters. If we find someone who hasnt paid the fee, well ask them to move their dinghy.
To many boaters, the marine tariff, which has been implemented territory-wide, is another threat to the local marine industry which has weathered increased regulation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and continued battles with territorial officials over the use of bays surrounding Love City.
St. John is unbelievably boater-unfriendly, said one Cruz Bay boat owner.