De Jongh Heralds Passage by Congress of Six-Passenger Marine Rule Change for Restoration of USVI Boat Industry

The United Sates Congress passed federal legislation that represents a crucial first step towards the Virgin Islands goal of reclaiming its place as the yachting capital of the world, Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. proclaimed December 11 as he noted the passage of federal legislation by the U.S. Senate of the “six pack” or six passenger legislation easing inspection requirements for small charter vessels in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Legislation that includes the Virgin Islands Six Passenger exemption passed the Senate on a unanimous vote on Wednesday night. A previous version had passed the House earlier in the year and H.R. 5769 is a result of a joint conference which emerged from both the House and the Senate and is en route to the President for his signature,” Gov. de Jongh said.  A second House vote on the new Senate language occurred later in the evening in order to assure that the final House language was identical to what passed the Senate.

Important Sector of Economy
This important sector of our economy will offer numerous opportunities in the boating industry, Gov. de Jongh said in heralding the passage of the “six-pack” legislation and noting the potential for the restoration of the territory’s once world-leading charter sailing fleet — much of which has migrated to the British Virgin Islands to operate under the international regulations the vessels will now face to operate in the USVI.

“This legislation is a critical first step in our journey to regain our position as the world’s leader in this important industry sector.” Gov. de Jongh took note of the fact that prior to 1993, when the six-passenger or “six pack” limitation on U.S. uninspected vessels was imposed, the territory’s harbors were filled with hundreds of vessels which brought millions in jobs and annual revenue to the local economy. 

However, the limitation saw the industry relocate to the British Virgin Islands which follows international standards and a twelve-passenger limitation, according to a press release from Government House. Since 1993, the Virgin Islands has not had the opportunity to compete fairly for charter yacht customers, the Governor said.

The V.I. government and the marine industry must begin introducing new ideas that can inspire young people to venture into this great new world, said Gov. de Jongh, who credited the opportunity to restore the territory’s marine industry to Congressional leaders Senator Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Bill Shuster.

Gov. de Jongh Thanks Rockefeller, Shuster
Gov. de Jongh expressed the gratitude of the people of the Virgin Islands to Chairman Shuster for working with the Administration and our Marine Economic Development Council on this initiative.

“We are grateful to both the members of the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate for voting to take this action which levels the playing field for the territory. And enough cannot be said about the efforts of Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, a lion of the Senate and the

Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee,” Gov. de Jongh reiterated.

“Senator Rockefeller has distinguished himself as our leading Democratic champion in the Senate,” Gov. de Jongh said Thursday. “As a Member of the Senate Finance Committee, he became the center of the U.S.V.I. defense against a vigorous and unrelenting attack from anti-change forces within Puerto Rico and in the U.S. Senate.”

“He has been the leading defender of rum tax extenders,” Gov. de Jongh added. “There is a strong argument that the territory would not have been successful in our fight to develop our rum industry if Jay Rockefeller was not the visible champion for the territory’s economy. As a committed friend of the U.S. Virgin Islands, it is only fitting that one of his final legislative achievements would benefit our territory.”