Expanded group health insurance for the marine industry, the invitation of sports fishing and dive boats to the fall St. Thomas Fall Yacht Show and one-stop boat registration and business licensing are among dynamic "what's new" news in the U.S. Virgin Islands' marine community.
As of April 1, members of the Virgin Islands Charteryacht League (VICL) and associate members are eligible for new group health insurance offers through BUPA Health Insurance, based in Miami, Florida.
Erik Ackerson, VICL executive director, says, "We as an industry are so under insured, and that's due to so many service and trades people who are independent operators with no store front. Now, these folks can join the VICL as an associate member and obtain health insurance at a competitive rate."
The group health insurance, represented locally by Theodore Tunick and Sons, is offered at three different tiers to fit a variety of needs and pocketbooks.
Yacht brokers will get a first-time opportunity to meet with expanded categories of water sports operators, along with the traditional yachts on charter, at the St. Thomas Fall Yacht Show, set for November 9 to 11, 2010 at Yacht Haven Grande marina.
"The ability to rendezvous with fishing and dive operators is a way charter operators can enhance their offerings, which is especially important in a down economy," says Ackerson. "By making these folks a part of the fall show, brokers can see and meet them, and it benefits our wider marine community."
Finally, the days of camping out for a whole day at government agencies responsible for renewing business licenses and boat registrations will be a thing of the past next year. Not only will these services be available on-line starting in June 2011, they will be coordinated so that both tasks can be accomplished at the same time.
"The Department of Planning and Natural Resources and Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs are working together on a plan where the cost of a business license can be prorated, and both this license and boat registration can be renewed in June in a one-stop shop," says Ackerson.
Also new, boaters will be asked to respond to three new and additional questions when they register their vessels in 2011. The first is the location where the boat is kept. "This will give us information about if and where more moorings may be needed," says Ackerson.
The second is whether the vessel is a tourist-based business. "This information has not been captured before," says Ackerson. "The Department of Tourism can retrieve this data, and when working with the airlines, can provide an accurate number of the beds and berths in the territory."
The third question asks the name of the resident agent for off-island residents whose boats are based in the Virgin Islands. "Off-island residents will now mandatorily need to appoint a local agent with power of authority for their vessel when they aren't on-island," says Ackerson. "This will assure there is a contact to secure the vessel for safety in case of, for example, a major storm."
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietician.