What is the Local Boater Option?
The Local Boater Option (LBO) is, according to a release from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a part of their “comprehensive effort to improve security at our nation’s borders while enhancing legitimate travel, including private boaters.” What this means is that boaters can register with CPB, and then phone-in their entry into the U.S. from a foreign country, instead of reporting in person. (However, CBP does reserve the authority to inspect a vessel and passengers in person.)
When does the Local Boater option go into effect?
The LBO is in effect now. Boaters may take advantage of the LBO just as soon as they sign up for a Boater Registration Number (BR#).
Who is eligible?
All US citizens and lawful permanent residents of the US (14 years of age and older) are eligible to participate in the LBO. The program is for boaters, not boats, though the master of a vessel will be required to provide vessel information, such as the vessel’s name, color, registration number, size, type and manufacturer.
Who is NOT eligible?
Non-US citizens, paying passengers (such as those on a day charter boat), and paid crew on cargo boats are not eligible to use the LBO. The LBO is only available to private, non-commercial boaters who are US citizens and legal permanent resident (green card holders).
Why should I sign up?
Signing up for the LBO will facilitate your entry into the US from a foreign country. Once you have obtained a BR#, your entry into the US can be processed over the phone by CBP. Agriculture requirements can be satisfied over the phone, as well. If everyone onboard an incoming vessel has a BR#, then the vessel and passengers will not have to report for inspection, unless requested to do so by CBP.
How and where do I sign up?
Make an appointment to sign up for the Local Boater Option at local ports of entry in the USVI by calling: Port of St. Thomas (340-774-6755); Port of St. Croix (340-773-1011); and Port of St. John (340-776-6741).
In Puerto Rico, the locations are: Port of San Juan (787-729-6600 or 787-289-7963); Port of Fajardo (787-863-0950, -0102 and -4075); Port of Ponce (787-841-3130, -3131, and -3132); and Port of Mayaguez (787-831-3311, -3368, and 787-831-3440, -3369).
South Florida ports of entry include: Key West (305-296-2233); Port Everglades (954-761-2000); West Palm Beach (561-848-6922); and Port of Miami (305-536-4758).
What documents to do I need to bring to my sign-up appointment?
Each boater who is 14 year of age and older must present a US government-issued ID, such as a US passport, US military ID, or driver’s license and birth certificate. Children under 14 may be included in their parents’ BR#, and should use that number when entering the US.
What happens if I don’t participate in the LBO?
Nothing. Participation in the LBO is voluntary and free of charge. However, if you fail to report your entry into the US, either in person or over the phone, the result can be penalties ranging from $5,000 to $10,000, seizure of your vessel, and jail time. The LBO offers an easy way for you to comply with the law.
If you have any questions about the Local Boater Option, call your local port of entry.
J. Summer Westman lives in St. Thomas, USVI, with her husband, Bill. When not out on their boat, Excellent Adventure, Summer writes boating articles and designs websites. Reach her at [email protected] or www.livingbydesignvi.com.