St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The recently-formed Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association (VIPCA) announces it will operate its first annual VIPCA Charter Yacht Show at Yacht Haven Grande in November. A ‘VI Youth Marine Development Day’ at the Yacht Show will invite students’ territory-wide to learn about potential for employment in all facets of the marine industry. Additionally, the non-profit association and the Gowrie Group are in the final stages of completing crew medical and vessel protection and indemnity insurance programs for VIPCA’s vessel and crew members. These measures advance the association’s overall goal of stabilizing the marine industry and its contribution to the Virgin Islands economy, which now represents 11 percent of businesses and 19 percent of employment in the territory, according to the August 2016-published report, Describing the Ocean Economies of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, published by the NOAA Office of Coastal Management, in Charleston, SC.
“The marine testimony made against the ‘sin tax’ bill on February 15th was the association’s first task in working with our government. Senators were pleased that the marine industry had found a voice,” says Oriel Blake, executive director of VIPCA, whose mission is to provide one voice for vessels, the services that support them, and the people of the marine industry, both in the present and future.
The association’s objectives include developing relationships with the U.S., British and Spanish Virgin Islands governments, between the people of the Virgin Islands and the marine industry, and within the marine industry itself, according to Blake. In addition, VIPCA looks forward to advocating a positive reputation for the USVI charter industry internationally, and also locally by promoting employment and bringing attention back to the charter industry at home.
“We are losing talented young people to the U.S mainland, when there are growing opportunities in the USVIs for captains, crew and in all marine businesses and services. In the British Virgin Islands, the marine charter industry is recognized to be more lucrative than the hotel industry and it is actively supported by the BVI Government; sadly, the USVI Government underestimates the potential economic contribution from the marine charter industry and little is done to support it at present,” Blake says.
Unlike previous attempts to unite the industry, VIPCA is run by a transparent, elected board of volunteer directors dedicated to growing the charter industry through legislative policy advocacy, compliance guidelines and training opportunities. Currently over 50 charter yachts are members.
Memberships in VIPCA are available to vessels, professional crew, marine and marine-related businesses, as well as other local businesses or individuals with an interest in promoting, protecting and furthering the capability of the marine charter industry in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Upcoming, VIPCA and its membership look forward to running a summer program for VI youth next year, with potential for apprenticeships and work placements for students to gain sea time and scholarships for crew qualifications and training across the wide range of marine industry careers. VIPCA also looks forward to contributing to marine conservation projects with Blue Flag Global.
About VIPCA: The Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association is the only nonprofit charter association in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Members include day and term-charter vessels, crew, charter companies, and anyone else joined by mutual consent for the common purposes of promoting, protecting and furthering the capabilities of charter yachts and the marine businesses that sustain them in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Member vessels will have access to a marine directory that includes vendor, marine and services discounts as well as low group rates for vessel protection and indemnity insurance and crew will shortly have access to medical insurance.