BVI Charter Vessel Seizures, Related to Corruption?

The beautiful British Virgin Islands have been the subject of some ugly business of late. Some of it heavily impacting the charter industry and more importantly vacationers who were the innocent bystanders in all this.

Most recently on Thursday, April 28, 2022, the BVI premier, Andrew Alturo Fahie, was arrested at the Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport on drug trafficking and money laundering charges. Two alleged accomplices, BVI Port Authority Managing Director, Oleanvine Pickering Maynard, and her son, Kadeem Stephan Maynard, were also arrested.

This unsettling event pointing to corruption in the local BVI government, came a month after the BVI government’s surprise crackdown on the yacht charter industry. The crackdown was puzzling for many reasons not the least of which is why it would jeopardize its second most important economic industry.

In October 2021, the BVI government hastily passed new regulations called Cruising and Home Port Permit Act of 2021. The new law enforces a decades-old law requiring all charter vessels be registered in the BVI that had gone unenforced along with a new exemption certificate that provided an alternative to registration if the paperwork was completed and a fee of $950 paid, one of many different fees and charges.

Then on March 16, 2022, violation stickers were attached to 184 charter boats most of Moorings as well as some with Dream Yacht and Captains Compass Charters. This action came without warning leaving bareboaters and crewed yacht charter vacationers sitting in port high and dry. And the charter companies facing large fines. The government cited paperwork deficiencies and lack of safety equipment but compliance was basically impossible.

The new act required all yachts to comply, be inspected, and, if applicable, have the newly introduced exemption certificate before the Commercial Recreational Vessel License issued by H.M. Customs was due on November 1, 2021. Even after extending the deadline to December, larger charter companies had large hurdles to leap including supply-chain disruptions of equipment required by the safety requirements, finances, staffing issues, and extensive paperwork required for multiple boats. The costs to comply is astronomical and will no doubt impact the charter industry.

The fallout of the ill-timed crackdown left many charterers including those involved in the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival scrambling to find other accommodations.

Though the BVI Premier (the one that was arrested) cited safety concerns being the reason for seizure of the boats, the industry is wary that this is the case since compliance with MCA (Maritime Coastguard Agency) standards have no substantive effect on the safety of charterers or crew. They include things like one extra lifejacket in excess of vessel capacity, an extra fire bucket, using a specific fire extinguisher type, etc.

While most people involved in the charter industry have not considered linking these 2 events…the arrest of high-ranking BVI government officials and the vessel seizure…others are suggesting there is a broader conspiracy.

Let us know if and how you may have been impacted.


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