The reopening of seaports been delayed to April 15th according to a statement released by the BVI Ports Authority, sending outrage throughout the marine community.
The BVIPA listed these four reasons to substantiate the delay;
i. that islands within the region have reported increased numbers of COVID-19 cases;
ii. the increased possibility of the introduction of variant strains from international travelers;
iii. due to the demands of the roll-out of the vaccines and the need to ensure a large percent of the local population is vaccinated, the health personnel normally needed to assist in monitoring procedures at the entry portal is significantly stretched and as such the efficiency to monitor the opening is challenged; and
iv. to enhance the customer experience through further infrastructural improvements at the Road Town Jetty and other ports of entry in light of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
The Road Town Jetty and other seaports were initially scheduled to reopen on March 1st after being closed for almost a year.
Leader of the Opposition Marlon Penn has since said that not only does the Government lack a thorough plan to effectively manage the reopening of the seaports but there is also lack of transparency.
The Leader of the Opposition said, “The Government first announced a reopening date for our seaports of December 8. The reopening was delayed to January 21, and then a further delay of March 1 was announced. However, as the March 1 deadline is drawing near, we are now receiving reports that the reopening has a further delay of April 15. To date, we have not received any updates or any information on the progress, processes and/or logistics of how the reopening of the ports will be managed; leaving us to infer that a reopening in the near future may not be forthcoming,” the Opposition leader stated.
Honourable Penn expressed that the previous two postponements, followed by a third postponement; i.e. the constant false start of the reopening of our seaports stem from this Administration’s lack of planning, lack of leadership and reflects poorly on BVI and damages our global image.
Since the announcement there has been lots of outrage within the marine community and tourists who frequent the islands via the sea.
Andrew Ball, Chairman of the Marine Association said the delay is disappointing. Mr. Ball said “It is very disappointing that there has not been engagement with stakeholders on this matter. Whilst the decision not to open the seaports itself is saddening, what is most discouraging is the late notice. Businesses and investors have been unable to plan effectively because they have not been privy to the public sector’s plan. This has led to a significant loss in investor confidence which will affect us in the long term, outlasting the COVID pandemic. In the short term this will cause more businesses to close, and further loss of employment. To be clear, the lack of coordination is arguably more damaging than the failure to open on its own.”
The BVIPA’s update was sent out via email at 8:42pm on Wednesday evening.