Everyone who’s worked on a yacht in the Caribbean knows that islanders have a special way of life. Time moves slower; issues that seem important in the hustle and bustle of the U.S. and Europe don’t get the same consideration down island. This style of living is exactly why guests and owners want to visit these beautiful locales, for a slice of life that doesn’t move at the speed of light. However, the laissez faire business-style can drive captains and crew crazy.
At the Maritime Security Council Sound Security Measures for the Yachting Community Conference at Yacht Haven Grande Marina in St. Thomas, USVI, Capt. Warren Kluttz of M/Y Dream
raised this very point. While the conference was on security in the Caribbean Basin, the captains were galvanized by the topic of the difficulties they face entering and leaving various countries throughout the area. Kluttz said that there are no standards. “Rules change all of the time and it makes things very difficult.”
A great deal of island economies is based on tourism; Capt. Kluttz stated that yachts will only travel to places that are cooperative.
In response, Everton Walters, Chairman of the Port Management Association of the Caribbean and CEO of Barbados Port, Inc., said that there is much work to be done in respect to standardizing; the conference is the beginning of such measures. Walters agreed that a master plan is needed and added that a dedicated clearance facility, one specific location on an island or an island chain that can accommodate yachts, would be ideal.
Kluttz offered an example, which occurred last week in the BVIs. Kluttz was told to fill out paperwork in order to check in the guests. However, when he handed in said documents they were torn up and thrown in the trash right in front of him. His point being that there are not just inconsistencies throughout the Caribbean, but in each country itself.
At the conference, during a later discussion on firearms on board vessels, one marina security officer was asked the best procedure to declare weapons in the USVI. He responded, but was met with some resistance from a different USVI official, who offered a completely different answer, demonstrating the point that a best practices document might help alleviate some of the confusion amongst countries and within countries and their various departments.
Walters believes that up until now, the measures taken in terms of security and procedures have been reactionary, but with initiatives, such as the security conference, which opened dialog about these issues, solutions can be proactive. Walters said the standardization issue will be put on the agenda.
“I challenge the MSC [Maritime Security Council] to present a best practices document incorporating immigration, the ease of application, etc.,” said Bert Fowles, Vice President of Marketing at IGY Marinas. Fowles agreed that captains must have ease to travel through the Caribbean and this document should be share with all countries in the Caribbean to ensure this.
“These counties and marinas need to realize who the clients are,” said Kluttz. “The captains make many more decisions than are realized. If [Caribbean countries] don’t make visiting their islands easy for captains and crew, we won’t come back.”
Other topics at the conference included the pros and cons of keeping weapons on board vessels, the need for open communication between yachts and authorities as the first line of defense against crime in marinas and ports in the Caribbean, training of security personnel in the Caribbean and the need to view security offices not as “toy cops,” but as real authorities.
Keep an eye out for the full coverage of the conference in the March 2011 issue of Dockwalk magazine.
Dockwalk would like to further investigate the problems captains face clearing in and out of the Caribbean islands. Please let us know: Which islands do you find the most accommodating; which are the worst? We’d like to hear your stories to compile a best-and-worst list. Please share your thoughts and opinions. Email me at Janine@dockwalk.com