The Director of the Virgin Island Shipping Registry John Samuel said his agency is currently pushing for changes in the legislation to allow for officers to carry out functions such as actively issuing tickets for vessels not compliant with regulations.
Speaking at a press conference last Friday, Samuel said there is a need for an improvement in the current legislation to give the Shipping Registry more enforcement powers so it can actively enforce maritime safety on locals waters; as is the case with other enforcement agencies such as the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, Customs, Ports Authority, Dockmasters and Marine Inspectors.
“We put that proposal to the government and to the Cabinet. Cabinet has approved that, so we are in the process of approving the legislation now so we can have an active enforcement process going forward,” Samuel said.
“The legislation currently does not allow that. So, it is a working process, and we will get to a stage where the level of compliance across the field would be high and there would be enforcement mechanism so that we can maintain our standards,” the Director of the Shipping Registry said.
Samuel also made it clear that Shipping Registry is responsible for maritime safety and since he was admitted into office in 2020, he and his team have worked diligently to ensure that vessels comply with the current regulations for operating in the territory.
“Part of the reasons that the fleets are having to comply is because we are now doing our job,” Samuel said.
He added when he came to office, discussions commenced with the various representative groups in the marine industry in the Virgin Islands
. He said as the territory was in COVID
-19 lockdown and vessels were not in operation, his team at Shipping Registry thought it would be ideal to start the process of compliance.
“We had a meeting in March 2020 with the representative groups of the industry. At Shipping Registry, we said that all your boats are not moving since everyone is locked down. My staff is here, they don’t have much work to do so let us begin now to bring the fleets up to compliance,” Samuel added.
He noted his agency gave industry players ample time to comply with regulations as soon as he was made aware of the situation regarding compliance when he assumed his role.
Samuel said even after the new legislation came into effect in October of last year, the various charter companies in the territory were given time before the crackdown began earlier this month.
“Even after the new legislation came in, we did not start enforcements. Enforcement requires that one; vessels are inspected in accordance with the regulations. Owners are issued deficiencies so they know what they need to replace on the vessels, what they need to place on the vessels. Owners go away, and they try to comply. Once the vessel is properly equipped, they receive a certificate,” Samuel explained.
“So, that process began, and I began doing my job the day I joined Shipping Registry. I cannot speak to what happened before I was at Shipping Registry. But I can speak to what happened when I got there, what we did and how we are moving forward,” the Director added.