Road Town, Tortola, VI - Her Majesty Customs of the Virgin Islands has taken a number of steps to minimise the potential entry of criminals, firearms and illegal substances into the territory. One such move has been described as “unpopular” by Assistant Commissioner of Enforcement, Mr Clinton Romney. According to him, everyone coming into the territory by sea is now required to present himself/herself in person to immigration authorities. This is one of the most recent measures implemented by HM Customs. “We hear about the amount of guns coming through St Thomas, if we read the papers, if you look at the media sites, so it’s a concern for us.”
Noting that while the VI is a tourist destination, Mr Romney said there are a lot of locals travelling to and through the USVI hence HM Customs had to make the decision as “unpopular” as it may be. He said that in the past only the captains of boats were required to disembark and take with him all the passports of his passengers. “Now everyone is required to present themselves with their passports and their belongings.”
Mr Romney explained that in terms of enforcement, one of the challenges the department has been grappling with is boaters entering the territory without first declaring at a port of entry/Customs port. He was candid in noting that one of the challenges that results in this practice is that the Customs port of entries are not small boat friendly.
“The challenge there I would say would be some of our facilities are not as accommodating as others are. With West End you would appreciate that small boaters could come up and tie there but at Road Town we would have challenges with smaller boats or even yachts coming and tying up there.”
Mr Romney explained that the procedure is in place that if a yacht or boat with accommodation comes into the territory after Customs would have closed they could drop there anchor at the port of entry and then make their way to declare when customs is opened the following morning. “Or you have 12 hours once you remain on board your boat in which to present yourself to immigrations and customs.”
He said what HM Customs has been finding is a number of boaters have been coming especially in Road Town to private docks. “Now the argument there is I am at a port of entry but they are not at a Customs port, hence you would have an offense if they go to those places that are private facilities.”