Published On: Sun, Aug 30th, 2020

What are the rules of engagement for yachts?

Dear Editor,

A great many yachts migrate from the Northern Caribbean to the Southern Caribbean to evade the hurricane belt every year. This year with the Covid danger all the territories closed their borders and for a while the yachts were without a hurricane-free destination.

There are currently four destinations for yachts outside the hurricane belt being Trinidad, Grenada, Curacao and Aruba where storage and service facilities exist. Trinidad and Curacao kept their borders closed and created no opportunity for quarantine to allow boats to be stored and serviced. Grenada and Aruba created opportunities for yachtsmen to quarantine for two weeks after which they could remain in the territory and/or store their vessels. The big winner was Grenada where 496 vessels made use of the quarantine facility with 1115 crew, all of whom were PCR tested and none were found to be positive. This was clear proof that yachting destinations are able to optimize their business by smart facilitation without great cost and detriment to their people.

In three months’, time the hurricane season will be over, and the northern islands will be looking to attract yachting business back to their weak economies. Yachts will be looking to choose those islands where services are best, costs lowest, air travel convenient and nearby cruising waters the most interesting. In order to establish their destination, they will be looking for the most dependable information, having established that rules have been changing in respect of borders rapidly.

The likely winners are going to be those destinations that have clear rules that are communicated clearly. This is going to most likely be the case where there are appointed officials to ensure these rules are defined and findable and easily understood. Here in Sint Maarten we start off at a disadvantage given that we already have unclear rules that vary between Great Bay and Simpson Bay, rules that vary about clearance to the French side, rules that vary as to when and who requires a local license for driving a boat. The current rules for French Dutch border crossing are currently also complicated.

It would be heartening if we could get some consensus on what the rules for entry are going to be this coming season and if there is a need to change them, then which consistent website could carry this material to optimize our business in this coming season. This should not be hugely costly and can make a big difference to a sector that contributed 15% to the Sint Maarten economy before.

Robbie Ferron