SIMPSON BAY–President of St. Maarten Marine Trades Association (SMMTA) Robbie Ferron disclosed the association has established there is no legal requirement in place for a boat owner needing a permit to salvage a vessel.
“We have established, without any doubt, that one of the requirements that caused so many boats to be left over after Irma, namely the salvage permit, that requirement is no longer in place,” he said. “There was a rule that you had to get a permit and that slowed everything up. That rule has now gone. If you wreck your boat you are allowed to salvage it without a permit.”
“Permits that were required after Irma involved permission from the boat owner to salvage the vessel and it required a particular operator to do it. There is no legislation in place that defines that. Every boat owner has every right to salvage the value of his equipment. The association has defined that finally. Looking forward, it’s a breakthrough to not be bound by that rule.”
Ferron was talking at a season opening mixer for association members and industry stakeholders at the start of a crucial season for the yachting industry. He confirmed the industry is “ready” and looking forward to the season.
“The industry has not lost any significant entrepreneurial establishments as a result of Hurricane Irma – the only real elimination being Captain Oliver’s marina in Oyster Pond,” he said. “This is a moment to look at where we are. The industry is ready and the association has made significant efforts to communicate the preparedness of the industry to welcome visitors through social media and event representation in Europe and the USA. SMMTA and local companies sponsored a very well attended crew party at the Monaco Boat Show which reinforced the message ‘we are open for business.’”
Association members also attended the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show. Immediate Past President Brian Deher addressed a meeting of 300 persons from the US Superyacht Association, briefing them on the circumstances in St. Maarten.
“I addressed three misconceptions about St. Maarten; one was the airport isn’t functioning, there is a crime issue, and unnavigable channels,” explained Deher. “These are all non-issues. The board has done a great job with Simpson Bay Lagoon Authority (SLAC) on the survey. All the channels are open. Crime is down compared to 2016 and we have statistics from the police. The airport is operating and most important for the mega yacht industry the Fixed Base Operations (FBO) is separated from the commercial traffic. So, everyone is very optimistic.”
Ferron emphasized just how strong the marine industry is in the Caribbean.
“It hasn’t gone down at all, it’s just there has just been a shift in the share of business to other territories. And we’ve got to get it back. It takes effort. It’s a long, tough project but we are very resilient.”
On the theme of resilience, he noted day charter operators such as Eagle Tours and Aquamania had minimal losses to their vessels during Hurricane Irma due to excellent preparations beforehand.
“The message is that you can prepare better and have a successful outcome,” he reasoned.
The industry is also recognizing outstanding contributions to rebuilding and restarting the trade. Some sectors have reinvested quickly and effectively. Sint Maarten Yacht Club has restored and improved its facility, held a major regatta in the aftermath of Irma, and currently sends a strong message as a result of completed reconstruction.
The success of Port St. Maarten through its effective marketing and quick build-up of cruise ship business is an inspiration to the yachting industry. SMMTA is pleased to be cooperating with them in non-cruise ship areas.
In spite of pressure to rebuild, new initiatives have been taken in the industry. The Kidz at Sea programme has been operating and continues to run programmes in which St. Maarten youth are receiving that solid basic training on boats that is crucial for the success of the industry.
SMMTA will be represented at the Antigua Charter Yacht Exhibition where the customer base is highly focused. SMMTA is joining A-Crew, Port de Plaisance, and other local companies to sponsor a Captain’s dinner and crew party.
The industry continues to encourage the public sector to take full responsibility for public sector tasks. These include navigation bouys, private garbage, financial support for export sectors and the most current being the management of wrecks as defined by existing legislation.