Planned amendments to a 1992 law will aim to reform maritime regulations while promoting a “flourishing” marine industry in the territory, according to Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley.

On Tuesday in the House of Assembly, the premier said the move is designed to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the Commercial Recreational Vessels Licensing Act with the intention of positioning the Virgin Islands as a “leading maritime jurisdiction” in the region.

“The core amendments include a range of categorisation ensuring vessel licence integrity, promoting large yacht presence, strengthening registration requirements, mandating [VI] charter origin, exempting [VI] vessels from cruising permits, and exempting [VI] vessels from import duties,” he said. “They are meticulously crafted to streamline processes, enhance operational efficiency, and to foster an environment conducive to sustainable growth.”

Licence expiration

A key amendment will transition from a uniform licence expiry date of Oct. 31 to a system where licences expire on their anniversary, according to the premier.

This move, he said, will eliminate bottlenecks and administrative burdens, allowing for a smoother and staggered renewal process that won’t overwhelm administrative resources.

Another planned amendment will extend the length of time a non-commercial vessel can remain in territorial waters without paying import duties, he added.

“This aligns us with international standards and sends a welcoming message to vessel owners, encouraging prolonged stays in the Virgin Islands,” Dr. Wheatley said, adding, “This extension not only fosters economic activity, but also strengthens our reputation as a hospitable and attractive destination for maritime tourism.”

Admin fees

The planned revisions will also adjust administrative fees to factor in present market rates and inflation, he added.

An awareness campaign, he said, will be launched to “inform and engage the public” with a series of meetings. He didn’t announce a schedule during HOA.

According to the premier, the CRVL Act hasn’t been amended since its enactment in 1992.