In the wake of Irma & Maria, both record-breaking category-five hurricanes, there has been much devastation. Our already weak infrastructure will take months to rebuild and many of the large hotels (our main employers for both skilled and unskilled labor) suffered structural damage and are forecasting a minimum of six months to a year before reopening. Many people are left without a home and without a means of putting food on the table.
The outpouring of support from the private sector has been the saving grace of many VI residents, but eventually the donations will diminish and the only way we as an island will carry on is to identify sectors of our economy with great potential for a quick rebuild and ensure that we are employing as many residents in the efforts and longterm growth.
The beautiful blue waters of the VI remain warm and clear. The white sand beaches were not blown away. The palm trees are still in place and beginning to turn green again.
Please check out our mission statement and make a donation to help us get our marine industry back to work.
MRF funded this inaugural five week intensive “Marine Apprenticeship” which provided training in the marine charter industry to these young adults from St. Thomas and St. John in partnership with Cruise Ship Excursions.
During the inaugural Marine Apprenticeship June-July 2018 the following have been completed by all students:
- 5 day sailing course at St Thomas Yacht Club, trained by Tyler Rice and myself Oriel Blake
- Swimming (with thanks to STSA)
- SCUBA diving (with thanks to Red Hook Dive Center)
- First Aid and CPR (certification)
- Boating Safety (certification)
- Navigation, Rules of the Road and other theory
- Marina and dock management (thank you AYH and YHG)
- Charter Vessel Maintenance and Charter Business Operation AND diesel engine maintenance (thank you Charter Caribe)
- Boat yard operation (hauling Pizza Pi, thank you Pizza Pi)
- US Coast Guard – a day at the MSD and onboard a coastguard vessel (thank you Commander Rivas and Inspector Linnborn)
- Sail and Power Charter-boat operation with passengers (thank you Cruise Ship Excursions)
A mentorship and scholarship program will follow these apprentices to careers as captains and crew with VIPCA’s continued support of their careers being made successful in the Marine Industry. We are proud to announce that we are Sponsoring each student through a five-day STCW Basic Training (Standards of Training and Certification of Watchkeeping) worth $1200 per student.
Breaking News! VIPCA has partnered with My Brother’s Workshop and created “My Brother’s Workshop – Marine” and there will soon be year-round MBW Marine Vocational Training provided for at-risk youth in marine maintenance services to complement the yearly 6 week Marine Apprenticeship program on the water.
VIPCA will continue to seek funding through the Marine Rebuild Fund to continue training the Five Week Marine Apprenticeship every year, and we are proud to be now part of the Department of Education’s “Marine Academy” and look forward to continued work supporting and furthering the career prospects of students in Virgin Islands high schools in the Marine Industry.
As we begin to rebuild & restart our marine industry it’s good to take stock of where we stand. The following photos & notes were collected in collaboration with VIPCA & DPNR. Field work took place in late September & the first half of October. The findings were presented at the VIPCA Annual Charter Yacht Show at Yacht Haven Grande in early November. To read through an overview of our findings click the link below:
Visit the links below if you would like to read more in depth on the field notes & skim additional photos collected to help inform your charter planning. ** Please keep in mind that this data was collected in early October. Mother nature is bouncing back quick & the residents of the VI are making huge strides every week. **
Field Notes & Photos by Area:
As communications come back online & charter boat owners work through the insurance process we have begun to piece together a roll call of our day and term charter boats. This list is being shared with hotels & travel agents across the VI to help promote our local fleet and inform on who is operational and ready for business.
This list is not yet exhaustive. To add your boat to the list please fill out the quick form found at this link: https://goo.gl/forms/mmWHHrNUXLHjJtv72
One of our founding members, Oriel Blake, is the Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association (VIPCA) and along with pushing MRF forward she also pulled together a great Charter Boat Show this past week. This is THE show of the year for our term charter industry in the USVI and surrounding islands. The primary reason for the show is to connect luxury sailing yachts (term charter boats) who rent out for a week at a time with their global network of travel agents (charter brokers) who book this type of vacation. The show this year also served as a time to update and educate both yacht crew and charter brokers about the various rebuild efforts & current status of our island infrastructure and tourism offerings.
Photo credit: Phil Blake
The show was a success in both high attendance of yachts & travel agents and information gathered and transmitted to the captive audience. Guest speakers ranged from VI senators to charter industry leaders and representatives from a number of relief projects looking for support from the boating industry.
A favorite day of the boat show for many charter brokers & yacht crew was spent sweating it out elbow to elbow with volunteers from My Brother’s Workshop to assemble various projects including a few picnic tables that will be installed in a number of MBW’s rebuild areas.
Together we will rebuild.
Taking inventory of our charter fleet is an ongoing process. Communication is still limited across the islands and many boat owners are still in “insurance claim limbo” but we have made a start.
We are collecting data on charter boats that survived the hurricanes. Our list of boats will be shared throughout the tourism industry to promote our charter boats that are ready to show guests around our still beautiful islands.
If you own, manage or captain a charter boat (term & day charter) please register it’s condition through this form.
If you know someone with a charter boat in the USVI please share this link with them.
We are very excited to announce our partnership with the Costal Zone Management (CZM) division of the Department of Planning & Natural Resources (DPNR) to conduct thorough surveys of “high priority” bays and reefs around St. Thomas & St. John to take stock of how they were impacted by the hurricanes and their readiness to welcome tourists back for the 2018 season.
We’ve divided each island into four quadrants and contracted with a local charter captain to shuttle CZM and MRF representatives around to collect images and baseline data. Weather dependent, the plan is to spend one day in each quadrant so we are looking at an eight day mission.
Budget for the entire project (including write up) is $3k.
St. Thomas based Nautical Trips & Consulting has launched a website to connect those in need of work (especially marine work) with skilled and unskilled laborers currently residing in the USVI. The mission of the project is to keep VI residents working by getting them involved in the rebuild efforts. The initial flood of resumes overwhelmed the small staff and a request was put out to the Marine Rebuild Fund (MRF) to sponsor the employment of one temporary contract worker to help streamline a job placement website and cull through the backlog of resumes to begin placing workers with available jobs.
MRF approved $3k to cover one month salary for one temporary employee.