Sept. 29, 2001 – A "Who's Who" of Virgin Islands commercial boat owners and operators gathered Friday morning at the St. Thomas Ritz-Carlton Resort to meet with local and regional Coast Guard inspectors at an event billed as Small Passenger Vessel Industry Day 2001.
Hosted by the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Detachment on St. Thomas, it attracted nearly 90 individuals representing most of the 130 Coast Guard-inspected small commercial vessels in the territory. Cmdr. Joseph A Servidio, who commands the Marine Safety Office in San Juan, and his chief inspector, Lt. Cmdr. Elmer Emeric, flew to St. Thomas to take part.
Lt. John Reinert, supervisor of the St. Thomas detachment, told the gathering, "By bringing the small passenger vessel community together at venues like this one, we hope the regulations can be explained, questions can be answered and ideas can be heard." The day's presentation, he added, "was targeted at small commercial inspected-vessel operators, both domestic and international."
The fast-paced agenda included slide-show augmented presentations on the Coast Guard's long-standing requirements relating to safe, clean and responsible commercial boat operation. Also addressed in detail were the vessel-inspection cycles required of commercial boat owners and the maintaining of vessels in a continuous state of compliance. Participants were encouraged to ask questions throughout the morning in a constructive, informal give-and-take environment.
According to Servidio, "These types of dialogues, training sessions and industry meetings are among the best ways we can move away from a high-casualty boating environment."
Of special interest to many local commercial captains were amendments to the international Standard of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) commercial boating regulations that will come into full effect next February. These amendments require many local captains holding master's licenses and carrying passengers to and from the British Virgin Islands to obtain additional safety endorsements on those licenses.
Most notably affected will be the many public and private ferry boat owners and operators engaged in routine business between the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. Emeric said, "We will begin looking for these STCW license endorsements in February."
"Even if you anticipate wanting an STCW endorsement later on in the future," Servidio told his audience, "it would behoove you to go through the licensing process now, because after the February 2002 date, it will be more difficult and expensive to obtain." He explained that at present, for captains holding master's licenses and serving international routes, "there is a gap where there are only a limited number of things you have to do. Starting in February 2002, those will expand."
Reinert expressed satisfaction with the day's turnout, saying, "I think we are going to make this an annual event." He noted that there is no separate orientation planned for St. Croix, as "the inspected vessel community is not nearly as large as it is here in the St. Thomas/St. John area."


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