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Red Hook Marine Terminal to Lack Customs Facility

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Dec. 14, 2006 – When the V.I. Port Authority's Red Hook marine terminal opens in a few months, it won't have a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, spokesman Marc Stridiron said Wednesday.
However, he said plans are in the works to add one at a later date. "We're working on getting funding so we can work on design. The funding is not there now," Stridiron said.
He said the Port Authority asked the Legislature for $450,000 to design and construct the Customs facility, but the money was not appropriated.
However, Sen. Lorraine Berry said Thursday that she'll put a $400,000 appropriation for a Customs facility on the Dec. 22 session agenda.
She said that the Port Authority will have to come up with the difference. "They've got to come up with some money," she said.
She said she'll ask her colleagues to appropriate the money because it will provide a convenience. She said that while it would be nice if the federal government paid the tab, she's not counting on it.
Stridiron said no date is set for the phase of the work that includes the Customs facility to begin.
Customs and Border Protection spokesman Wendy Vallejo said from her office in Puerto Rico that the two agencies are discussing the matter. "It's all in the talking phase," she said.
Meanwhile, ferryboats coming from the nearby British Virgin Islands and pleasure boats entering the country must clear in at Cruz Bay, St. John, before continuing on to Red Hook.
However, Limnos Charters reservations manager Jennifer Francis said the captains try to time their arrival in Cruz Bay so they're not there at the same time as the ferry boats coming from the BVI, so their passengers don't have to wait.
"Nobody's complained about it," she said, referring to the fact that the passengers must disembark from the boat on St. John, get back on and then head across Pillsbury Sound to Red Hook.
Vallejo said that in fiscal year 2006, 178,898 people cleared Customs on St. John.
She said the 2.7 million figure for Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, includes cruise ship passengers, who do not have to make a personal appearance at the Customs facility on the waterfront, so that number doesn't show how many people use the facility.
Work began on the Red Hook marine terminal nearly two years ago.
Stridiron said the $10 million terminal project includes 8,000 square feet inside the building and 5,000 square feet of roofed outdoor space.
He said that plans do not call for a queuing system for vehicles boarding barges, such as the one in place at the Enighed Pond Marine Facility. At St. John, drivers line up in order of arrival at the facility to board the barge. This system put an end to the free-for-all that occurred when vehicles boarded barges at the Creek.
Currently, vehicles entering the Red Hook facility to board the barge line up to pay the Port Authority fee, but once past that point, no queuing happens.
Stridiron said he expects that once the facility is fully opened, a guard will be stationed at the spot where vehicles board the barge to make sure people don't cut in front of the line as currently happens.
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