Eastern Caribbean Yachting Seminar Held in Martinique
by John Duffy
An International Yachting Seminar was held from May 30th through June 1st in Martinique.
The Caribbean Marine Association (CMA) sent six representatives to attend the event, which was organized by the French Customs administration and the Centre d’Etude et de Recherche en Economie, Gestion, Modélisation et Informatique Appliquée, and sponsored by the Université des Antilles et de la Guyane. As might be expected, the French islands were well represented with delegates from French Customs, French Naval and marine safety units, and French yachting interests from Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Barths and St. Martin. The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Secretariat sent its Programme Officer, Dr. Lorraine Nicholas. Also attending were Customs officers from Antigua & Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent & the Grenadines. The Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council (CCLEC) was represented by Albert Sandy, St. Lucia’s Deputy Comptroller of Customs. The private sector in the English-speaking territories was also well represented with delegates from Antigua & Barbuda, Grenada, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago. Delegates arrived on May 29th and were greeted at a cocktail party by Jean-Claude Garric from French Customs and Nathalie Petit-Charles from the Centre d’Etude et de Recherche en Economie, Gestion, Modélisation et Informatique Appliquée, co-organisers of the seminar.
The two-and-a-half-day seminar was separated into five segments, the first four dealing with key subjects relating to Caribbean yachting and a final session drawing conclusions from the preceding two days’ discussions. Three of the four subjects broadly addressed the economic aspects of Caribbean yachting while one addressed safety and security (which, while interesting, could have been held in an alternative forum leaving the seminar to concentrate solely on economic factors).
The subjects addressed were:
Session 1: Regulations Relating to Yachting
Session 2: Yachting Security and Safety
Session 3: Taxes and Fees Relating to Yachting Activities
Session 4: Yachting and Economic Development
There were three to six speakers on each subject. Also, for each segment, two representatives, one French speaking and one English speaking, were selected to prepare summaries for the final session. Jean-Claude Garric from French Customs acted as the facilitator and all speakers’ presentations were simultaneously translated into either English or French.
The first session, on regulations, was addressed by Laurent Colibeau from the Clearance Supervision Unit of the French Coast Guard, followed by Ernest Brin, Director of St. Barths’ Port Authority and Dean Fahie from the British Virgin Islands Customs Department. On behalf of CCLEC, Albert Sandy gave an enlightened speech stressing the need for simplification and harmonization.
Jean-Marc Cevaer, Deputy Director of the (French) Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre was due to open the second session, which dealt with yachting security and safety. His subject was search, rescue and vessel-theft tracking. Unfortunately, he was unavailable but his paper was read by Coast Guard Officer Jean-Eudes Seychelles, who went on to present his own subject on illicit trafficking — be it in drugs, contraband or people. President of the Caribbean Marine Association, John Duffy, stepped a bit wide of the strict subject limits to discuss the manner in which security interests can, and often do, clash with the freedom of movement of yachts.
The Session 3 segment on taxes and fees was divided into two sub-sections, one a discussion on the fee categories and their amounts, and the other on tax policy. Glenn Jean-Joseph, manager of the marina at Le Marin, Martinique, spoke on the fee structure as it related to his marina and CMA Vice-President Bob Hathaway gave an illuminating illustration of the fee structure in the various marinas within the OECS and other English-speaking territories. The results of his investigations were somewhat surprising (see sidebar). Tax policy was explained from the French point of view of a naval officer working within the French Coast Guard, and a version of an English territory’s approach to taxation was given by Monique Stewart, a Customs officer from St. Vincent & the Grenadines.
For the final segment there were six speakers, commencing with Elodie Olive from the French Customs Caribbean Headquarters speaking on the subject of the way the yachting industry presents itself on the web. She was followed by Robbie Ferron, from St. Maarten, whose presentation could be summed up by his comment that all yachts visiting the Caribbean see it as a single entity rather than a multiplicity of administrations. Douglas Rapier of Martinique explained the importance of the growing mega-yacht sector and the need to recognize the diverseness of yachting. Dr. Lorraine Nicholas presented the OECS’s policy on yachting tourism, and Yvonne Tritz gave an impassioned speech on the value of yachting tourism to Martinique and the other French Caribbean islands. The session was concluded by Erik Blommestein, from Trinidad & Tobago, stressing the need for planning and better policy making.
Each speaker invited questions at the end of their speeches and the content of some presentations led to lively debates. With sessions starting as early as 8:00AM and some delegates preparing for the next day as late as midnight, anyone who thought they were visiting an idyllic French island for good food, rest and relaxation must have been sadly disappointed — although the good food was there in abundance!
Regulations Relating to Yachting
On the Saturday morning, Jean-Eudes Seychelles summarized the first session, which related to clearance regulations. Among the recommendations was a suggestion for the setting up of a small steering committee for the introduction of an electronic pre-arrival notification system covering the needs of Customs, Immigration and Port Authority. The system should have the ability to receive on-line payment of fees. It should also be a requirement of the system that it provide data and statistics for use by private and public sectors, tourism in particular, for the promotion of Caribbean yachting. It was considered essential that the steering committee operate under the auspices of CCLEC, which represents 38 Caribbean nations.
Yachting Security and Safety
Bob Hathaway, crediting his French counterpart with all the work, presented the summary of the second session, which addressed yachting security and safety. The main conclusions were the need for better communications with yachts to enable easier and swifter responses in the case of emergency and a recommendation that officials, authorities and communities be made more aware of being welcoming to yachting visitors. It was suggested that regional customer-service awards should be considered. It was also concluded that there needs to be greater awareness of security in respect of criminal activities, including drug trafficking and the possibility of piracy.
Taxes and Fees Relating to Yachting
Having addressed the third session, on the subject of taxes and fees relating to yachting activities, Monique Stewart was asked to also summarize that session. Again harmonization and simplification were highlighted. She stressed the need for there to be an “inventory” and updating of yachting-related regulations, taxes, services and fees and, in this field, particularly in relation to the public sector, benchmarking was considered critical. There was concern that there seem to be a variety of methods for measuring the size of yachts and it was felt that a uniform standard would be beneficial, as would be a definition for what comprises a yacht. Information sharing between countries by the public sector could help simplify and harmonize taxes and fees and, where marine associations do not exist, the private sector should form groups to work through the CMA and engage with organizations on other islands.
Yachting and Economic Development
Working with Douglas Rapier from Martinique, John Duffy, CMA President, presented the conclusions of Session 4 on the subject of the economic development of yachting. Top priority in encouraging more yachts to visit the Caribbean was a simplified, web-based pre-arrival notification system. Taking note of the perceived single Caribbean space, it was considered that there is a need for marine associations to communicate and interact with each other and their respective governmental bodies and tourism authorities. It was noted that each territory approaches the market slightly differently and has its own niche within the market, and therefore each territory needs to identify its segment of the market and work to develop that segment. To assist in this, the production of usable economic impact statistics was considered a matter of urgency. The summary ended with a recommendation that the seminar be held annually.
The discussions which followed each summary caused the session to overrun by almost double the allotted time. However, when it came to an end, all participants were satisfied with the conclusions and there was a fervent wish for the words to be converted into actions.
Following expressions of thanks from the Université des Antilles et de la Guyane to the participants for attending, and congratulations from the participants to both the university and French Customs for organizing and conducting the seminar, the whole party moved to Le Marin for a waterborne tour and a (late) lunch hosted by the Mayor.
What’s a Berth Worth?
At the International Yachting Seminar held in Martinique from May 30th through June 1st, Bob Hathaway, CMA Vice-President and Manager of The Marina at Marigot Bay in St. Lucia, gave a presentation on “Marina Services and Fees in the Eastern Caribbean”. He examined services and fees at 35 marinas comprising 2,800 berths on seven islands.
As far as possible, data regarding berth pricing was obtained directly from marinas; some was obtained from the internet. Some rates had to be calculated from data supplied. The causes of price variation were given as:
• Geographical Location – Market
• Geographical Location – Hurricane Season
• High versus Low Season
• On-Island Competition
• Inter-Island Competition
A cross-section of typical yachts was used for comparison: a 40-foot (12-metre) monohull, typical of the cruising market; a 46-foot (14-metre) catamaran, typical of the bareboat charter market; a 65-foot (20 metre) monohull, typical of the higher-end cruising market; and a 130-foot (40-metre) monohull motor yacht, typical of the mega-yacht market.
Here are some highlights of Bob’s presentation:
At the extremes, the most expensive berth overall was US$5,215.20 (Euro 4,172.16) per night in high season for a 200-metre (656-foot) yacht at Yacht Haven Grande, St. Thomas. The least expensive berth was US$12 (Euro 9.60) per night in low season for a 40-foot monohull at Prickly Bay Marina, Grenada.
Similarly, Yacht Haven Grande offered the most expensive berth for the 40-footer — US$110 (Euro 88) per night in high season.
Pricing policies for multihulls varied significantly, ranging from no additional charge to double rates. Most common was a 50-percent surcharge on monohull rates. For a 46-foot catamaran, the most expensive berth was US$128.80 (Euro 103.04) at Simpson Bay Marina, St. Maarten and the least expensive was US$19.78 (Euro 15.82) at Secret Harbour, Grenada.
For a 65-foot monohull, the difference was dramatic: the most expensive berth was US$256.75 (Euro 205.40) at Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in the BVI, and the least expensive — almost a tenth of that — was US$26 (Euro 20.80) at the Catamaran Marina, Antigua.
The price extremes were even more striking for a 130-foot mega-yacht, ranging from US$52 (Euro 41.60) at the Catamaran Marina, Antigua, to nearly 20 times more — US$1,007.50 (Euro 806) — at Yacht Haven Grande, St. Thomas and at Isle de Sol, St. Maarten.
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