Effective January 1, 2017, Virgin Islands Port Authority has raised its rates on docking fees for car ferry companies and various other entities. This will have a serious negative impact on our sustainability and viability. During various VIPA Board meetings, as a member of the VI Association of Car Ferry Operators, Love City Car Ferries, Inc has expressed the serious financial burden that this industry faces. We have asked for assisstance in various forms.
Instead, we are now faced with an additional VIPA rate hike of 40%. This hike affects our direct costs as it is attached to each vessel, per port, per day. It is no easy burden to carry. I am quite sure that everyone is aware, by now, that this industry eats giants. There is a reason why the passenger ferries are subsidized by the VI government. There is a reason why the airline industry is subsidized by the US Government. There is a reason why railroads are also subsidized by the US Government. Why? Because even though many are privitaized, they provide a public service.
The car ferry industry in the Virgin Islands also provides a public service. In fact, Pillsbury Sound, the waterway that separates St. Thomas from St. John, has been declared a national highway. Yet, no one provides these small family owned corporations any assistance. Instead, VIPA continues to hike rates while providing no additional services: no shore power, no cleats, no free water, no adequate dredging, no public waiting facitlity on St. John similar to the one on St. Thomas, etc. etc.
Why aren't residents calling VIPA and telling them no? Though VIPA's press release states that the general public understands, one wonders if St. Johnians, as a collective, were among those who understood. Due to its small population, St. Johnians will always be out voted; Yet, they will always have to pay the most. It's classic taxation without representation. Neither St. Thomians nor Crucians will have to bare the brunt of VIPA's new rate increase to the same magnitude as St. Johnians, yet the big islands may have inadvertently supported the casting of this burden on the backs of their small sister island. Where is the public outcry, particularly from St. Johnians? Is it going to come, if the car ferry industry is forced to raise rates as a result of VIPA's decision? By then, it will be too late.