All vessels anchoring in Marigot Bay must now pay anchorage fees that were implemented effective January 1, Ports Authority Director Alberic Ellis disclosed Thursday.
Anchorage fees were not fully collected in the past and were applied mainly to cruise ships, although all vessels were required to pay the clearing-in fee.
Ellis said the new anchorage fees were necessary for the better development of the bay and in keeping with new infrastructure projects, including expansion of marinas for megayachts and yachts in general. The fees will also be used to assist the Collectivité which up to now collects nothing for garbage disposal from yachts.
The fees currently apply to Marigot Bay, but discussions are ongoing about also implementing their collection in Grand Case Bay.
The rate structure is based on the size of vessels, the larger vessels paying more than the smaller vessels. The size categories range from vessels of eight metres in length up to 75 metres. Vessels have the option of paying a one-day rate or a different rate for stays longer than one day.
The one-day anchorage fee (plus the clearance fee) for all vessels 8-13 metres is 20 euros, 13-18 metres 30 euros, 18-23 metres 40 euros, and so on.
Longer stays for non-residents are charged on a per metre per day basis. For example, a 13-metre vessel will pay an anchorage fee of 25 euro cents per metre for a charge of about three euros per day for up to a three-day stay. For stays longer than three days, the rate goes up to 35 euro cents. St. Martin residents are charged 13 euro cents.
"We believe the fees are reasonable and come with all the services," Ellis explained. "Efforts are currently being put in place to provide more security on the dock. We have already installed surveillance cameras to watch over dinghies and more cameras will be added. The Collectivité is also looking into improving the lighting on the waterfront, and on the dock in particular where the dinghies are tied up. There is a technical problem there which is being addressed."
Some 150,000 euros will also be spent on refurbishing the deck of the waterfront dock, while Semsamar will also be investing in improvements to Marina Port La Royale in 2009 and 2010
Ellis said the introduction of anchorage fees in Marigot should not come as any surprise, as they were applied in harbours all over the world.
"We understand for quite some time anchorage fees were not charged, but St. Martin is changing and evolving," he said. "If we are to continue giving the level of service expected of us, that comes with a price. That said, we fully recognise the yachting and marine industry’s significant contribution to our economy. Naturally we want to keep St. Martin/St. Maarten as an important port of call."
Ellis and First Vice-President Daniel Gibbs stressed they did not want the fees to be viewed as a tax on cruising yachtsmen, but as a participation fee to continue ensuring that the necessary infrastructure can be put in place.
"It’s not fair that only the population pays for upgrades in infrastructure and new facilities. It’s reasonable for yachts to contribute and our prices are well below the other islands," Gibbs added.
The Ports Authority has no jurisdiction over anchoring in Simpson Bay Lagoon and only collects the clearance fees.