Here's a post that Gary Brown had on his blog, Ocean Media. Gary has the radio show YachtBlast and he has recently become the editor of All At Sea (you can download it here for free).
The Winds of Change
St. Maarten Bridge and Mooring fees after 10-10-10
The winds of change are blowing in Dutch Sint Maarten. On October 10 St. Maarten became a country within the Dutch Kingdom. As we woke on October 11, it seemed little had changed. The new government gave themselves a day off while the rest of the population went about their normal business.
Before the change to country status it was announced that there would be a reduction in bridge and mooring fees for yachts visiting the island beginning January 1. This has been long in coming, it doesn’t go far enough, but at least it’s a start. According to the St. Maarten Marine Trades Association, high fees, introduced without prior notice two years ago, caused a devastating decline in arrivals and a major drop in business activities.
St. Maarten’s marine economy was built on the backs of the smaller cruising boats, reports say that this is where the largest decline occurred, with a sixty-five to seventy-five per cent drop over the last 24 months.
Much can be blamed on ‘mega yacht’ madness. From government and right down the food chain, the mega yacht was seen as the Golden Goose. Legislators appear to be doing something to put that right but, to be fair; many businesses are not without blame, they cranked up prices to shake as much cash out of the mega yachts as they could. “They can pay, they can pay, money’s no object,” was the cry. I heard it first hand, time and again.
Small boats were caught up in the madness and came up with their own answer. Instead of taking out a mortgage to pay for an hour of a service professionals’ time, they took their boats elsewhere and broadcast it to the world through social media.
Let’s hope that what started before country status will continue. That St. Maarten will lower all bridge and mooring fees, businesses will understand the threat posed by burgeoning competition elsewhere, and the island will regain its rightful place as the Yachting Capital of the Caribbean.
Effective January 1, 2011, fees for vessels in the categories eight to eighteen meters will change as follows: A thirty per cent reduction in bridge fee rates; and a rebate of two free weeks out of every eight consecutive weeks spent in St. Maarten.
Gary has also written a book, titled Caribbean High. It is available in paperback on Amazon.com and also as a Kindle version.