Photo: Road Town Ferry Terminal, Tortola British Virgin Islands. (Photo credit: Franklyn Skerritt/GIS)

ROAD TOWN, BVI–December 10th, 2020–Premier and Minister of Finance, Andrew Fahie has announced that the seaports of the British Virgin Islands will be opened to international travel on January 21, 2021. Previously the intention had been to open the ports on December 8th.

Premier Fahie made the announcement during a live update on the reopening of the Territory’s borders on Monday evening, however his explanation for the delay was lacking in specific details regarding the last-minute change of plan, other than saying that the BVI had been surprised by the number of arrivals at the airport.

The Premier said, “Given the number of persons that have been coming into the T.B. Lettsome Airport, which far exceeds our projection in this era, we see an opportunity to further strengthen our seaports to successfully balance lives and livelihood. We want the team there to be fully equipped as we COVID-19 proof the Territory.”

Fahie said that the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands decided to delay the Territory’s December 8 opening to marine traffic from international visitors including via the Road Town Ferry Terminal, and private and charter vessels unless previously approved.

The Premier said, “We do not want to compromise the safety and health of the people of the Virgin Islands. We do not want to retard our progress in having low or no COVID-19 in the Virgin Islands.”

He added, “We have set a target date of January 21 for the reopening of the Road Town Ferry Terminal only to incoming international visitors until all performance objectives for the reopening are met.”

The Premier said the aim is to ensure that all visitors experience an authentic BVILOVE welcome from the moment they begin their journey to the Territory and throughout the entire entry process whether it be the airport or seaport.

Premier Fahie said the main seaport is still in need of further adjustments and physical improvements for both the arrival and departure processes in the era of COVID-19. The Premier said this observation was made as a result of the recent reopening at the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport which he said is a learning curve.

He also reminded persons that the borders of the British Virgin Islands are still open to welcome residents and visitors, but it will only be through the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport at this time.

The Premier concluded by saying, “The world is experiencing spikes and we must ensure that we do all we can and exhaust all efforts to keep everyone safe including persons living here and persons visiting.”

The last-minute deferral of the reopening of the territory’s seaports to January 2021 came as no surprise to Opposition Leader Marlon Penn who said he believes the timing of the announcement will reflect poorly on the BVI as a destination and as a brand.

Penn made the comment while speaking to BVI News on Wednesday as he first acknowledged what he described as the ‘good work by the government and hard-working public servants’ to get the territory to this point.

However, he said the many discrepancies shown by the government through their decision-making is a clear indicator they have not gotten things right in many respects.

 “It signals that we are not prepared and this damages our global image, which has taken a hit lately with many negative and damaging stories in the regional and international press and we must get our act together and improve our image,” Penn stated.

“It also provides further financial strain on already cash-strapped businesses (charter companies, ferry operators, etcetera) as well as travelers who prepared for the December 8 opening to learn less than 12 hours before that plans have changed at the last minute,” he added.