A bizarre new policy has been introduced by the St Maarten Government Ministry to restrict movements of crewmembers who intend to transfer via SXM for the purpose of connecting to a plane, boat, yacht or cruise ship. Visa restricted crewmembers shall only be permitted an initial stay of 30days and up to a maximum of 90days per annum.
The new policy was introduced on the 25th February which could not be a worse time, during the St Maarten Heineken Regatta, and was without any consultation with the industry to understand the immediate ramifications if their decisions.
Member of Parliament (MP) Theo Heyliger spoke out against the policy stating the new policy was an indication that the Government lacks intrinsic knowledge about the tourism industry and how fragile St. Maarten’s position is.
“It appears as though no one looked at the efforts and investments made to develop the country’s home-porting sector. The Harbour [Port of St. Maarten – Ed.]is an essential part of our economy, an economy already hurting from the tremendous loss of cruise ships and decline in tourism in general in the past years,” Heyliger said.
The policy put into effect by the Ministry of Justice via the Police Force affects visa-restricted crewmembers who intend to transfer (same day) via St. Maarten for the purpose of making a connection via plane or boat, to overnight here to make a connection (transfer) via plane or boat (maximum 48 hours) or those seeking to remain (manifested) on a vessel in port for a period longer than 48 hours and do not possess a Dutch Caribbean visa (DCV).
The maximum of 90 days stay period directly effects superyacht crew working on Yachts that typically ‘homeport’ in the region for periods of three to six months.
The policy could result in superyachts departing the popular island for alternative solutions where the Visa process and access is more welcoming
This rule means that crewmembers who exhaust their 90 days will have to wait a full year before returning to St. Maarten which shall effect their ability to return for the commencement of the season in the following year or on different yachts with alternative schedules.
Justice Minister Rafael Boasman responded to the industry outcry by stating that the policy is is not new, rather it reflects the enforcement of existing policies in a clear fashion. He went onto explain that a review shall be carried out during the low season as many areas are causing concern and confusion.
For further information regarding the ‘temporary policy’ follow the below links for the source of the story.
Daily Herald: New immigration rules deal possible deathblow to yachting, homeporting 28th February 2017
Daily Herald: SMMTA sees new immigration rules having ‘potentially severe effect’ 1st March 2017
Daily Herald: Boasman: just putting immigration policy on paper 2nd March 2017
SXM Police News: Immigration Customs