By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Port Department is seeking to outsource foreign yacht fee collections, telling Tribune Business yesterday that just 15-20 per cent of due revenue is currently being obtained.
Captain Cyril Roker, its controller, said that in the past five months the Department had “redoubled” efforts to collect on outstanding revenue, with the 4 per cent foreign-flagged yacht charter fee one area it is targeting.
“We still have a long way to go with foreign charters,” he said. “We are in talks with a Bahamian company to outsource the collection of the yacht charter fees.”
Captain Roker added that most charters are done through brokers, and said: “Despite our efforts in enforcing the collection of that revenue, we believe that we are only getting about 15-20 per cent. I would estimate that 90 per cent of the foreign yachts that come into our waters are chartered.”
He said the Department was also looking to reduce theft of the Bahamas’ marine resources. “There is a lot of pilferage going on,” Captain Roker said. People are coming into our waters and leaving with coolers filled with fish fillet.
“Some people come here and believe that a cruising permit gives them carte blanche to do whatever they want.” He added that liaising with other ministries and agencies, such as the Customs Department, in a “united front” could improve revenue collection and enforcement measures.
Captain Roker said the Department had enjoyed success in its efforts to crackdown down on fees owed by private/residential dock owners in New Providence’s gated communities, and was now looking to initiate something similar in the Exumas.
Revealing that the Port Department is aiming to set up offices in Exuma and other major Family Islands, he said: “It’s a very exhaustive exercise but we are doing as much as we can. We are setting up an office in Exuma to be able to support the growth in the Exumas.
“Exuma has become a very popular destination for boaters to the Bahamas. We have already been there to do an assessment. There are a number of private islands which have docks and we have reached out to them.”
While unable to place a figure on the amount of revenue collected thus far from the crackdown, Captain Roker said it was “substantial”. “The revenue is substantial. For the most part everyone is coming on board. There may be one or two instances where there may have to be legal action, but for the most part that is going well,” he added.