But, a year on from the major destruction to lives and property on our islands, we have rebuilt our shoreline stronger than before.
In fact, just two months after the hurricanes, our charter yacht sector returned to operation and the first cruise ship calls followed by the end of 2017. We’ve now made excellent progress in re-instating the BVI as one of the world’s leading sailing destinations and some of the world’s most beautiful and largest mega-yachts are back, enjoying our incredible shoreline.
And it certainly pays to come by sea. On average, those who visit the jurisdiction on charter boats stay for almost double the time as compared to those who stay in land-based accommodation.
Tourists aside, the commercial contribution of businessmen and women arriving by sea is considerable. The BVI is more than a holiday destination – it is home to part of a group structure of over 140 major businesses listed on the New York, London or Hong Kong stock exchanges. Companies that facilitate cross-border trade and investment such as financial, legal and accounting firms have long benefitted from the BVI’s structure with investment in its shipping industry helping to make it even more accessible.
But our business district has also had much to do this last year to rebuild stronger. Our financial services sector – which represents over 60% of government revenues – could have also been crippled by the category five hurricane. Thankfully, we were able to keep our financial sector open for business amidst the clean-up. In fact, in Q1 of 2018, there was nearly a 15% (9,798 vs 8,538) increase in the number of new incorporations on-island when compared to figures in Q4 2017.
We know that many business people come and stay and do business via yacht. And why wouldn’t they – can you imagine a better way to come to a meeting than via a crystal clear azure-blue sea?
Anyone with a company based in the BVI can moor their yacht with us, a stable jurisdiction. Under the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry (VISR), yacht owners receive a simple and secure registration process, which facilitates new registrations, the transfer of ownership, the granting and release of internationally-recognised ship mortgages and other corporate services. From the BVI, a ship can be granted nationality, allowing it to sail in international waters once its owner has finished his or her on-island business.
So a stronger shipping sector and a stronger business district have seen sails of all colours return to our ports. Today, over 4,000 internationally-owned vessels are registered by VISR under the BVI Merchant Shipping Act 2001. This continues to rise as Category 1 Red Ensign status classifies the BVI as one of 10 centres worldwide where mega-yachts and superyachts of all sizes can be registered.
There are many more benefits yacht owners can enjoy when registering in the Territory. Ships flying the BVI flag are entitled to British Consular support, Royal Navy protection and access to the resources of the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
Since it obtained its licence to cater for superyachts in 2006, the BVI has built a strong reputation as a trusted pair of hands when it comes to safety at sea, allowing people to get on with their commitments, work or pleasure, without worrying about their vessel.
Accommodating yachts perfectly complements BVI’s financial and professional services. The islands mediate over US$1.5 trillion of investment globally, and its reputable international business and finance centre supports infrastructure that allows high net worth individuals to be a part of its economy.
As we take our financial services industry from strength to strength, the BVI’s yacht sector will continue to grow and remain a key facilitator of both tourism and trade within the Territory.