Changes to boating, yachting outlined amid COVID-19

The boating and yachting component of tourism, which will be part of the June 15 phased reopening of the tourism sector, will implement significant changes to procedures in order to keep that sector safe amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In order to incentivize boaters’ return to The Bahamas, the Association of Bahamas Marinas (ABM) has suggested to the government a short holiday on cruising permit fees.

The comprehensive strategy for reopening the country’s marina and boating sector is published in the Tourism Readiness and Recovery Committee’s plan, which was revealed Tuesday during a press conference held by the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation. It calls for a number of new restrictions that will be implemented to keep visitors and locals safe from COVID-19 transmission.

The ABM stated it has already received “deep interest and reassurance from the boating community, expressing its readiness to resume activities upon the relaxation of COVID-19-related restrictions”.

That community, which comes largely from Florida, will meet and place new rules on docking, refueling, ordering food and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).

The plan requires that masks and gloves be worn by crew and guests when off the vessel; that boats remain 50 feet apart; it prohibits tying boats together (rafting); requires fuel attendants to wear masks, gloves, hats and glasses and prohibits them from boarding a vessel to fuel it; requires vessels to give marinas 48 hours notice of their arrival; and requires boaters to complete the Maritime Declaration of Health, a document containing data related to the state of health on board a ship during passage and on arrival at port; among other changes.

The plan also governs boaters’ actions at beaches, requiring them not to beach their vessels; not to tie their vessels together; and for kayakers, small boats and canoes to remain 50 feet apart. It also calls for jet ski rentals to include one rider only.

According to the plan, charter vessels are allowed no more than four guests per vessel.

“Drift fishing vessels shall provide for social distancing, which shall include delineating safe social distancing positions, including, but not limited to, tape or markings for patrons on seats, vessel railings and the deck,” the plan states.

“All persons fishing shall have his/her own fishing poles and tackle. Equipment rental is prohibited.”

The working environment will change for marina staff as well, as the plan calls for all personnel to don face masks and change them twice per day; observe a regular hand washing regimen; remain six feet apart from each other and guests; and to “isolate anyone who is coughing or sneezing until appropriate tests can be performed”. Marinas are required by the plan to increase cleaning and sanitization.

The ABM stated it will begin a sweeping marketing campaign along its “large network of Bahamas-friendly marinas in South Florida, yacht owners, boaters, charter management companies, yacht brokers and boating and yachting magazines to announce the reopening of our country to boating traffic”.

“The ABM is capable of reaching the majority of boaters interested in traveling to The Bahamas and will work in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism to get the word out and to promote boating arrivals,” the plan states.

“As part of its public relations and marketing strategy, the ABM will rely heavily on social media and magazine editorials, through which media we are effectively able to reach the targeted consumer.”

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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