BVIPA – Rejuvenating the British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands Ports Authority manages all the ports across the islands and is currently refurbishing all of their facilities ready for a new decade.

The BVIPA was established in 1990, established as the British Virgin Islands Port Authority as a separate entity owned by the government for the British Virgin Islands. This new Authority would replace its predecessor, the Ports and Marine Services Department of the Government, bringing a new approach to the management of the gateways to and between the British Virgin Islands.

“We began operations in January 1991,” says Oleanvine Maynard, Deputy Managing Director of the Port Authority. “This year we celebrate our 30th anniversary and unveil some new and exciting projects. We’ve come a long way since the days of the Ports and Marine Services Department. We manage 7 ports, including cargo, ferry and cruise facilities. We manage all the official ports in the British Virgin Islands.”

Of course, lots of countries have port authorities, but typically those authorities are responsible for a single landmass. The British Virgin Islands Port Authority is responsible for managing not only the gateways in and out of the Islands but between them as well.

“It can be very demanding, but management is the key aspect of that,” Maynard says. “We have persons managing the outer ports while we administrate from the main islands of Tortola and supervise. But we all work under the same management structure.”

A Time of Restoration

At the moment the management structure is dedicated towards one huge project, the restoration of all of the British Virgin Islands’ ports.

“At present, we have ports on six islands, including the main facilities on Tortola,” says Dean Fahie, Operations Director for the Port Authority. “In revitalising and restructuring our port services and processes, the main cargo port at Port Purcell will undergo an expansion to accommodate containerised cargo, more vessels and larger cargo ships. Stevedoring is another service we plan on implementing based on our investment in new equipment.”

The restoration project also includes the provision of support in 2021 with exciting new development channels for Port Purcell.

“We’re utilising the space with a given focus on safety and better service. This is done in such a way that we no longer need an end-to-end dock to receive the cargo in addition to holding more containers for the redevelopment,” Fahie says. “For Road Town Ferry Jetty, we have a rehabilitation plan which will allow for easier boarding of passengers and provide additional physical support of vessels by widening the structure. Special plans involve a focus on aesthetics and the boardwalk.”

The Port Authority is planning a full rebuild of the western end of the main island of Tortola. This facility was significantly damaged from the 2017 hurricanes and funding has been secured through the development bank and the development agency.

“There’s been a big expression of interest, with 18 firms having expressed interest in the project,” Fahie points out.

Supporting the Islands

Buildings are only part of the BVIPA’s operations however, they are nothing without the Port Authority’s people.

“We support the community through the creation of jobs, using local contractors and suppliers to provide better passenger movement experiences helping local clients while also enhancing the visitor experience,” Maynard says. “Our ports are the point of entry for the British Virgin Islands, our first business impression to the territory, so we’re providing a good tourism offering. Expansion of the ports areas with facilitation and distribution for clients and shippers is vital for the overall wellbeing of the islands.”

The restoration project has also involved introducing new technologies and systems, which have become particularly useful in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are putting in place programmes to allow work to be done from home. We implemented a system of local bulletins, a berthing request system and a dockage that can be used remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Fahie says. “We are using the BVI NOW app which was developed in the Territory and is free to download on Apple and Google store. This technology allows businesses including the BVI Ports to deliver real-time messages to guests and clients and is packed with local tips and information. We are also supporting our staff who’s job function can allow them to work remotely.”

Like everyone, BVIPA has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the authority controlling a travel gateway, their work was essential.

“We have needed to remain open during COVID, to allow essential supplies, to let resources come into the territory. Also, our staff were very essential in terms of ensuring the supply chain continues,” Fahie says. “This is all while following due guidance from the WHO. We are complying with all available guidance. We created a Port Pandemic plan with the support of our local health agency and our stakeholders.  Around our Port facilities you will find handwashing and hand sanitizing stations, Covid-19 signage and the implementation of  other safety measures to help us protect our ports of entry and by extension our community.”

Indeed, between the restoration project and the COVID-19 pandemic, the essential role BVIPA plays both for the Virgin Islands and region has never been clearer.

“We launched a new campaign call ‘The BVI Ports Keeps the BVI Moving” says Maynard to help the community understand the important role that our Port plays in keeping the supply chain moving. “We’re restructuring the port to make sure all projects and plans are being realised, setting it to achieve our new goals. We’ve refocused our marketing efforts and recently launched a new brand identity. Communication with our stakeholders is paramount in this Covid-19 era and as such we’ve enhanced our social media presence and will soon launch a refreshed and easy to navigate website. We’re launching a new logo for the BVIPA port authority and by our 30th anniversary we’ll be launching all of this with our new designs.”

“There are a number of activities planned for the future. We are moving from strong to stronger, even through pandemics and crises,” Fahie says. “We are looking at development opportunities for our staff as we pivot our business during this Covid era. One of the biggest projects is the office established in Miami, which allows for greater communication opportunities with our clients that are abroad.”

“There’s a lot of exciting things on the horizon for the authority,” Maynard agrees. “COVID-19 was obviously disruptive but we won’t let that deter us. We will not forget it’s our employees who are very important in this process of moving forward.”

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