New Mooring Fees,
Anchoring Restrictions in Bonaire
Apress release based on the official transcript of Bonaire's Island Council Minutes, translated by Bonaire's waterfront weekly Port Call News, reveals that the Council recently unanimously approved daily fees of NAf10 (US$5.65) and NAf15 (US$8.47) for yachts using the moorings in the bay of Kralendijk. [The higher daily fee will be for yachts larger than 18 meters (60 feet).] Island residents will be charged an annual fee of NAf500 (US$282) per meter-square block for private moorings. All fees will be effective November 1, 1999.
The Council's decision will bring to an end the free mooring policy that began over 4 years ago. That policy attracted hundreds of additional yachts to visit Bonaire each year.
Government figures list an expected annual income from mooring fees ranging from NAf36,500 (US$20,622) at 25 percent occupancy to NAf146,000 (US$82,490) at 100 percent occupancy. There are often well over 100 yachts in this popular harbor. Currently Bonaire hotel guests are charged NAf10 (US$5.65) per person per day, for room tax. Yacht visitors have thus far been charged nothing, and yachts pay no other fees to use Bonaire waters.
Also under the new ruling, anchoring is to be permitted only between Karel's Beach Bar and the northern town pier, with the permission of the Harbormaster. (Port Call editor George De Salvo notes that the requirement to obtain verbal permission from the Harbourmaster "is not a new rule, but one that has been ignored by most arriving yachts.") In the interests of protecting the coral from anchor damage, anchoring has long been restricted to the area in front of the town of Kralendijk. That Marine Ordinance had to be amended to legalize the further restriction of the anchoring area to about a tenth of its former size.
The collection of fees and maintenance of the moorings will be done by the Harbour Village Marina under contract to the Bonaire Marine Park. According to a spokesman for STINAPA, the Island Land and Marine Park Authority, the fees will be split, with 75 percent going to the Marine Park and 25 percent to Harbour Village. The Marine Park will patrol and police the mooring area.
Harbour Village Marina personnel will be replacing the ground tackle on the moorings after the Bonaire International Regatta in October. The marina will also assume responsibility for providing additional services to the moored boats.
Supporters of the fees argue that the measure will bring needed revenue to the Bonaire Marine Park, which will further enhance the preservation of the underwater environment. They also argue that visiting yachts should share the tax burden carried by island residents and tourists who use facilities on land. Most yachtsmen interviewed by Port Call News did not object to paying a "reasonable" mooring fee.
Critics of the measure say that the imposition of fees will kill the popularity of Bonaire as a prime haven for yachts cruising in the Southern Caribbean. They say the economic benefits of having a large number of yacht tourists far outweigh any revenues that will be realized from the fees. While the Marine Park will benefit from the fees, the local businessman will suffer, they say. They believe the fee is too high for yachts spending an extended time, such as the hurricane season, in Bonaire and who heavily support the local businessmen with their purchases.
Some yachtsmen interviewed by Port Call News said they would relocate to Curaçao where no fees are imposed. Others say it's worth US$5.65 for a secure mooring and worry-free night's sleep.
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