St. John Tradewinds News

St. Johnians Ready To Boycott Paying VIPA Fee for Barge Transit Home

At least one St. Johnian has already taken matters into his own hands, refusing to pay the V.I. Port Authority fee on vehicles being transported between St. Thomas and St. John.

If an island meeting Thursday, May 11, was any indication, a majority of St. Johnians are prepared to conduct a mass boycott of the V.I. Port Authority fee collection at the Red Hook marine terminal.

A suggestion of organized and orchestrated, island-style civil disobedience — with stirring references to lunch counters sit-ins and civil rights history — quickly became the focus of the meeting called to discuss recent increases in barge and ferry fees.

Protest Planning Started
At one point, the almost 50 residents in attendance were ready to launch a protest.

Those calling for a protest agreed to wait to see if there would be immediate legislative action to have VIPA rescind the fees and conduct a formal public hearing on St. John about fees.

“I’ve never been somewhere where you have to pay to go home,” St. John businessman Randolph “Pimpy” Thomas said. Perennial political candidate Harry Daniel, recycled a campaign slogan to fit the suggested boycott — “together we can” — and called for immediate action.

“This needs to be done ASAP,” Daniels said. A chorus of audience members urged action.

Some residents have already launched their individual protests.

Individual Protest
When St. Johnian Douglas Matthias drove onto the barge in Red Hook a Port Authority security person followed to collect his fee, he told the audience.

“I said ‘Look, I’m not paying $3 to get back home,’” said Matthias.

Matthias said he did not pay and was allowed to continue on his way.

Some residents urged continued pressure on Government House to address the issue.

“We need to contact the governor,” said St. Johnian Leona Smith.

“I think at times people have to speak up for themselves,” said Anecia Lettsome Sewer of Love City Car Ferries Inc. in support of a boycott.

“There’s nothing like immediate action,” said Barshinger.

If the Port Authority ordered a barge operator not to transport a vehicle which had not paid the fee would the barge company have to comply, Boyson Inc.’s Cheryl Boynes-Jackson was asked after the meeting.

“Of course,” she answered.