SENATOR FORDE: Who Will Answer For Black Flag Incident and $1.4M Fine at VIPA?
CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Senator Jean Forde, a member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Justice and Public Safety, expressed grave concerns early Monday morning, regarding “the current lack of safety and security at Port Authority facilities throughout the Virgin Islands.”
“Most recently, two significant incidents highlighted the alarming lack of security at our local ports of entry,” Forde said. “First, and most importantly, last week the Federal Aviation Administration proposed a $1.4 million civil penalty against VIPA for reported safety violations at the airport both on St. Thomas and St. Croix. According to the FAA, VIPA has been accused of not properly training personnel to secure both facilities, to conduct required daily inspections, or to conduct Airport Rescue and Firefighting operations. Furthermore, VIPA has not submitted required reports to the FAA, including Airport Certification Manuals, airport emergency plans, and training records for operations supervisors.”
The two-term Democrat said: “these inspections by the FAA took place in January and February, but just last weekend we had a severe breach of security as a lone man removed 11 flags at the Cyril E. King Airport memorial and replaced them with black flags. How did security not notice this happening? Are daily inspections being carried out in accordance with FAA regulations? Is VIPA properly staffed and capable of carrying out its necessary duties? The Virgin Islands is entirely dependent on its ports for everything we use for economic activity and daily survival: tourism, supplies, food, etc. Securing these trade channels is paramount to our survival and cannot be taken lightly.”
Forde says he will be speaking with Senator Bryan Smith, Chair of the Committee on Homeland Security, about bringing the Virgin Islands Port Authority before the Senate for a hearing on its capacity and ability to safeguard the territory ‘s ports.
“This is a matter that is simply too important to not require our close and immediate attention,” he said. “The safety and economic lifeblood of our territory is at stake.”