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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.”

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

1 Comment

  1. afterwhilecrocodile
    July 7, 2018 at 12:39 AM — Reply

    It’s embarrassing and way too dangerous that the VIPA is mismanaged so badly.
    A fifth grader can do a much better job than the current boss

    A tourist planning a trip to the USVI by plane can always change their mind about coming there.

    The USVI is definitely a no go under these circumstances.

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