St. Vincent and the Grenadines closed at 7 p.m. Friday, until further notice, its ports of entry in Union Island, Canouan, and Bequia.
Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Ralph Gonsalves, acting under the authority of the Cabinet, ordered that all yachts and other vessels entering the country’s territorial waters clear at one of three ports on St. Vincent Island.
A press release from the Office of the Prime Minister Friday night said that the decision was taken after four incidents on Friday, including “aggressive conduct towards the State authorities” by the captain and crew of a US-registered vessel.
The statement said that the decision was taken to focus the state’s resources “on better border security” and was prompted by four immediate incidents on Friday.
The first incident, the statement said, was the illegal entry into Cumberland, a port on the west coast of St. Vincent, by a yacht, the captain of which was advised by the Coast Guard to leave immediately.
The second was “aggressive conduct towards the state authorities by the captain and crew of an American-registered vessel which failed to clear Customs and Immigration in a timely manner.
“This vessel was eventually escorted south of the waters of St. Vincent and the Grenadines by the Coast Guard Service of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” the statement said.
The third and fourth incidents, the release said, was the refusal by the crew and passengers on two vessels berthed in Bequia (one a US-flagged vessel; the other, Canadian-flagged) to be quarantined consequent upon their interaction with Customs, Immigration, port security and health authorities.
“They were thus denied entry. The vessels were then escorted by the Coast Guard Service out of the waters of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
The statement said that as a consequence of the closure of these three ports of entry, following upon an earlier closure of the Chateaubelair port of entry, all yachts are required to enter at one of three ports on St. Vincent, namely Kingstown, Blue Lagoon, and Wallilabou.
“The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines urges all owners, operators, crew, and passengers of yachts to cooperate with the State authorities. If there is any attempt to circumvent the integrity and laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, especially at the time of Covid-19, the government will take further action promptly,” the statement said.
It continued: “The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is determined to protect the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in every material particular. The government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines expect reasonableness and cooperation from those engaged in yachting; if they do not, the government will respond appropriately and firmly.”