Boaters hit by inter-isle quarantine restrictions


Tribune Business Reporter

Bahamian marinas yesterday voiced fears it may be “too late” to prevent visiting boaters bypassing this nation in favour of the southern Caribbean due to the latest COVID-19 lockdown.

Peter Maury, the Association Of Bahamas Marinas’ (ABM) president, told Tribune Business that quarantine-related restrictions on inter-island travel would make it difficult for boat and yacht passengers to visit multiple inhabited islands as they would have to spend 14 days in isolation every time.

While there were no restrictions facing those anchoring at sea, or visiting uninhabited islands, Mr Maury said the reimposed measures designed to protect lives and limit COVID-19’s spread would inevitably act as a deterrent visitor numbers.

“It’s very slow,” the ABM president said of current business volumes. “Some people have elected to come in and spend time on a yacht and go to the Out Islands, but just because of the limitations it’s been very difficult to be quite honest. It’s not at the level we had hoped, but it is better than nothing.”

While the government is currently prioritising the COVID-19 health fall-out, Mr Maury warned that any lifting of current restrictions “may be too late by then as the yachts may move on to other Caribbean islands, but who knows?

“The government is making the calls. They are clearing the boats into the country. They are allowing them to go where they want, and if they don’t want them to do business here then they can limit them and tell them where to go,” he added.

“I can tell you one thing: The boats that are here that are being chartered have been given permission to move in country from the competent authority. They are not going into inhabited communities or anything else. Many of them are anchoring out and getting their provisions delivered, and getting fuel at the dock and leaving. So there is not much else they can do.

“Fortunately the weather is good. You can sit out on your yacht and anchor away from everybody and go swimming, which is what a lot of them want. Obviously they want to see more of The Bahamas but at this point they can’t.”

Mr Maury also said yacht crews and passengers have to quarantine for 14 days on board every time they go to a different inhabited Bahamian island. This means that if a boater stays docked in Nassau for a fortnight, and then decides to go to Cat Island, they have to quarantine again for 14 days on board their vessel once they reach the latter destination.

“If they came into Nassau today and went to anchor off of Exuma, they can’t go onshore for 14 days,” he added. “They can stay on the boat and go swimming, but they can’t go onshore. At the marina, the government has accepted they can go and pick up groceries and stuff, but they can’t go onshore and go to the grocery store. That has to be delivered to them.

“It is the same for us as it is for them. Even if you have been in Nassau for three months you can’t just go and jump on a boat and go to Cat Island and go walking around Arthur’s Town. I understand exactly what he’s [the prime minister] doing. If you want to go to the beach on an uninhabited island then fine, but don’t go ashore. He is saying the same thing to us.”

Mr Maury said only big mega-yachts have the “advantage” of being able to work within these limitations. He expressed hope that the government will revert back to the measures in place over the six-week period between June 15 and end-July, which followed the country’s re-opening to tourism and occurred prior to the latest lockdown.