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Fijian Government Reveals Motives Behind Crackdown on Yachts

By doina — last modified Jan 24, 2008 03:47 PM

Published: 2008-01-24 15:47:13
Topics: Cruising Information
Countries: Fiji

A government statement this week revealed the thinking behind the Fijian government’s recent announcement that cruising yachts would be restricted to a 3 month visit extendable up to a maximum of 6 months (halving the previous permissable stay).

Interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry said that the policy change was forced on them by “systematic abuse” of regulations by people on yachts, alleging that they have been suspected of a range of crimes from drug smuggling and prostitution to involvement in contraband of endangered species of flora and fauna.

Reaction from those whose livelihoods depend on the custom of cruising yachts has been a mixture of disbelief and anger. Only last year the Fiji Visitors Bureau stated in its tourism master plan that catering for the yachting industry and developing local yachting tourism held “great potential”. All this seems in jeopardy now as marinas have been laying off staff and putting development projects on hold as yachts cut short their stays or don’t bother to come at all.

According to Mr Chaudhry Fiji was losing “millions of dollars” in duty from people who were abusing the system for their own interests, stating: "A total of six months in the country is more than sufficient... People come and park their yachts here for months at a time, they do business in Fiji, own residences and use Fiji as a duty-free base to fly out and do business elsewhere."

At present there seems little likelihood that the government will change its mind and it remains to be seen whether yachts will still continue to stop in Fiji or avoid the country altogether. Certainly Fiji will hold little attraction now as a destination for completing lengthy repair work while its growing reputation as a safe base during the cyclone season seems in tatters.