By Dorie Cox
Seven officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) said they follow current rules and laws, but continue to work with captains of large yachts to solve some of yachting’s unique scenarios.
About 70 captains and industry business people attended the government speaker panel and lunch Saturday on the third floor of M/V Grand Floridian, near the center of the 59th Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. The Marine Industries Association of South Florida (MIASF) has organized the event for the past four shows.
The floor was quickly opened to questions from several veteran captains and yacht managers. The first question was in reference to cruising permits. A captain with a boat that was seen on the internet as available for charter in the Bahamas had trouble getting a cruising permit recently.
At the same event last year, CBP officers said they often used the internet to determine which yachts charter and therefore are not eligible for a cruising permit. But not so today, said Paul Shoupe, chief of seaport Port Everglades Fort Lauderdale with CBP.
“I understand every boat is on some website and will be somewhere online,” Shoupe said. “We understand that and will be looking at a case-by-case basis.”
He said the department better understands the yacht industry and there are only a few circumstances where CBP would deny a cruising permit.
“We are taking a closer look and working with the industry,” Shoupe said. “If you are one of those exceptions, we will try to work with you.”
In an effort to continue to clarify captains’ concerns, MIASF holds quarterly meetings with government officials. Watch Commander Jody Godmere with CBP Fort Lauderdale said he would plan to attend meetings in the future and keep communication open with his department and captains.
“It is best to be upfront and we will find ways to work around issues,” he said.
One captain had trouble using CBP’s ROAM (Reporting Offsite Arrival – Mobile) app. The yacht was not approved because of the size of the crew, over 30 members, and he asked officers if there is a maximum number allowed for the online vessel entry report.
“They are expanding and improving the app,” said John P. Rico, assistant port director, CBP Miami Seaport Passenger Operations. “That may be a glitch we can work with. There are more modifications coming.” Overall, he said the free mobile application for pleasure boaters to report their U.S. entry to CBP is working well, and the department expects the app will make the process easier as inputting biometrics improve.
Another captain who works in yacht management came armed with several questions. In reference to filling out forms to enter the United States, he said questions about money are often a challenge for yachts to answer. CBP requires passengers declare cash of $10,000 or more. The captain asked who is responsible for the cash on hand of the yacht owner, guests and crew.
“Am I obligated to ask the owner about his personal safe, or the crew about how much money they have? How do we answer that best? It’s not my money, as the captain,” he said.
Each person is required to declare their own cash, said Nissim Moya, supervisory CBP officer.
The captain continued with another question about a crew member who seemed to be granted the incorrect number of days to stay in the United States on a recent entry.
Sounds like the officer may have done that in error, said Godmere.
“If it is an administrative error, we will be understanding,” he said.
Such records for the I-94 of a foreign visitor’s entry and departure are available online, said Patience Cohn, industry liaison with MIASF. She suggested that anyone can check his or her status online by searching I-94 on the internet.
I-94 forms have been online for the past several years, but one captain said he had paper versions.
“If you have paper, you do have to mail it back,” said Shoupe. “Or turn it back in to the port where you entered.”
Shoupe added he had not seen paper versions in the past year.
“If someone is not issued a paper version of an I-94, then it is electronic and you don’t have to mail back,” he said.
A final question came from a yacht manager in reference to U.S. taxes.
“We have foreign nationals getting money in the U.S. and not paying taxes,” he said. “What is the correlation with the IRS and your departments?
“There is no sharing of records or information,” said Shoupe. “And we do not expect it in the near future.”
Dorie Cox is editor of Triton Today. Comment: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, visit U.S. Customs and Border Protection at www.cbp.gov and U.S. Coast Guard at www.uscg.mil.