In a move certain to generate controversy, the government of the Bahamas has raised the entry fee for vessels over 35 feet LOA to $400, according to the Abaconian newspaper. The increase was effective today.
The Abaconian announced the increase on its Facebook page, after receiving a notice from the Marina Operators of the Bahamas, which worried that some visiting by boat might be surprised by the fee increase. The timing of the increase is interesting in that swarms of U.S. vessels cross to the Bahamas over the July Fourth weekend.
Besides the fee increase the footage limits were also changed. For example, before the fee was $400 for boats greater than 35 feet, the fee was $300 but for boats greater than 30 feet. The Bahamas also changed the fee structure for smaller vessels. Before owners of vessels 30 feet or less paid $150. Now owners of for vessels of 35 feet or less pay $250.
All fees are for three passengers, $20 extra must be paid for any passenger over six years of age.
According to the cruisers website Noonsite, The cruising permit is valid for 12 months. The current fees now permit multiple entries during any 90-day period, which means that a vessel may leave the Bahamas and re-enter as many times as they like within the first 90 days of a cruising permit's validity, without payment of any additional fee. It also includes a fishing permit for the period.
The last time the Bahamas announced a restructuring of its fee system and included hefty increases, it set off a wave of protests on various cruising forums.
Cruiser Diane Neuhoff’s response on the Abaconian Facebook page is typical of that reaction.
“The fees in the Bahamas are the most expensive in the entire Carib. We've been traveling down to Grenada and back to the states for six years,” she says. “Actually of all the islands we've travelled the Bahamas paperwork are the most difficult and unruly of any island. There are many beautiful islands where the government and locals love to have cruisers and mostly where the weather is nicer during the season.
“Most cruisers use the Bahamas as a stepping-stone, traveling home and spent a week or two moving north to the states. This new increase means spending $200 a week to anchor during our trip home. Just for the record I would guess we spent close to $3,000 at marinas and food working our way up the Bahama chain during the two-week trip.”
Others have noted in the past, when the $300 fee was set, that for boats spending three or four months in the island nation, the price of admission is not so bad.