Editor Senator Wesselhoft:
Regarding your recent letter titled “PSC should Halt Imposition of 50 Cent Increase” it is important for us to clarify the role that the Public Services Commission plays in regards to regulating the ferry companies.
The PSC, in accordance with Title 30 of the V.I. Code, is required to regulate all public utilities. The Code provides regulations of the following types of utilities: lighterage and cargo handling; dockage, wharfage or related cargo services; telephone service; water supply services, except retail deliveries; electric power service; passenger services by motor buses or trucks; and public marine passenger transportation services operating under government grant of exclusive franchise.
Nowhere in this litany of expressly provided for utilities does the Code empower the PSC with the ability to regulate the ports or terminals.
To the contrary, a brief review of the Code indicates that as Title 29, section 543 states, “the purpose of the authority shall be to establish, acquire, construct, develop and improve, own, operate and manage any and all air and marine terminals; to control the harbors of the USVI…”
The ability to control Red Hook as a Virgin Islands terminal lies squarely within the confines and jurisdiction of the Port Authority by law. There is no legal way that the PSC can act in circumvention of the statute’s express terms and insist that the Port Authority not implement its turnstiles.
The PSC agrees with the senator that the turnstiles are unfair, and a burden to the patrons of St. Thomas and St. John who utilize the Port Authority’s facilities. As chair of the PSC, I have consistently objected to its implementation, both publicly and to the board and representatives of the Port Authority itself.
The PSC is acutely aware of the problems plaguing the ferry companies and is leading the way in making the use of this public form of transportation more comfortable, reasonable in cost and safety for the people of the Virgin Islands.
We will continue to initiate and work with all governmental agencies involved with the safe transportation of Virgin Islands residents to promote the ideals of inter-island travel.
We welcome and look forward to working with you on these issues. We also repeat our encouragement to the Port Authority to reconsider implementing this charge. Should you have any further questions do not hesitate to contact our office at 776-1291.
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