Senator at Large Craig Barshinger was carried off the Carib Cay ferry by two V.I. Police Department officers Friday morning, September 30, after a disagreement with a ferry company employee and the captain of the vessel over a $2 baggage fee for his suit bag.
Barshinger told St. John Tradewinds he resisted disembarking after paying the fee because he needed to get to St. Thomas for a legislative session to approve a new health insurance plan for government employees.
“My primary goal was to get to town,” Barshinger said.
“The ridiculous part is that once I gave him (the captain) the money, I told him I would be filing a formal complaint with the PSC (Public Services Commission and he said ‘Get off my boat,’” Barshinger said. “I had already paid it and he told me to get off.”
The ferry companies, two of which share a franchise to operate between St. John and St. Thomas, are regulated by the PSC and allowed to charge a $2 fee for any bag ferry workers must stow, but Barshinger insisted the fee should not not apply to his carry-on garment bag.
Both Barshinger and ferry employees called police and the two responding officers carried him off the ferry by his arms, he said.
The senator was not arrested.
“What the police did is in contravention with Title 2 of the V.I. Code which says ‘Legislators cannot be arrested or detained while on their way to and from a legislative session’,” Barshinger explained.
Barshinger said he allowed himself to be removed from the Transportation Services of St. John ferry only because the captain of a Varlack Ventures ferry heading to St. Thomas for a U.S. coast Guard inspection offered him a ride.
“I am going to file a formal complaint with the PSC,” the Senator at Large said. “My goal is that the PSC will take charge of this situation.”
“The baggage situation is very capricious,” Barshinger continued. “They do whatever they want.”
A Transportation Services executive “returned my call and expressed concern,” Barshinger said. “He said this is not the standard procedure.”
The senator said he did not get his $2 baggage fee back.
“When I returned (to St. John) Saturday afternoon, on the Carib Cay, I was on the exact same boat with the exact same suit bag,” Barshinger said Sunday, October 1. “I wasn’t charged for the bag.”
The incumbent first term senator did not see the incident as having a negative impact on his campaign for re-election.
“I don’t see it as being a significant impact,” said Barshinger, who said the ferry company employee who demanded the baggage fee may have had political motivations. “I think this is perceived as simple harassment.”