Thursday, March 20, 2014

Department of Homeland Security

Previously, I wrote a posting describing the check in checkout procedures for the different island nations in the Caribbean (see archived posting, “Your Papers, Please’ dated July 9, 2012).  In that article I noted that US cruisers have little to complain about when one considers the onerous procedures for non-US citizens in US waters.  Even if you are a US citizen, there are plenty of hoops to jump through.

Your first stop is the web page to apply for a decal with the Decal and Transponder Online Procurement System (DTOPS).  It will cost you $23 per year plus shipping if you need it FedEx’ed to your location.  

Motivator now has a current decal in place, but not before arriving Puerto de Rey Marina where we were having our mail forwarded to.  For our check in in USVI and Culebra all I had was the number.  I am not sure about the relevance of a physical decal as I have not had an official look at it in the last four years.

Your next stop is the Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS) or Local Boater Option (LBO) as it was previously referred to.  Note that I highlighted that the program was in flux in 2010 – 2011 as we were entering the cruising lifestyle.

Interview Appointment

After completing a lengthy application, you are then required to make an interview appointment at a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) station.  Don’t forget, like I did, to make an appointment for your spouse or she will be turned away.  The interview consists of showing your passport and driver’s license and explaining how at the time we had Washington, DC licenses and a Florida mailing address.  I guess gray haired drug runners try to pull that scam a lot.

 Original “Lifetime” LBO Cards

Armed with our “lifetime” LBO cards and our DTOPS sticker we were set, and it worked well southbound through Puerto Rico and St. Croix in early 2011.  We simply called the numbers provided, gave the LBO and DTOPS numbers, and were given authorization.  Northbound in 2012 it did not work so well.  Both in St John, USVI and Culebra, Puerto Rico we were ordered to report to the nearest CBP office.  There was a new program in the islands, and we failed to get the memo.

New “lifetime” LBO Cards

As the nice CBP agent in Culebra issued us new LBO numbers, he explained we might have been lost in the system as it was changed to now include the Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS).

SVRS erroneously begins with the assumption that all cruisers have access to Internet and filling a float plan will be as easy as if you were at home in your living room. 

There is some initial setup and then the system easily found Motivator via the DTOPS number.

With Pollie’s LBO number the system easily found her information.  There is even a page to add passengers without LBO cards.

The real fun starts with trying to do the itinerary.  Whoever designed this web site was not a boater and has little knowledge of the cruising lifestyle.  A latitude/longitude might be more reflective of one’s departure point.

We were departing the BVIs from the West End.  Not finding a “Location Type” for “quiet anchorage,” I checked “Marina” and for a street address put “Mooring Ball #7.”

For our arrival point in the USVIs I checked “Public Boat Launch” and used the street address for Skinny Legs Bar and Grill.

Thinking that I was on a roll, I then moved on to Puerto Rico.  I found Puerto Rico in the drop box and made some creative entries for “Street Address/Location.”  All was good, until I tried to close out and was informed that my last destination had to be in the US.  I guess a US Territory is not good enough.  Not to be thwarted, I entered an address for a US marina in the June time-frame.

My SVR worked great in USVI.  I called the number and talked to a recorder.  In Culebra it was a different story.  The CBP agent kept me on the phone for 20 minutes and 8 seconds (noted on Skype) as he straightened out my float plan.  The creative addresses were not a problem, it was that I should have left “United States” checked for a country and then checked “Puerto Rico” as one of the 50 states.  Sometimes it does not pay to know geography.

For more information on statehood for Puerto Rico click here

No comments:

Post a Comment