Fiji’s finance minister has accused visiting sailors of involvement in crimes ranging from drug smuggling and prostitution to smuggling endangered species of flora and fauna. Cruising traffic through the islands is expected to drop dramatically after Fiji introduced new regulations restricting visiting boats to a three-month stay (effectively cutting the permissible stay by half), though three-month extensions will be possible.
Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry claims that visitors were taking advantage of the system and using Fiji as a duty-free staging ground for businesses housed outside the country, costing Fiji millions of dollars in taxes. Fiji's marine industry, however, stands to lose as much to neighboring countries as sailors go elsewhere for repairs and cyclone season storage. Marinas have already begun laying off workers in anticipation of decreased boat traffic and Vuda Marina's $30-million dollar development project has been put on hold. Rebecca Waters
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February 12, 2008