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The Virgin Islands Port Authority

A Historical Overview

 

Charlotte Amalie Harbor Painting
Charlotte Amalie Harbor, St. Thomas

The United States Virgin Islands (USVI) are an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States of America.  The territory consists of 68 islands, islets and keys located in the Lesser Antilles east of Puerto Rico. The main islands are St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John and Water Island, and have a combined population of about 108,612 (U.S. 2000 Census). Charlotte Amalie is the capital city and is located on St. Thomas.
 

US Navy Submarine
A US Navy submarine in the waters off of St. Thomas, 1940s


The islands were originally inhabited by Arawak and Carib Indians before they were sited during Christopher Columbus’ journey in 1493.  Prior to World War 1, the islands were governed by numerous countries, including Spain, England, Holland, France, the Knights of Malta and Denmark. The United States of America purchased St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John, Water Island and associated islets and cays from Denmark in 1917.  The territory was purchased for $25 million in gold to improve military positioning during critical times of World War I and prohibit German expansion into the Caribbean. The islands were renamed from the Danish West Indies to the United States Virgin Islands.

 

Inter Island ferry
An inter-island ferry travelling between St. Thomas and St. John in 1949.

 

The VI Port Authority is last in a line of federal and local government agencies to manage the USVI’s ports. The US Navy was the administrator of the islands and managed the port facilities.  The US made a wartime decision to construct a submarine base on the island of St. Thomas. A naval airbase also replaced the modest airstrip located at Bourne Field in Lindbergh Bay with a military air hangar and 600-foot runway.  This airbase was later named the Harry S. Truman Airport, and renamed the Cyril E. King Airport on Oct. 3, 1984.

 

Old CEKA Airport Terminal
Bourne Field was the first airfield on St. Thomas.  The US Navy constructed a hangar which was later used as the first airport on St. Thomas: the Harry S. Truman Airport. The airport was renamed the Cyril E. King Airport in 1984, and the VI Port Authority extended the runway and constructed a new terminal.

 

The military’s need for the U.S. Virgin Islands ended, and from 1931 through 1969, the control of the ports was turned over to the US Department of Interior which managed the former military properties in the US Virgin Islands and some farmlands on St. Croix via the federal agency, The Virgin Islands Corporation (VI Corp).  VI Corp was a wholly-owned federal government corporation approved by the US Congress on June 30, 1949 and amended on Sep. 2, 1958. The Corporation operated the territory's electric power facilities and newly constructed salt water distillation facility on St. Thomas. VI Corp managed the submarine base, the St. Thomas airport, 80 housing-units rented to federal and insular government employees and private individuals, 6 hotels, 1 guesthouse, 4 piers, a beach club, a golf course and clubhouse, about 35 additional buildings, 3 water systems, transportation equipment, and other miscellaneous units. Dr. Kenneth Bartlett served as president, followed by former Massachusetts state senator, Robert “Bob” Cramer.

 

Old Christiansted Harbor
Christiansted Harbor, St. Croix 1940

 

On May 28, 1965, VI Corp sold its electric and desalination plants to the government of the Virgin Islands. In 1966, the Department of Interior transferred the management of the ports to a newly developed agency named The Virgin Islands Airport and Industrial Development Agency. The agency managed the airport on St. Croix which opened in 1950, the airport on St. Thomas, and the submarine base on St. Thomas. Alton Adams Jr., an engineer born in St. Thomas, was the agency’s first and only executive director. The agency managed a fairly self-sustaining marine division, but was faced with operational and equipment issues at the territory’s airports, which were used as former naval hangars and would now be used for commercial air traffic.

The Seventh Legislature of the US Virgin Islands passed Act 2375 which established the Virgin Islands Port Authority on December 24, 1968.  Act 2405 set the date of establishment of the Authority as February 11, 1969 which is recognized as VIPA's official anniversary date.  VIPA was charged with the ownership and management of the territory's public air and seaports.

 

Old photo of Alexander Hamilton Airport now the Henry Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix

Benedict Field was the first airfield on St. Croix and was constructed in 1941 by the US Army Air Corps. In the late 1940's, the Alexander Hamilton Airport was built.  The airport was renamed the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport in 1996.  The VI Port Authority completed the extension of the airport runway and remodeled the terminal in 2002.


Alton Adams Jr. continued as the agency's executive director until he resigned in Sept. 1971.  He was succeeded by Jack M. Monsanto of St. Thomas (1971-1975), John E. Harding of St. Thomas (1975-1991), Gordon A. Finch of St. Croix (1991–2002) and Darlan Brin of St. Thomas (2003-2008). Kenn Hobson, who is originally from Nevis but a longtime resident of St. Thomas, served as the director of the agency from 2008 until his retirement in Feb. 2012.  Attorney Don. C. Mills served as interim executive director from Feb. 2012 until Jan. 2013. Former USVI senator Carlton Dowe of St. Thomas was selected as the executive director on Jan. 16, 2013 through Dec. 2016.  David W. Mapp, Sr. of St. Croix is currently the acting executive director.

 

Cruz Bay Harbor
Cruz Bay Harbor, St. John
Circa 1966


Today, the VI Port Authority manages some of the busiest and modern air and seaport facilities in the Caribbean. Since its establishment in 1969, the Authority has constructed new airport terminals and extended the runways on both St. Thomas and St. Croix. The agency also constructed several new seaports - and today manages a combination of 14 cruise, cargo and ferry seaports. VIPA is one of the largest government land owners in the territory with a complex portfolio of aviation, marine, beachfront and multi-industrial use properties. VIPA’s vision is to continue to improve its ports to ensure a first-class and memorable entry and exit experience for the travelling public.



Frederiksted Harbor, St. Croix
1920s

 

 

Executive Directors
of the Virgin Islands Port Authority
 

David W. Mapp, Sr. was named executive director
 of the Virgin Islands Port Authority in June 2016.

Alton Adams Jr. Jack Monsanto John Harding Gordon Finch
Alton A. Adams, Jr.
1966-1971
Jack M. Monsanto
1971-1975
John Harding
1975-1991
 
Gordon A. Finch
1991-2002
Darlan Brin Kenn Hobson Attorney Don Mills Carlton Dowe
Darlan A. Brin
2003-2008
Kenneth Hobson
2008-2012
Don C. Mills, Esq.
2012-2013 (Interim)
 
Carlton "Ital" Dowe
2013 - 2016

Virgin Islands Port Authority
8074 Lindbergh Bay
P.O. Box 301707
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands  00803-1707
Tel: (340) 774-1629  Fax: (340) 774-0025
Developed by the VIPA Public Relations Department

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