HISTORY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS PORT AUTHORITY
Connecting the U.S. Virgin Islands to the World by Air and by Sea Since 1969
THE UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS
The United States Virgin Islands (USVI) is 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. The islands were originally inhabited by Arawak and Carib Indians when they were sited during Christopher Columbus’ journey in 1493. The islands that comprise the US Virgin Islands have been governed by several different countries throughout history:
The Knights of Malta
The United States of America
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.
MANAGEMENT OF THE USVI'S AIRPORTS & SEAPORTS
The Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) is last in a line of federal and local government agencies to manage the ports of the United States Virgin Islands.
UNITED STATES NAVY
The US Navy was the first administrator of the islands and also managed the port facilities. The U.S. 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. The U.S. Marine Corps Air Station at St. Thomas was established on December 1, 1941, with the redesign of the Marine Corps Air Facility at Bourne Field. Bourne Field, located two miles west of Charlotte Amalie, had been commissioned on September 1, 1935. The air station was made part of the Navy Operating Base, St. Thomas on March 4, 1943.
During World War II, the station included a seaplane base at Lindbergh Bay, as well as a leased emergency field located on the island of Anguilla.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR
The U.S. military’s need for the U.S. Virgin Islands eventually ended. Control of the ports was turned over to the US Department of Interior from 1931 through 1969. Following the end of the war, the air station was reduced to a caretaker facility on September 30, 1946, and further reduced to inactive status on December 1, 1946. The facility was closed on February 16, 1948.
The Department of Interior at one point leased the former military properties in the US Virgin Islands and some farmlands on St. Croix via a lessee the St. Thomas Development Authority.
THE VIRGIN ISLANDS CORPORATION (VI CORP)
The Virgin Islands Corporation (VI Corp) was a wholly owned government corporation created by the Virgin Islands Corporation Act of June 30, 1949. (48 U.S.C. 1407), and amended on Sep. 2, 1958, as successor to the Virgin Islands Company which was incorporated in 1934. The Corporation’s principal offices were located in St. Croix. Management of the Corporation was vested in a 7-member Board of Directors with the Secretary of the Interior as its chair. The Corporation was charted through June 30, 1969, unless dissolved by an act of Congress. In July 1954, the U.S. Department of Interior In July 1954 assigned the properties formerly managed by the St. Thomas Development Authority to VI Corp.
The major revenue-producing activities of the Corporation included growing sugar cane, manufacturing raw sugar, and the generation and distribution of electric power. It also delivered potable water to the Government of the Virgin Islands from salt water distillation facilities and managed certain Navy-owned properties on St. Thomas, such as the Naval Submarine Base and the Marine Corps Air Facility. Other miscellaneous revenue-producing activities include the administration of an agricultural and industrial loan program, management of a small livestock herd, and providing housing for employees and others on St. Croix. The Corporation's portfolio included 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. Furthermore, the Corporation engaged in non-revenue producing activities designed to promote the economic development and general welfare of the Virgin Islands population. Dr. Kenneth Bartlett served as president. In 1961, former Massachusetts state senator, Robert P. Cramer resigned as a senator and moved with his family to Christiansted, St. Croix to accept the appointment by U.S. President John F. Kenney to serve as the president of VI Corp.
The programs run by the Corporation were ultimately terminated on June 30, 1965, and the Corporation itself was dissolved on July 1, 1966.
Robert P. "Bob" Cramer
U.S. State Representative, Senator (Mass.) and president of VI Corp.
U.S. Virgin Islands Government Assumes Management of the Ports
THE VIRGIN ISLANDS AIRPORT AND INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY
On May 28, 1965, VI Corp sold its electric and desalination plants to the government of the U.S. 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 that opened in 1950 - which was first named Benedict Field then named The Alexander Hamilton Airport (now named the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport). This agency also managed the Harry S. Truman Airport (now named the Cyril E. King Airport) on St. Thomas, and the submarine base on St. Thomas located in the Crown Bay district.
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 CREATION OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS PORT AUTHORITY
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. Per the legislation, VIPA is charged with the ownership and management of the territory's public air and seaports.
Alton Adams Jr. continued as the agency's executive director until he resigned in Sept. 1971. He was succeeded by Jack M. Monsanto (1971-1975), John E. Harding of St. Thomas (1975-1991), Gordon A. Finch (1991–2002), and Darlan Brin (2003-2008). Kenn Hobson 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 was selected as the executive director on Jan. 16, 2013, through Dec. 2016. David W. Mapp, Sr. served as VIPA's director from 2017 to 2019. On July 8, 2019, Carlton Dowe returned as the Authority's executive director and currently heads the agency.
HISTORICAL USVI PORT PHOTOS
Harry Truman Airport
1852 Charlotte Amalie Painting.jpg
1978 plane at St. Croix airport
Charlotte Amalie Harbor 1940s
1916 crown bay.JPG
1964 Crown Bay
Old Red Hook
St. John Ferry 1949
1966 Creek and National Park Dock
St. Croix Harbor
1920 St. Croix Harbor
VIPA'S EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS
Our Directors and Years of Service
ALTON A. ADAMS JR.
1966 - 1971
JACK M. MONSANTO
1971 - 1975
1975 - 1991
GORDON A. FINCH
1991 - 2002
DARLAN A. BRIN
2003 - 2008
2008 - 2012
DON C. MILLS, ESQ.
2012 - 2013 (Interim)
CARLTON "ITAL" DOWE
2013 - 2016
DAVID W. MAPP SR.
2016 - 2019
CARLTON "ITAL" DOWE
2019 - Present