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 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 first administrator of the islands and also 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.
The US 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. 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, and in July 1954 it assigned the properties to 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.
Transitioning from Military to Civilian Management
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 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 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 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 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
CARTON "ITAL" DOWE
2019 - Present