Blue Flag Global

Blue Flag Global and VIPCA

are working together!

Blue Flag Global

Contact Valerie Peters for more information.




The Blue Flag programme for beaches, marinas and sustainable boating tourism operators is run by the international, non-governmental, non-profit organisation FEE (the Foundation for Environmental Education). The Blue Flag programme was started in France in 1985. It has been operating in Europe since 1987 and in areas outside of Europe since 2001, when South Africa joined. Today, Blue Flag has become a truly global programme with an ever-increasing number of countries participating in the programme.


The Virgin Islands Conservation Society in partnership with the Virgin Islands Hotel and Tourism Association are the US Virgin Islands National Operators. Programme Director Valerie Peters –


The Blue Flag programme promotes sustainable tourism development in freshwater and marine areas. It challenges local authorities, beach operators and sustainable boating tourism operators to achieve high standards in the six categories of: water quality, environmental management, environmental education and information, safety and services, social responsibility and responsible tourism. Over the years, the Blue Flag has become a highly respected and recognised eco-label working to bring together the tourism and environmental sectors at local, regional and national levels to ensure sustainable tourism.


The criteria are categorised as either imperative or guideline. Most sustainable boating tourism operator criteria are imperative, i.e. the sustainable boating tourism operator must comply with them in order to be awarded Blue Flag accreditation. If they are guideline criteria, it is preferable that they are complied with, but not mandatory. In the case that a sustainable boating tourism operator cannot comply with one or more of the imperative criteria the tour operator can apply for a dispensation. The USVI national programme can choose to have stricter criteria than what is outlined here.


During the Blue Flag certification period the flag must be present on all of the tour operators’ boats. The flag is both a symbol of the programme being run by the sustainable boating tourism operator but also an indication of compliance.


If a sustainable boating tourism operator that has Blue Flag accreditation does not comply with the Blue Flag criteria, the flag may be permanently or temporarily withdrawn. There are several degrees of non-compliance:


All Blue Flag accredited sustainable boating tourism operators have to comply with the general Blue Flag criteria for sustainable boating tourism operators. Depending on the activities offered to the tourists, the sustainable boating tourism operator also has to comply with the respective additional criteria. If the tour operator offers different activities for which additional criteria are available, all of the respective additional criteria have to be complied with. Furthermore, the tour operator’s ticket offices/ticket booths and other buildings that are open to the public are also subject to the criteria (In the following ‘buildings’ refer only to those that are accessible to the public).



The certification period for sustainable boating tourism operators is one year from the date of award.

USVI Timeline:             Local Application – June & July, International Review – Sept,

Award notification – October, Dec 1st Award Presentation and start of season


FEE, and the National Operator in a country, reserves the right to refuse or withdraw Blue Flag accreditation from any sustainable boating tourism operator where the tour operator is responsible for violations of national environmental regulations or otherwise acts in discord with the objectives and spirit of the Blue Flag programme. Blue Flag sustainable boating tourism operators are subject to announced and/or unannounced audits by FEE International and the National Operator.



Definition of a Blue Flag Sustainable boating tourism OPERATOR


All tour operators that offer boat-based tourism activities on motorized boats that are steered by a qualified captain and that embrace sustainable practices in line with the Blue Flag criteria are eligible for an application to become a Blue Flag accredited sustainable boating tourism operator. This includes:


  • Seeing environmental education as an integral part of the tourism products
  • Assessing and making an effort to reduce the negative impacts on the economic, social and natural environment
  • Considering the needs of the tourists, its employees and the environment
  • Contributing to the development and distribution of sustainable practices

Ssustainable boating tourism operators must aim to make all of their boats comply with the criteria if they do not yet at the time of the application. They must include this aim in the environmental plan required by the Blue Flag criteria and the plan must be validated by the International Jury.


In addition, only charter boat companies that offer crewed charter boat tours can apply for the Blue Flag to ensure the compliance of the criteria.








GENERAL CRITERIA FOR sustainable boating tourism operators



Criterion 1. Information relating to local ecosystems and environmental phenomena must be available to tourists. The tour operator must also provide a map and information about the area of operation and, if applicable, about the protected area they are operating in.


Criterion 2. A code of conduct for tourists that reflects appropriate rules governing the use of the boat must be displayed. The tour operator must also provide relevant information about the appropriate behaviour in the harbour area.


Criterion 3. Information about the Blue Flag programme, the Blue Flag for sustainable boating tourism operators and other FEE eco-label must be displayed on the boat and in the boat office.


Criterion 4. The sustainable boating tourism operator is responsible for offering at least one environmental education activity to the tourists, employees or local community within one operating season. It is also recommended that the tour operator offers environmental education activities during each tour.


Below 1000 tourists per season                                – 1 activity

Between 1000 and 3000 tourists per season            – 2 activities

More than 3000 tourists per season                           – 3 activities


Criterion 5. Employees and crew members of the tour operator must be trained about the local ecosystem and environmental issues on a regular basis.


he tour operator must provide a qualified guide who is in charge of the safety instructions and the environmental education on board for each tour.


If the activities doesn’t require a guide, the tour operator can ask for a dispensation from this criterion. The decision whether the activity requires a guide lies with the Blue Flag National Operator and Blue Flag International.


Criterion 7. Tour operators that transfer tourists to land-based excursions on islands or in remote coastal areas must provide information about the environment at the destination and must inform tourists about their possible impact on the local ecosystems.


Environmental Management


Criterion 8. A management committee should be established, with responsibility for instituting environmental management systems and conducting regular environmental audits of the sustainable boating tourism operator, the buildings of the tour operator and the tours.


Criterion 9. Each sustainable boating tourism operator must have an environmental policy and an environmental plan. The plan should include references to water management, waste and energy consumption, health and safety issues, and the use of environmentally friendly products wherever possible. All employees must be informed and educated about these issues.


Criterion 10. The sustainable boating tourism operator must comply with all regulations pertaining to the location and operation of the boats. All buildings must be properly maintained and be in compliance with national legislation.


Criterion 11. Adequate, properly identified and segregated containers must be in place for the storage of hazardous wastes. This waste must be disposed of at a licensed facility for hazardous waste, handled by a licensed contractor. This can be done through the harbour.


Criterion 12. Adequate and well-managed litter bins and/or garbage containers must be in place on the boats and in the buildings of the tour operator. The wastes must be disposed of at a licensed facility that is handled by a licensed contractor. This can be done through the harbour.


Criterion 13. Facilities for receiving recyclable waste materials such as bottles, cans, paper, plastic and organic material must be in place on the boat and in the tour operator’s buildings.


Criterion 14. Recyclable products and biodegradable materials are to be given preference, and single-use products must be avoided.


Criterion 15. Smoking should be prohibited on the boats. If smoking is allowed on the boats, they must have special facilities for the disposal of cigarette butts.


Criterion 16. If bilge water pumping facilities are available in the harbour, the tour operator should make use of them. Untreated bilge water should never be released into the water.


Criterion 17. Sanitary facilities must be available to the tourists. They must be clean, well-signposted and the access must be safe. The sanitary facilities should also provide drinking water.


Criterion 18. Sewage disposal must be controlled and directed to a licensed sewage treatment facility. Untreated water from toilets should never be released into the sea or freshwater bodies, nor close to sensitive areas.


Criterion 19. When selecting products such as paints, paint remover, detergents, etc., the tour operator must prefer environmentally friendly versions, where available and effective. Special precautions must be taken when using detergents on the outside sections of the boats.


Criterion 20. Repair and painting works on the boats must be limited to specifically designated areas in the harbour or locations where there is no danger that toxic substances might enter the water or the ground.


Criterion 22. Best environmental practice should also be adopted in the tour operator’s buildings and facilities that are not open to the public.


Criterion 23. Sustainable means of transportation must be promoted whenever advising tourists or visitors as to how to get to the boats or the ticket office.


Criterion 24. The relevant authorities must be notified immediately regarding accidents that might cause environmental damage.


Criterion 25. Speed and engine maintenance must be aimed at maximising energy efficiency and minimising pollution.


Criterion 27. After the life service of a boat has been reached it must be disposed of in accordance with national regulations.


Safety and services


Criterion 28. Adequate and well-signposted lifesaving, first-aid and fire-fighting equipment must be present on the boat. This equipment must be approved by relevant national authorities.


Criterion 29. Emergency plans for different possible kinds of accidents must be produced. The crew must be trained on these emergency plans on a regular basis.


Criterion 30. Safety precautions and information must be presented on the boat.


Criterion 31. Facilities for people with disabilities should be in place.


Criterion 32. Adequate signage indicating the location of the different facilities must be posted on the boat.


Social responsibility


Criterion 33. Discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, origin or religious affiliation should not be accepted within the tour operator.


Criterion 34. The tour operator should pay fair salaries according to the respective income level in the country.


Criterion 35. The legal working age in the respective country should be respected.


Criterion 36. The tour operator should support the local economy by choosing to buy and use local products.


Responsible tourism


Criterion 37. Vulnerable and protected areas must be respected.


Criterion 38. Any wildlife must be approached at a slow speed and in a manner that allows the animal(s) to evaluate the situation. They must not be encircled, trapped or chased.


Criterion 39. Special precaution must be taken in the vicinity of breeding animals. Young animals must not be separated from their group.


Criterion 40. When in the direct vicinity of any wildlife, noise must be reduced to a minimum and the engine should be put into neutral whenever appropriate.


Criterion 41. No animals or plants are to be touched or collected.


Criterion 42. Tourists and employees must not feed the animals.


Criterion 43. If there are any signs of disturbance, the boat must increase its distance from the animals.


Criterion 44. The tour operator should be open to cooperation with research institutions. The company’s vessel might function as a research platform, and collected data of wildlife sightings should be made available to researchers.


Criterion 45. Injured, entangled, stranded or dead animals must be reported to the local