Posted: Sunday, May 24, 2020. 3:13 pm CST.
By BBN Staff: The Federation of Cruise Tourism Associations of Belize (FECTAB) has publicly condemned the planned expansion of the Port of Belize by Waterloo Investment Holdings, but the Port maintains that the expansion will benefit the people of Belize without any of the drawbacks that FECTAB fears.
FECTAB’s Interim President David Almendarez stressed that the federation has a 25-year contract with the Feinstein Group to operate out of the Stake Bank cruise port. He went on to say that the Waterloo port is redundant given the Stake Bank port will be in operation soon and that the Federation is not comfortable with the fact that the Waterloo port is connected to Lord Michael Ashcroft.
“My question is why do we need so much ports in Belize? If you have a legitimate Belizean investor working with your Belizeans? Why would your government or anybody allow a monkey wrench to get thrown into that? How does it benefit us to do that?” Almendarez said.
Responding to the criticisms of the expansion, Port of Belize CEO Arturo Vasquez said that the Waterloo project, Port Loyola Gateway to Commerce and Culture, will provide both a bulk handling and cruise port facility, will increase employment in and outside of the tourism industry and will be developed in an environmentally friendly manner.
Vasquez noted that the benefits to Belize included increased indirect jobs in the tourism sector such as tour guides, drivers, and attraction workers, and more increased indirect jobs in the agricultural sector from increased export activity of commodities such as corn.
“On the passenger volumes we want to remind the country that the status quo this last year has been a decline in passenger volumes because the cruise lines are moving away from tender ports and Stake Bank is still a tender terminal project. The Port Loyola Gateway project is designed to get passengers off quickly and directly into the beauty that is Belize, not capture them on an island where one group can have all the advantages,” Vasquez said. “Should Belize wait until we lose our opportunity to meet the needs of large ships being built and the requirement of the cruise industry by 2023 to move away from tendering ports?”
Other benefits included lower costs to produce and transport sugar to export markets, lower costs for growing corn and other agricultural products in Belize from more efficient fertilizer imports, and lower costs for baked goods requiring flower from more efficient grain imports among others.
Consultations for the port expansion are ongoing and being led locally by Chamberlain Consultants. Our newsroom also spoke with Dr. Dionne Chamberlain, who says that she has requested several meetings with FECTAB to no avail.
“The benefit to tour operators is that the Port of Belize requires no tendering which is important to tour guides and tour operators,” Chamberlain said. “What’s the use of having a 25-year contract if you don’t have direct access to visitors who will be held up at a resort port which is like an all-inclusive as per Stakebank’s plans? Any grouping or individual who wants to learn of the project and give input may contact us.”
Chamberlain also pointed out that visitors come to Belize for tours that allows them experience of the Belizean people, food and sights, and that the Waterloo port will be a gateway for to that.
Notably, Stake Bank has been, for the second time, announced to be up and running in some 18-months with the first announcement on February 20, 2019 and the most recent on May 24, 2020.
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