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Port Authority battles through COVID troubles

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Posted: Friday, June 26, 2020. 8:49 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Recently the Christian Workers’ Union (CWU) had praise for the Belize Port Authority (BPA) for its prompt response to concerns about negotiations for measures related to COVID-19.

With the closure of the national borders on land and sea, the resulting hit to tourism has hurt the BPA, who regulates international vessels visiting Belize – cruise ships, private yachts and cargo ships. All those activities are either scaled well back or on a complete pause until further notice.

The Port Authority management has fought to keep all its employees with jobs and salaries and has mostly managed to do so, but it is literally day to day, according to Commissioner Merlene Bailey Martinez who assumed her post in 2013.

According to Bailey-Martinez, “In the first month alone, we lost 70% of our revenue, compared to the same period last year. It was at 30%. We’re averaging about 50% for the next 2 months. So, the financial hit that we’ve taken is quite significant.”

She pointed to a loss of nearly three-quarters of all revenue collection from the closedown of the cruise and private yacht industry, leaving only cargo calls which were kept open during lockdown but only account for 25 percent of revenue.

The Port Authority has cut capital expenditure and reduced patrols at sea to emergency situations, keeping two vessels non-operational.

While not touching salaries, staff could see cuts in benefits which require further discussion with the Union. The commissioner stressed that the Port Authority’s management will continue to conduct periodic reviews, with the intent of making the most sustainable fiscal decisions, given that their revenues are way down.

 

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