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Port Authority calls on Commissioner to withdraw charges against vessel traffic officer

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Posted: Friday, August 21, 2020. 1:21 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: The Belize Port Authority issued a statement today denouncing the actions of the police to charge Vessel Traffic Officer Keeron Young for “aiding and abetting” the exit from Belize of Elvis Lennarez, Raymond Dawson Jr., Ryan Godoy, Dane Foreman and Herbert Godoy on board a tugboat A.J. Ellis with barge ZMT1.

The Port Authority informs that it operates an electronic system for processing of documents for arrival to and departure of ships from a port facility.

The port authority says that this was instituted in March 2020 primarily to reduce the potential for exposure to the Coronavirus, and in keeping with the Government of Belize’s mandate to transition to electronic processes.

As part of this system, a Shipping Agent for any vessel departing from any port facility in Belize is required to email a Notice of Departure form to the Belize Port Authority.

This is then checked to ensure that it contains the required information and is accompanied with the other requisite documentation. It is then stamped, dated, signed then emailed by the officer back to the Shipping Agent.

“There is no personal interaction with the vessel or crew, and no inspection of the vessel in this process. The purpose of clearance is to ensure that the international standard of documentation is met when a vessel leaves a port in one country with destination in another country, and for the computation of the appropriate fees,” the Port authority explained.

The Port Authority further detailed the timeline of events:

On 25 July, 2020, Officer Young was on duty at the Port Authority office in Belize City, which is his assigned place of work, when he processed a Notice of Departure from Shipping Agent, Banana Enterprises Limited.

This form notified the Port Authority of the expected departure of tugboat A.J. Ellis and barge ZMT1 from the Port of Big Creek.

These Belizean cargo vessels frequently operate between Belize and ports in Guatemala and Honduras.

They had in fact made in excess of 15 voyages since March 2020. The normal operation of these vessels is to go without cargo, and return with full payloads of fertiliser, containers, and boxes for the banana industry, which it did on all those voyages.

The notice was received by the Belize City office because that is the only office open on weekends and 25 July, 2020 was a Saturday.

 As per procedure, Young stamped the Notice of Departure and emailed it back to the Shipping Agent. This was the extent of his involvement with this matter and at all material times he was at the Belize City Port Authority office and the vessels were in Big Creek.

The Port Authority says that the charges are baseless, unjustified, unsubstantiated.

“Cargo vessels are allowed to enter and exit Belize as an exception to quarantine regulations. There was therefore nothing illegal in what Young did, and nothing that was contrary to policy,” the statement added.

The port authority stated that the charges undermine the legitimacy of the work of the Belize Port Authority to ensure safety and smooth operations at port facilities throughout Belize.

The Belize Port Authority calls on the Commissioner of Police to withdraw the charges forthwith.

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