Developer addresses concerns about Stake Bank Cruise Tourism Project

Stake BankThe project to build the cruise port and tourism destination at Stake Bank and North Drowned Caye, 2 miles east of Belize City, has been hanging around for some time, but on Wednesday it went before the National Environmental Assessment Committee (NEAC) for review of the Environmental Impact Assessment addenda; the original EIA was approved in 2007. A decision has Not been made but on Wednesday the developer, Michael Feinstein, addressed a packed house at the Belize Biltmore Plaza to alleviate lingering concerns. Mr Feinstein says he came up with the idea for the project as a result of lingering concerns about security following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. The project intends to convert two islands into one-stop destinations for ships. It is similar to the Harvest Caye project down South sponsored by Norwegian Cruise Lines. But according to Michael Feinstein, the difference is that THIS project is Belizean.

vlcsnap-2013-09-05-09h49m33s196Mike Feinstein – Developer:

There is no competition.  We have a hundred million to do ours, they have fifty million to do theirs.

We have a full agreement drafted, and Mr. Marshall Eck is here to confirm that.  It has been presented to the government already, 13 copies, and my understanding is that the Government will start dealing that at the next Cabinet meeting on the 14th. So we’re not looking at a MOU, we have a full agreement

vlcsnap-2013-09-05-10h24m38s246Mr Feinstein says he is ready to start as soon as the necessary permits are approved. He spoke to the press today about the number of jobs and size of the investment; twice as much as Harvest Caye.

Mike Feinstein – Developer:

We’re asking a duty-free for North DrownedCaye to be able to compete with the Chetumal thing as I have mentioned. 

If you have a bridge where traffic is using, a bridge always, and pilings always create habitat, habitat creates fish and marine life. Absolutely no manatee would die from this project.  However, if you look at all the tendering back and forth, I think that is more dangerous to the manatee that a bridge. 

700 million dollars a year pumped into the economy, there are a few negatives I’ve  been hearing around but I hope we’ve cleared that up today.

Job creations?

Mike Feinstein – Developer:
3,700 permanent jobs, the trickle-down effect is thousands more.

According to the project investors, most of those jobs will be made available to Belizeans. Roque Matus’ M and M Engineering will oversee construction, particularly of the causeway to the City which will be eleven feet above sea level.

vlcsnap-2013-09-05-10h10m53s195Roque Matus – Director of M&M Engineering:

We will have probably a thousand people involved in the construction of it.  We can do this efficiently [and] cost-effective.  I know a lot of people’s concern is about the fish and the marine life, but I have visited Cozumel, Cancun, and these places, and fish and manatee and everybody around us and my children, and nothing is being affected. So I think it’s a very good project, initially for the jobs that will be created, and also in [the] long-term for the jobs that will be created.  If we don’t evolve, we will be left behind.

According to consultant Michael McFadden of Mac Maritime, Inc., the project is needed to keep Belize competitive in the region.

vlcsnap-2013-09-05-10h22m47s151Michael McFadden – President, MAC Martime Inc, Consultant:

Is the timing right to do a project like this?  I should say so.  What this accommodates, at least on the first phase. Is dedicating four berths to accommodate four vessels of any size as a start, plus all the related infrastructure.  That will make a quantum change to not only the impacts, the positive financial impacts for Belize, but for the entire Western Caribbean Region as a whole.    

Michael Feinstein insists he will not go ahead if he gets any idea he is being double-crossed. It’s important, he says, for Norwegian Cruise Line to stick to agreements regarding no Re-scheduling of ships to the south.

Mike Feinstein – Developer: 

The Prime Minister has said publically that only Norwegian will be allowed to use that facility.  That being the case, I have no problem. But if that changes, the agreement actually reads that they are allowed to bring whatever they want down south,  then I will not do this project. 

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