As of Thursday, the Belize Port Authority was at the Commerce Bight Port outside of Dangriga seeking to take control per an order from Minister responsible for Ports, Rene Montero. In a press release sent on Friday, the Government charges that owners Port of Belize Limited have failed to properly manage or develop the Port, including promised dredging of the approach to the dock, or pay the lease rental subject to Clause 16 of the Lease Agreement. Government took the company to court seeking to revoke the lease in 2008 and there was an injunction taken out which was discharged following a hearing last year. But receiver in charge of Port of Belize, Arturo Vasquez, told PLUS News on Friday that it’s not over yet.
Arturo Vasquez – Receiver:
Those complaints are a part of the entire case. From my understanding the injunction was lifted, but the substantive reasons as to why certain things did not happen was never addressed by the courts. So in my opinion, not being an attorney, the reasons have not been well ventilated, so to speak. So I would imaging there is still more to be addressed in this case.
As we speak, the attorneys are looking at this. The Port Authority is in Dangriga taking over the port. So it is something that is happening as we speak. So the attorneys are looking at this, and I’m still waiting for their advice.
Government says it will seek funding to develop the Port, which Arturo Vasquez admits does not get much traffic and does not contribute much revenue to the Port of Belize Limited, unlike its bigger cousin in Belize City. It has even been recently used for cruise ships. He has adapted a wait and see approach as he explains.
I know from looking at the case and being involved with the case, Government has attempted to do this several times, and that’s the reason why the injunction was put in, in the first place. This is a property that is leased, and the understanding and the documents that we have really indicates that the lease should have been a lease to own, but that was never granted to the port. So that’s just one of the reasons why development, perhaps, did not happen. You remember that this goes before the receivership, but is a case that I inherited when I came in. One of the main facts was because it was never owned, that could have hampered some of the development to happen. It remained a lease and that’s really why that did not occur. There’s no traffic going to that port, only last year we had a cruise ship using it so it’s functional but all of the cargo is coming through the main port here. There’s not much happening at that location, but we do operate 24-7 with security and keep it maintained, and it is something that is always ready to be used.
According to Mr Vasquez he knows of no similar attempt to take over the Belize City Port which he also manages.