On Thursday morning, Plus News spoke with the Belize Tourism Board’s cruise director, Mr. Valdemar Andrade, via telephone. He confirmed that three more cruise ships, two from Carnival Cruise Line and one from Royal Caribbean, scheduled to call at Belize on Thursday, have had to turn back because of unfavorable weather conditions.
According to Mr Andrade, the ships were not able to pass through the English Caye Channel because winds from the north reached 50 knots, making tendering passengers to the mainland a dangerous proposition.
The Board says it is monitoring the situation and intends to check in with the cruise lines to formulate a plan for how to deal with this state of affairs.
The situation has galvanized the tourist industry’s most vocal corner, the Federation of Cruise Tourism Associations of Belize (FECTAB), to again come out strongly in favour of a cruise port in the Belize District.
President Tom Greenwood addressed the issue of revenue losses for operators and entrepreneurs.
“I tell you what, we can’t only think in terms of passengers. The people who carry the passengers are, believe it or not, less in numbers. It is those people who supply everytning else to the cruise lines, from food to other facilities and the like. It’s been a tremendous loss for thousands of people.
I’ve learned from British friends that the tougher things get, the calmer you must be, so that you can think your way through. This is why I, along with thousands of people, [is] depending on our Government, and all others who have anything to do with it, to streanline and fast-track the plans for a port.”
FECTAB has had its issues in the past with Government, but on Thursday Tom Greenwood said that only Prime Minister Barrow can step in and resolve the impasse between Fort Street Tourism Village’s owners and the proprietors of Stake Bank.
“The industry will collapse. That’s for sure. We only need to look around and take an example. The Mexicans, for instance, realised that the tendering senario was no dice, and you go to the four facilities they have now, just above us, and ships dock. So the ships don’t have a problem.
Hondourus went the same way too, although unfortunately the wind has stopped them in their tracks too, but that’s only very rare. But they have a docking facility, and I understand the Hodourans are building another one. The Guatemalans are building another one.
So everybody’s moving up. I think our Prime Minister has this golden opportunity to move up and move in and look good. The way he has done for other things, I think he can do this for us.”
Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA) lauded the support of the BTB for a cruise port as expressed on Wednesday, and added its voice for the call to Prime Minister Barrow for intervention.
In a press release on Thursday the organization states, “The Prime Minister is in the best position to negotiate a solution to this issue and provide the kind of bold leadership we have seen previously with the nationalizations of the utilities and the re-negotiation of the Superbond. It is time for him to act with the support of tourism authorities.”
President Brackett briefly expounded on the issue at a briefing this afternoon.
“We have lost three ships today, and two yesterday. We have lost close to fifteen thousand passengers. [That’s] huge. We join FECTAB in saying that we need to build a port, and we do call the Government, though there are some legalities that is above COLA’s head, but we do call on the Prime Minister to break that gridlock, in terms of doing whatever he can to break that gridlock between FSCB and Stake Bank, so that we can protect and ensure that our local tour operators are protected, and can move forward witrh cruise tourism.”