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#413275 - 08/05/11 03:12 PM The Port of Belize City falling apart
Marty Offline

The sad story of another PUP privatized utility

During the wild era of PUP privatization, the Port of Belize City, which was sold under a secret arrangement between the PUP government and Luke Espat, and almost 10 years later, the Port still remains the most expensive in the region and one of the most inefficient. Under government ownership, the Port once served Belize and the entire Southern Mexico as a transshipment port. Since privatization, the Port has deteriorated to such a point that even our own Belizean importers and exporters are now regularly using neighbouring ports in Guatemala and Honduras to take advantage of lower costs and better service. The Port is yet another one of the utilities in Belize that is in serious danger of physical failure; an outcome that would have dire effects on the very pipeline of goods entering Belize and a virtual shutdown of Belizean exports, both with dire consequences to our economy.


Since privatization, the owners have done virtually no work on the upkeep of the port facilities. An inspection of the main pier itself shows massive deterioration of the concrete beams and pilings, with large chunks of concrete missing, and much of the rebar exposed and corroded. The pier is in such bad condition that there are portions that are closed off, and many foreign captains and local port pilots of international vessels are hesitant to even tie up alongside for fear of damage to the ships, or in adverse weather condition, that the ships’ weight may destroy the already shaky pier.

The deck of the pier itself is in the worse condition ever. There are complete sections missing or torn, making it very difficult to even drive on the pier without sustaining damage to truck tires.

At the time of privatization, the port was freshly dredged using government funds. Under a $40 Million dollar contract which created a water depth of some 28 feet. Today, the channel has silted up and most ships with drafts of over 18 feet find it very difficult to dock at the pier. Since the privatization, the Port has carried out no maintenance dredging, leading to very expensive damage to vessels that must navigate the shallow berth at the pier. Additionally, because parts of the pier head are unusable, the port is very limited as to the lengths of ships that can dock, again limiting Belize’s ability to compete with trade in the Region.
Shipping Agents and customs brokers complain bitterly on the condition of the equipment that service the pier. More often than not, the pier crane is inadequate for most of the cargo being moved, and often is inoperable and most of the equipment that ferry cargo from the pier to the container yard is often broken down, resulting to massive costs of operating cargo vessels which is eventually passed on to the consumer. Of the three container stackers that were included with the sale, only one is in operation at any given time, and the cargo shed is in dire need of repair. The rate of operation of vessels at the Port is worse than any other port in the region.

Despite the negligence in maintenance of the port, Port of Belize Limited persists in hiking up charges by interpreting every item in the port tariff in their favor. In a recent move, Belize Ports arbitrarily implemented a charge for export containers that resulted in an effective increase of some $250 per export container. The shipping agents, who threatened to suspend all vessel calls to Belize in protest, soundly rejected this attempt at gouging the export industries. To date, that situation remains unresolved. The situation is hardly better at the low berth dock, which services local traffic to the islands. The Port, since privatization, compelled the past administration to grant them an exclusive on local barge traffic. Along with this exclusivity, the Port has increased all charges to barge operators, and now levy tariff charges on any equipment operator that is hired to load the barges, even though the Port is supposed to, but does not provide this service. Similarly, ships that call the Port almost always must use their ship’s crane, yet are saddled with a crane charge for service not rendered.

The way forward with the Port is unclear, the situation further clouded by the specter of receivership over most of his assets, in which the principal of the port finds himself at the mercy of the Ashcroft’s Belize Bank. Attempts by the Bank to enforce receivership control of the Port were somehow staved off by Espat, who continues to keep management control of the facility. It should be noted that the aggregate debts by the Luke Espat enterprises represent the largest portion of the non-performing portfolio of the Belize Bank, and the Port is the only operating entity with any cash flow, which makes it a worthy target for Ashcroft takeover.

It is widely speculated that Ashcroft has hesitated in taking over the Port only because it would mean taking over a potentially serious liability in the condition that it is in, when taking into consideration the possibility of a physical collapse of the pier, the damages claim that will result, and the cost of replacing that asset. Certainly for the Bank, it is a better business prospect to have Espat continue to run it as long as he can, and keep those deposits coming into the bank as a token show of account activity.

For Belizeans, there is very little positive outcome to expect from this situation. While the port infrastructure continues to crumble in the shadow of the Ashcroft Alliance, and while the Port’s labour and commercial relations continue to become strained; businesses in Belize continue to suffer from outrageously expensive and grossly inefficient service.

The Guardian

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#413279 - 08/05/11 03:19 PM Re: The Port of Belize City falling apart [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Port Of Belize Pier Head In Disrepair

The Port Of Belize pier-head is reported to be in an advanced state of disrepair. A stinging article in today's Guardian newspaper reports that, quote: "the port is in serious danger of physical failure." As these photos from the Guardian show, there has been considerable deterioration of the concrete beams and pilings that support the pier. In addition to the overall wear and tear of the infrastructure, the article cites concerns raised by shipping agents and customs brokers about the condition of the equipment that service the pier. Seven News today spoke with Stanley Longsworth, Jr. of Caribbean Shipping Agency Limited, who confirmed that his company has had to adjust to the 'constant state of equipment failure and breakdown of either the trucks that ferry cargo or cranes'. In addition, Seven News also spoke with Jose Gallego, President of the Belize Shipping Agents Association who says his association recently met with the Belize Port Authority to bring its attention to some of the same problems mentioned in the Guardian. The infrastructure he says is teetering on collapse, and requires urgent attention! We also tried reaching the Ports Operations Manager Reynaldo Guerrero several times, but he was unavailable for comment.

Channel 7


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#413768 - 08/12/11 03:50 PM Re: The Port of Belize City falling apart [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Bleeding of the Port

Last week the Guardian broke the story of the state of disrepair that the Port of Belize Pier is in with the concrete beams and pilings deteriorating and large chunks of concrete missing having much of the rebar exposed and corroded. But the question is how is it possible that there is no maintenance work being done on the pier when the Port of Belize is collecting significant revenue?

Based on information that we’ve gathered the port is actually earning significant revenues. Cargo dues for Esso and sugar berth for example in 2009 indicate that the Port of Belize has been making quite a king’s ransom. In that year BSI paid the port some 122,000 dollars; Esso Belize paid 857,000 dollars to the Port of Belize.

More interesting is the amount of money which the major cruise lines have paid to the port for pilotage and GRT or Gross ton per ship. Again, in 2009 the port between the larger cruise lines including Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Royal Cruise Lines and Holland America collected in excess of 2,350,000 dollars. What is noteworthy is that when the ships make calls to Belize all that is required is for a Belizean Pilot to be on board and guide the ship through the channel into the waters in Belize City. The ships make absolutely no call on the Pier yet they collect quite a handsome figure. All this and still the Port of Belize is unable to upkeep the infrastructure.

And the upkeep and maintenance of the infrastructure at the port is actually a requirement of the owners of the port. Under the License granted to the Port of Belize Limited it should be conducting dredging the waters as well as improving on the wharfs. None of this is currently being done by the current owner.

What the owner is also not doing and which is part of its license is to pay the government of Belize 1% of the gross revenues of the port during the preceding financial year. That payment is due three months before the close of each financial year. As far as the Guardian understands these fees are not being paid because the Port of Belize claims it is not making money. But the question that needs answering is, If the Port of Belize is collecting large sums of money on a yearly basis and it is not being used to improve the facilities at the port or to pay government, where is the money going?

How could the former government have given away such an important facility?

The Guardian


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