Government of Belize signed a memorandum of Understanding with Belize Island Holdings BIH- LTD on the 31 July 2013 for the development of harvest cay in the Stann Creek District to be used for a cruise ship terminal and destination for Norwegian Cruise Line. BIH Limited lists two Directors for the company. They are Kevin Sheehan; CEO of Norwegian Cruise line and Colin Murphy VP of Destination & Strategic Development. Mr Murphy has been in Belize for some time now negotiating with Government and acting on behalf of Norwegian to finalize the memorandum of understandings but not without voices of dissent from certain sectors of the society. PlusTV’s Louis Wade took a trip to Harvest Caye to take a closer look at the island and the plans for its development.
Harvest Caye, the selected site for the 50 million US dollar project, is located two miles due south of Big Creek port and three miles south west of Placencia. The island sits at a ideal location as within only a few miles one may access Placencia, Independence, the Port at Big Creek, Estephan Caye, and a host of Shrimp farms on the mainland. The caye is L shaped and consists of 75 acres of mangroves and a few other species including coconut, Harvest Caye has a unique shape; a narrow strip with a length of 1 mile, widening on the south west end and then bending east for half mile. The northern tip of the island has a beach and as one travels south one can see the rich grassy sea bed only a few feet below. The western side of the caye is covered in mangrove and a peek between the canopy showed that, indeed, some dredging had occurred in the past. BIH says that they intend to raise the entire island by 3 feet, and the current artist rendition of the future development suggests that much of the mangrove on this side of the island will be preserved. Fishermen from the area hail this as excellent fishing grounds with an abundance of eagle rays and the manatee among other species. After a mile the island turns east and while there is a narrow sandy tip on the southern end the bend of the L contains the widest strip of land. The water is a beautiful blue, and features the deepest part of the island, which experts say, will still need dredging to accommodate the huge Norwegian cruise ships. here, the back water is as calm and still as a mirror and as one approaches the middle of this part of the island a small canal can be seen as a natural feature bordered on both sides by mangroves; their roots displaying the diverse nurseries which sit under it. This area contains much silt, excellent once excavated, for the formation of sandy beaches on the windward side of the island. And while the western end of this strip will be designed for tenders that will take hundreds of day tourists to their destinations across the south, this eastern end will dock the huge Norwegian vessel on a floating dock, according to the project designers. And while the island’s western seaboard contains much potential for sandy beaches and beautiful bathing areas fit for the hundreds and possibly thousands who will remain on the island to enjoy its facilities, the island exists because it has been protected flora millennia by a beautiful and productive fringe reef. The crashing waves in front of the island signal bands of coral reef comprised of huge brain corals. How the Environmental Impact Assessment will treat this sensitive system, which clearly is a part of the attraction and beauty of the island, is yet to be seen. Recently, Government disclosed that when Norwegian purchased the island it also inherited a previous EIA carried out on the island. That EIA, however, was for a completely different project with an Airport, not a cruise ship port, and certainly not for thousands of cruise tourists inhabiting the island for at least 150 days of the year. Indeed Harvest Caye is a gem in crown of Belize’s natural resources. How it can be best exploited while preserving much of its natural beauty and productivity is left to be seen. Louis Wade for PlusNews.