The collision of a barge into the pier at Port of Belize Ltd., shortly before five o’clock this morning, has forced the company to temporarily cease operations at the dock. The freight boat was entering the low berth area of the facility when it crashed into the edge of the wharf, damaging a number of supporting columns beneath. The vessel, we understand, was coming in from San Pedro when the accident took place. While the company is looking at an alternate means of loading and offloading cargo from its scheduled arrivals, the owner of the vessel, registered to a company identified only as Crystal, is being investigated by the Belize Ports Authority to determine the cause of the accident.
Arturo ‘Tux’ Vasquez, C.E.O., Port of Belize Ltd.
Arturo ‘Tux’ Vasquez
“We had an incident where one of the barges that comes into the low berth area had ran into the pier. Damages to the pier is, at this point, it’s the beams that support the pier—a portion of the pier not the entire pier—the pier is about a mile long. So those beams will have to be replaced and really that’s where the difficulty or I should say the downtime is. We are expecting at this point, anywhere between four to six days to have those beams replaced. Obviously to replace those beams, we will have to take out that portion of the pier which makes the entire pier and everything unusable right now. We have decided not to use the pier head any at all for engineering purposes and safety. So another delay that we will have is that some of the ships that are scheduled to arrive, the agencies, as we speak, are deciding what their options are. It seems that they may decide just to take a delay of a couple of days which means that their cargo may have to go back and come back within a few days. It is obviously safer because an option that we are looking at right now is for the ships that have their cranes on board, we are seeing if it is possible for us to take them…we can dock the cargo ships a little off from the pier and offload them on to barges and then it brings them into the low berth area. But that requires large barges. We have to look at the depth of the low berth area because putting maybe nine forty foot container on a barge sorta needs more draft. So that’s what we are looking at right now. And again it is not only us; it is up to the agents to decide whether they need to do that or not. And at this point, there is only one boat that is currently in Cortez that won’t be here until maybe tomorrow. And if they decide still to do that operation then that is something that we will have to orchestrate. For that we need the proper barges which we have, we have them available. And again since the boat has its own crane on board that should be able to work it. But for safety purposes, we will have to consider whether that is the best way to go.”
“Has there been an investigation launched to try to understand what transpired last night which resulted in this particular incident?”
Arturo ‘Tux’ Vasquez
“Yeah, the Belize Port Authority of course was out here first thing this morning. They were also advised and they are the ones that are responsible in looking after the owners of the barge and to make sure that they were under the right captains and procedures that they need to follow up—the licensing of the vessels and all that. So I understand that today they are with the Port Authority providing all of the information. So the Port Authority is the one that does all the investigation when it comes to that. I know the barge is still here at our end. What was on it has been discharged, but I don’t think they’ve allowed them to load anything on and move out. I understand that they are with the Port Authority right now, but again that is for the Port Authority to figure out.”
According to C.E.O. Arturo Vasquez, repairs of the damaged pier will cost north of a hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The work, he says, will be expedited in order to allow for operations to resume at the pier head.