Municipal Pier remains open

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 14, No. 25            July 22, 2004

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Caribbean Queen barge unloads at San Pedro Marina

Last week, the saga continued into the controversy regarding barge owners using the San Pedro Municipal Pier. After several attempts to convince local businesses to move their barges to the new San Pedro Marina failed, as a last resort, the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) officially closed the municipal pier on July 15th, 2004.

    The decision to build a new marina came as a result of numerous concerns regarding safety and noise pollution from the municipal pier. An initial consultation between the previous Town Council administration and the community was held October 2nd, 2001, which started the ball rolling. However, it was not until March of 2003 that an announcement was made by Mayor Elsa Paz and the SPTC that the Marina was to be completed in June of that year.

    At the official inauguration of the Marina on October 31st, 2003, it was announced that proper lighting was still needed to complete the project (scheduled to be finished by November 2003).

    Since that time, the barge owners have refused to use the Marina. At a meeting held in March of this year between themselves, representatives of local government and Belize Ports Authority, barge owners expressed that they had no desire to move until their concerns regarding the channel at the new Marina were addressed.

    Since the municipal pier continues to be "an eyesore" in San Pedro Town, the SPTC was forced to find a solution to the problem. According to San Pedro Town Administrator Patricia Verde, on May 31st, 2004, the Town Council issued letters to all barge owners requesting them to move their barges to the SP Marina by June 15th. However, due to the Dia de San Pedro festivities, this deadline was extended. On Thursday, July 15th, 2004, barge owners received a final notice to vacate the premises, immediately. At that point, the street leading to the pier was closed.

    That same day, the Caribbean Queen freight service company made an attempt to pass through the channel at the San Pedro Marina. Although they experienced some difficulty, they did manage to unload their cargo. In an interview with Ellis Eiley of the Caribbean Queen, he told The San Pedro Sun that the channel was shallow and that some rocky patches were witnessed that could damage barges trying to enter the marina. Other areas of concern he mentioned were: 1) that the buoys at the entrance of the Marina were not properly placed, 2) that the Marina was not properly lit for use after dark, and 3) that the channel entrance was still too narrow, making it impossible for a skiff to pass at the same time a barge is entering.

    Reportedly, the channel that was dredged to facilitate the entrance and storage of barges and other large boats, was designed to be 200 feet long, 100 feet wide, 11-25 feet deep and 5,200 feet from the entrance to the pier. As a result of the complaints posed by the barge owners, Deputy Harbor Master Victor Castillo paid a visit to the Marina on July 16th before meeting with Area Representative Manuel Heredia Jr. The aforementioned concerns were then reported to Ports Authority Commissioner Major Lloyd Jones but as of press time on Tuesday, The San Pedro Sun had not received a response to inquiries at the Ports Commissioner's office.

    On July 19th, Krystal Shipping freight service attempted to use the Marina as well and experienced difficulty when their barge hit rocks in an area of the channel, which resulted in a hole at the bottom of their barge.

    Letters of complaint from both Krystal Shipping and the Caribbean Queen were sent to the San Pedro Town Council, the Ministry of Finance, and the Belize Port Authority. According to Area Representative Manuel Heredia Jr., these will be taken into serious consideration before any attempts are made to use the SP Marina again.

    The San Pedro Town Council expressed their appreciation to barge owners for making this effort to use the marina. They stated that, for the time being, the San Pedro Municipal Pier would remain open.
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