GOB In Talk With Norwegian; Causes Conservation/Cruise Sector Worries

Tonight, waves of concern continue to ripple across the Tourism Sector as the Government of Belize has engaged in talks with the Cruise Tourism giant, Norwegian Cruise Line, about a major Cruise terminal on a small island in Southern Belize.

Reliable information to 7News is that NCL has approached GOB with a proposal to build a cruise port to call in Placencia. Part of the plan is to purchase Crawl Caye, which is a few miles away from mainland Placencia, to operate marine tours. Crawl Caye is a privately owned island currently on sale on the internet for 6 million US dollars.

One of the major concerns about this development is that Crawl Caye sits inside the South Water Marine Reserve, which is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. Environmentalists have contacted our newsroom so provide us with the opinion that all the major development to accommodate this cruise port will have major environmental impacts because of the close proximity to the Barrier Reef, which the website advertisement proudly boasts of as a perk to owning the island.

Another concern is that an extensive consultation done by the BTB indicates that cruise tourism may be a detriment to the country if it is opened up to the south, particularly because it would threaten the ecotourism model currently employed in that area. Those we’ve spoken to are particularly disturbed that the proposal is even being entertained as it would be in direct contravention to the recommendations made in those reports.

Finally, members of the local tourism sector based in Belize City are particularly threatened because they believe that the possibility exists that NCL will be given rights – which they can exercise if they so choose – to route other cruise lines to the south. Those stakeholders are of the opinion that this could destabilize cruise tourism in Belize City.

Things came to a head today when news went out that government officials would be meeting with executives from Norwegian Cruise Line at the BTB office in Belize City. 7News attempted to speak with Mike Singh, CEO of the Ministry of Trade, as he was about to enter that meeting.

It was our intention to confirm our reports and to clear up any misconceptions that was presented in our information, but Singh refused to entertain any interviews on the topic. Here’s how he responded when we approached him:

Daniel Ortiz
"I was told that you have a meeting with Norwegian Cruise Line in terms of an investment."

Mike Singh, CEO of the Ministry of Trade
"With who are you?"

Daniel Ortiz
"Channel 7"

Mike Singh
"Oh Okay. Sorry I didn't recognize you. But you know what I would prefer not commenting on it because we just ended discussion with them. So i'm not in a position to give a comment, unfortunately. Thank you"

Daniel Ortiz
"Ok then Sir"

We'll keep following up on this developing story, and try to catch up with all the relevant authorities on the topic.

Channel 7

Norwegian Cruise Line going to the south?

Is there a cruise ship port of call in the works for southern Belize? Talks of a massive tourism development project, to be spearheaded by Norwegian Cruise Line, has been bubbling below the surface for the past few weeks, despite strong objection from environmentalists, as well as residents of Placencia and surrounding communities. Crawl Caye, a small, coral-rimmed, mangrove island located within the South Water Caye Marine Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been chosen as the location for a deepwater docking facility in the Stann Creek District. The development, it is reported, will also see the construction of a world class resort and casino. In 2011, a report, commissioned by the Belize Tourism Board, presented by Seatone Consulting, indicated that such endeavor to introduce mass cruise tourism should not be undertaken in the area. That report succeeded public and private consultations with tourism stakeholders on the peninsula. This morning, a team of executives from Norwegian Cruise Line, accompanied by attorney Emil Arguelles, met with B.T.B. officials to discuss and finalize the development master plan. Several issues are being raised about the environmental impact the project would have on the protected area; including the transformation of the island from a rich marine ecosystem into a sandy beach. Of equal concern is that a green light from B.T.B. would also mean that the organization is contradicting its position on cruise tourism in the south, in spite of the findings of the 2011 report. News Five attempted to get a comment from Director of Tourism Laura Esquivel-Frampton, but we have been unsuccessful.

Channel 5