GOB Says No To Crawl Caye For weeks, 7News has been following the story where Cruise Tourism Giant, Norwegian Cruise Line wanted to access Southern Belize.
Their plan was to build a port to call on Crawl Caye, in which the company would be able to access Placencia. But as we’ve reported, the local private cruise interests, members of the conservation community, and BTIA are staunchly against it.
As we showed you 2 days ago, Forestry Department, the Fisheries Department, and the Department of Environment all made presentations at a secondary meeting as to the viability of the project based on the environmental concerns.
There were talks coming out of that meeting that this was the weigh which steered Cabinet against it, and today finally, we got confirmation.
So, Crawl Caye is a no-go, for this project; that’s what the Prime Minister and Minister Godwin Hulse, the chair of the subcommittee, told us today.
And because of the nature of negotiations, there were many unanswered questions about the proposal which GOB didn’t want to address until after it was fully heard.
They also tackled those tough questions.
Hon. Godwin Hulse - Minister of Labour
"As I said the last time we spoke that the committee would meet and we did meet. There was a presentation by our technical side in response to the upgraded presentation made by NCL, they concluded that even that presentation was outside the parameters required to give the green light for a development for Crawl Caye. So Crawl Caye is off the table and we've informed NCL accordingly. That does not mean that we are not continuing to dialogue with the people, we must understand that this is a huge investment. NCL is a reputable company, it's a world-class cruise company and any investment proposal to our country that could enhance jobs, enhance growth and create a better way for people - we can't just simple 'shush' away. So we have informed them of that, they have not completely withdrawn, we are continuing to talk and we will see where we go from there."
"So what is their position now that you've give that response that Craw Caye is a 'no-go'?"
Hon. Godwin Hulse
"Well they will continue to look and see what is possible but our view is that in any of these situations we should work with our people and work together. It's not a question that Belize is in a position to say to any investor 'ok bye bye that doesn't work' - we have to sit down with them and formulate what possibly could be a win-win situation. There's a lot of talk in the South about Cruise Tourism but there is no denial of cruise tourism so let's find something that works."
"So the government will still continue to consider cruise tourism in Southern Belize?"
Hon. Godwin Hulse
"Well there's a master plan that says so. The dialogue is the size, the carrying capacity of the various sites, etc. But nobody can deny that in fact that if a boat of people landed in Punta Gorda to buy stuff, or in Hopkins or in Maya Center or in any of these Coastal Villages that could spurn small businesses, that could start to move things with taxi men, small busses - that it would be a good thing."
Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister of Belize
"NCL I believe is interested in looking at other possibilities in the South of Belize so I stress that we've not said a blanket 'No' to any potential development for Cruise Tourism in the South at all but certainly it cannot - in terms of all the constraints, in terms of all the considerations articulated to us by the technical people - it cannot, will not work on Crawl Caye."
"How do you counter to the criticism that Government seems to be reversing it's position in relation to Cruise Tourism in the South where two or three consultations have said that it is not beneficial to Belize."
Hon. Godwin Hulse
"I don't think any consultation said that is not beneficial for Belize. I think what the consultation said was to look at the size, look at the carrying capacity, capacity to deal with it so that it doesn't destroy the very things we have. It's not possible. So we continue to talk to people and talk to people. I am a solutions person, I am not a problem person - I don't turn away anything. I like to trumpet the whole ASR position when they were potential investors, there was a human cry from cane industry that it was going to do this and that - so many negatives and look at the results on the first crop."
"What in relation to the private interests in Belize City for Cruise tourism and the environmental community who believe that Southern Belize cruise tourism should not be opened - what's the government's position on that?"
Hon. Dean Barrow
"Well that's the point that I just made. We do not accept that there can be any blanket prohibition on the development on cruise tourism on Southern Belize. I said last time that even with respect to Crawl Caye - the tour guide community in Placencia is strongly in support and we believe that you can find any number of players in the Tourism Industry that would support some kind of cruise project in Southern Belize. So we will not say that the decision is a blanket prohibition - we will look at any proposals on a case by case basis. I don't know how there was ever a thought that if a project takes place in the South that it would divert traffic from Belize City."
"That was a concern, sir."
Hon. Dean Barrow
"That cannot be a concern because we made clear to NCL even at the start of the discussion that if the project were ever to see the light of day - there site would be limited to hosting calls only from ships from NCL - no other line would be able to go there so there was never any question of a conflict between the interests of the Belize City people and the people in the south."
7News contacted NCL’s Vice President of Destination & Strategic Development, Colin Murphy, for an interview today. Unfortunately, he was already on his flight out of the country, and he promised to avail himself at the next opportunity when he is in Belize.
He did speak to the Amandala Newspaper earlier this week in which he addressed the reason for their interests, and the environmental concerns.
He said quote,
“…the 30% of the passengers who come off the ship have a great time, but the other 70% don’t have a good time.” End Quote
And in relation to the environmental concerns, he told the Amandala, quote, “Does it make any sense for us to bring passengers to an area – and we are doing that because the area is beautiful – does it make any sense at all for us to bring passengers there and then destroy it?” End Quote.
Murphy also said that his company has ships and the expertise to operate in environmentally sensitive areas.
Cabinet Denies Norwegian Cruise Line’s Proposal due to Environmental Impact; Accepts request to Search for Alternate Site