today from the Chamber of Commerce....
Tom Vidrine reported that boat regulations are being reviewed by Port Authority for possible changes. The US Embassy is also researching the situation. The "foreigners" who are upset over this (justifiably so) need to relax and be a little patient. Our country and our new government need a little time to become aware of and correct these problems.
Here are the present issues:
1) Captain's License - Port Authority is still refusing to allow "foreigners" to be able to apply. Only Belizean citizens, Residents, Retirement Residents, and those with a Work Permit are permitted. The "test" is in two parts. On Mondays, the written test is given. On Tuesdays, the practical test is given.
Our position is that Captain Licenses should be required for only commercial vessels, like other countries. And that if Belize really wants to require licenses for private boats, then acquiring a private boat captain license should be made fairly simple, inexpensive, and open to all applicants. Then this should be only for boats of a certain length and engine size. It is ridiculous to require the driver of a dingy, small skiff, jet ski, wind surfer, a sailboard, or small sailboat to be licensed.
This Captain's License requires all applicants from all over our country to travel to Belize City and spend two days, one day to take the test, and one day to do the practical. The time and expense of this trip to anyone, and especially Belizeans, is not reasonable. If this is to be required, the Port Authority has a responsibility to make it available throughout the county and not burden its citizens.
2) Boat Registration - Presently the Port Authority is refusing to "register" a boat owned by a foreigner. They will issue a 3 month "permit" for $250 to allow it to stay in Belize. EVEN if it is Belizean-made and previously registered! They will allow you to buy a year for $1,000.
Our position is that we like the idea of ALL boats being registered, but that any boat that meets the safety and ownership qualifications should be allowed to be registered. Any boat "Made in Belize" or had a permit to import & paid duty should automatically be registered here. This is an outrageous prejudicial policy that will hurt our economy by chasing away the many foreigners that own property and invest here. This also hurts boat building and sales, boat mechanics, marine supply companies, not to mention anyone that wants to sell property.
Besides this creates a situation where all of these boats have gotten a "permit to import" and paid duty. These boats have a right to become Belizean registered. If they are not allowed to be registered as Belizean, then there is a question of refunding the duty and taxes if they are classified as "visiting foreign boats". Just like cars, once proper import duty and taxes are paid, then the vehicle becomes "Belizean" regardless of who owns it.
We also believe that Boat Registration should be allowed for 3 years. At least until such a time that the Port Authority has the staff and locations to provide timely registration on location.
3) Change of Ownership - Presently Port Authority has a $50 charge to change ownership of a boat. The catch is that both the buyer and the owner have to be present in Belize City. If they are not BOTH present, the Port Authority requires an affidavit by a notary, and indemnification by the purchaser. Then the Port Authority charges you $250 to make the transfer.
Our position is that requiring both the buyer and the seller to be present is silly. A Notary Public is the Belize-authorized official to witness and qualify signatures. They are responsible and LIABLE if they act inappropriately. This is an insult to their position and authority. A Notary's seal and signature legally qualifies for ANY contract, and just because the seller or buyer is not present, there is no valid reason for the Port Authority to require an increased fee of $250. Neither should have to be present, just as they are not present at the Lands Dept when they transfer ownership of land.