They may not own the Port of Belize but the Port Authority has plenty
of work to do. It has to regulate Belize’s vast seas. And there are issues…from
unlicensed vessels to racing water taxis. As I found out today, two important
initiatives in those areas are being planned.
Jacqueline Godwin Reporting,
Lucky for the passengers onboard these two boats the vessels did not collide.
And while there was no accident the Belize Port Authority is putting the brakes
on what has now become a daily occurrence.
John Flowers, Deputy Ports Commissioner
“We have had numerous complaints coming into the Port Authority about
the boats racing out there and overloading situation and that type of thing
and so it is relatively unsafe for the average passenger to move back and forward
and the Port Authority being the lead agency in terms of boating safety in Belize
felt that it is important for us to get involved.”
Deputy Ports Commissioner John Flowers says the fierce competition involving
the water taxis that travel between Belize City and San Pedro has now forced
them to try and regularize the runs so passengers can arrive safely at their destination. The scheduled runs by the two main water taxis show the boats departing
and arriving at the same time.
“We have looked at the local schedule for these boats, namely Caye
Caulker Water Taxi and the San Pedro Express. Having looked at both of those,
we went in a bit further and set up a matrix where we actually put the schedule
for these boats together and as a result of that there are numerous areas where
we have serious conflict in terms of time and arriving at the same destination.
And so obviously there is a problem because the limited passengers that they
are fighting for will cause a problem out there.
Our intent is to separate these vessels by timings; probably a 15, 20 minutes
to half an hour time between. We intend to do that in harmony with the boat
owners to ensure that we don’t have too much disruption in the regular
flow. But quite clearly we cannot continue to have both vessels from different
companies arriving at the same location at the same location at the same time
and fighting for the same passengers. And so we have two options that we could
use, we would prefer to use the first one which is to sit down and dialogue
where we look at changing the timings for these vessels to depart Belize City
and San Pedro and arriving in Caye Caulker at different times and then leave.”
And while the Belize Port Authority is working with the water taxis to make
your next ride a safe one, boat racing is not the only problem at sea. Quite
a large number of boat captains and masters are operating vessels without a
“We have a little under four thousand vessels registered with us.
We believe that figure is much higher than that and so that additionally that
will be looked at, those people who are operating outside the area. Even from
the 4,000 plus that we have registered on our books, there is 1,090 of those
people who have not come forward to renew their license. So we are working with
them to try and get these people to come in and do that.
And so the board in its wisdom decided that we are going to run a amnesty
program for 90 days. This will give these people a chance to come in and pretty
much in the amnesty program, we are giving a waiver on written and the practical
exam, you need certain criteria to qualify for it and it is simply to get a
letter from a notarized public or JP to say that you’ve been driving a
boat for ten plus years, you’re over 30 years old, and you’re a
Belizean. You bring that document in with a passport sized picture and the money
and come and get a A-Class license.”
Earlier this afternoon a meeting was scheduled between the Belize Ports
Authority and the water taxis that serve between Belize City and San Pedro to
try and regularize the runs. According to Deputy Ports Commissioner John Flowers,
he is optimistic that something amicable can be worked out between the parties
involved and as soon as an agreement is reached it will take effect.