Port Remains Closed, Face To Face Talks Underway

The Port of Belize was closed again today as workers remain on strike - but there is some progress between the two sides. Port of Belize representatives and the Christian Workers Union agreed to sit down and talk face to face this evening. They did so at the Biltmore Best Western dining room - which was designated as a neutral location.

Our cameras were at the Biltmore just around 4:00 this evening as we saw Godfrey Smith and Tux Vasquez enter for the Port of Belize and Mose Hyde and a number of stevedores for the CWU. The meeting started at 4:30 and was reportedly still going at news time. Right now, it is too early to tell if there were any breakthroughs.

And, the reason they were actually able to meet is that the Port of Belize made a major concession to the union. This morning the Port announced that it has withdrawn its request for the stevedores to resume work while they negotiate the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

And that same release says the Port has requested a meeting with the CWU and the Labour Department to discuss the CBA.

And while that happens in the foreground, in the background, government is weighing its options on nationalising the port. The Prime Minister floated the idea publicly at a press conference yesterday:

Jules Vasquez

"Efforts at mediation has failed, is there any contemplation on the part of the government that nationalization maybe a way to break unpassed?"

Rt. Hon Dean Barrow - Prime Minister

"Well I'll say to you sir is that has to be a consideration and I leave it there."

But, Lord Ashcroft has made a pre-emptive strike. In a dark two page letter to the Prime Minister today, Ashcroft refers to the possible nationalisation of the Port. He notes the hundreds of millions dollars paid and owing to his companies for compensation, and advises, quote, " if the Government wishes to nationalise POB for a public purpose, then the parties should sit down together and try to agree a plan for the orderly transfer and handing over of the Port to the Government." End quote.

Ashcroft's letter also warns, quote, " the nationalisation of POB would give rise to a claim under the UK-Belize Bilateral Investment Treaty….The claim is presently estimated to be in excess of US$85 million with interest accruing thereon from the date of nationalisation until full settlement of the claim." end quote.

Notably, Ashcroft also copied the thousand word letter to Patrick Faber and John Briceno - who, he implies, would inherit any decision to nationalise. We expect that the Prime Minister will respond publicly tomorrow when he hosts a press conference to Launch the Economic Recovery Strategy for Belize.

And while all this percolates, the bottom line is Belize's sovereign Port remains closed, with no imports coming in, and no exports going out. As we told you the CFS Pacora sailed out yesterday without delivering or taking anything. We are told the PACORA usually brings in all the cargo that transits through Jamaica, this includes goods from China and Europe. And, now, we have confirmed that the Hyde Shipping vessel, MV Vanquish will arrive in Belize's water at 6:00 tomorrow morning. So now, we have to wait and see if the stevedores will offload it after this evening's meetings. We'll keep following the story closely.

Channel 7