Last night to the latest episode of Uncut on Channel 7, Jules Vasquez had an extended conversation with Rodwell Ferguson, the Minister of Public Utilities, Energy, Logistics, and Transport.

The Minister took on a wide range of questions about his very weighty ministerial portfolios. But, one of the most interesting exchanges happened when Jules asked him about his opinion on the 3 mega cruise developments that have emerged as options for the future of cruise tourism in the Belize District.

As we told you, these projects are Port Coral; which is already under construction; the Port of Magical Belize, and the proposed Waterloo Project for the Port of Belize, which still needs environmental clearance.

Last night, on Uncut, Ferguson, the Minister with responsibility for all ports in Belize, shared his views on the pros and cons of each of these proposed developments. And, the discussion intensified when Jules pressed him to reveal which of the projects he thinks is most viable. As viewers are aware, the conservation community has already sounded the alarm that the Belize District cannot support all 3 and that there are major environmental concerns with at least 2 of them.

Here's the back and forth on that:

Jules Vasquez - Host
"What is your assessment of the pros and cons of the 3 proposed ports, Waterloo, Port of Magical Belize, and Stakebank?"

Hon. Rodwell Ferguson - Minister of Public Utilities, Energy, Logistics and Transport
"Well, if you notice, Stakebank is under construction. The other 2 are still in their initial stages. I visited Stakebank, and I could see where, at the end of the day, there should be a completion. When I visited the Port of Belize, they did mention about the Waterloo Project, and they're saying that we cannot maybe develop the present Port of Belize without Waterloo because it's a combination. They're saying if we're going to do 100 million dollars in investment, for argument's sake, we have to figure from both ends, how can I regain back my investment. I didn't meet with Mr. Gegg as yet from Port Magical, so I don't know exactly what is his idea of what he wants to accomplish. In the end, we have to figure how we could balance the environment and people. With the pandemic right now, especially, in Belize City, is rough because employment is rare. And so, when it goes to Cabinet, I guess 17 of us will have to decide what is the best option for the country of Belize. I will not take that responsibility now, because it's not my responsibility. It will go to Cabinet, and Cabinet passes it and says this is what we're going to do."

Jules Vasquez
"But, you should lead, Minister."

Hon. Rodwell Ferguson
"I will lead that department when I go to Cabinet, until I get all the facts behind me, and say this is the direction that we want to lead."

Jules Vasquez
"But, you're leading from behind, you should lead from the front. You should say, here, what I believe as Minister responsible. The Minister of the Blue Economy sat here and he said that he supports the Stakebank project."

Hon. Rodwell Ferguson
"Yeah, I understand that he came and he said that. I remember the incident. But, I am not the type who will come out and say right now, because I'm the minister, I will say certain things. I need to get feedback and see how others are thinking and figure what is the best way forward for the country of Belize."

The Minister was particularly guarded in his comments when he was asked about the Port of Belize, and the Waterloo proposal, which contemplates an upgrade of PBL's cargo facilities, as well as the construction of a docking facility for cruise ships. Viewers are well aware of the Ashcroft Alliance's connections with the ruling PUP. The Alliance has reportedly financed some of the party's past political campaigns.

PBL recently lost a significant portion of their business with sugar cane farmers from Corozal and Orange Walk, and the millers, Belize Sugar Industries Limited. You'll remember that majority of bulk exports for the sugar industry in northern Belize have been shifted to the Port of Big Creek. Interestingly, the Big Creek Port is located in Ferguson's constituency of Stann Creek West.

Here's what he had to say when the topic of that shift came up yesterday:

Hon. Rodwell Ferguson - Minister of Public Utilities, Energy, Logistics and Transport
"Big Creek has done their investment, regardless of what. They are the only port in this country that has done significant investments, maybe over 60 million [dollars] over the last 10 years."

Jules Vasquez
"Okay, it's also in your constituency."

Hon. Rodwell Ferguson
"Well, yes it is, but it's not because of that. In reality, they have now dredged their port that it can now go up to 11 meters. So two ships can come in at a time, and offload, and go again."

Jules Vasquez
"So, you think Big Creek is ahead of the game."

Hon. Rodwell Ferguson
"Ahead of the ballgame by far. So, when ASR/BSI encountered difficulty at the Port of Belize, which has been there for many years, and the stevedores are a bit archaic. They realized you know what, I do a trial run to Big Creek, what will it cost me to take my shipment to the Big Creek. And when they did that trial run, they had a savings of 4 million dollars. That is a saving for the company and the cane farmer. You know that the cane farmer shares 65% of the cost, and so, they're looking at it a business perspective. That's the reason why they decided to go there."

Jules Vasquez
"But, it also fits perfectly with your worldview because it's in your constituency. Also, I would imagine, the good gentlemen who own the Big Creek port are some of your good supporters and financiers. Ain't nothing wrong with that."

Hon. Rodwell Ferguson
"I never support it in that perspective. I visited the Port of Belize about 3 weeks ago, and I saw the way how the sugar is being offloaded. It takes 16 days for a ship to be offloaded. I understand the plight of the stevedores because they want to make money. But, I put the blame squarely on the Port of Belize for nothing any improvements since they went into receivership. That's the issue, and if they would have realized, that one of the days, ASR/BSI would have gone away, maybe they would have done the investment. Now, they want to tie in the investment with Waterloo, to say that if I do x,y, and z, then I will be able to make back my returns much earlier."

Jules Vasquez
"And your feeling on that?"

Hon. Rodwell Ferguson
"Yeah, my feeling is that I am still going to wait out. I haven't come up with a decision yet in my mind, on what will be the best..."

Jules Vasquez
"I almost got to you make a commitment on it."

Channel 7