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Dec 9, 2015

Chamber of Commerce on Impact of Ongoing Gridlock at Port

Kay Menzies

More than one hundred containers are waiting to upload and unload. The situation has dire consequences on many fronts. Exports represent thirty-seven million dollars while the imports so far for this year stand at one point five million dollars, which is a little over three percent. Eighty-five percent of what is used by the public is imported into the country. This afternoon, Kay Menzies, Past President, Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, crunched the numbers for News Five. 

 

Kay Menzies, Past President, Belize Chamber of Commerce & Industry

“Whatever occur there, the concern for us is that businesses are being very hard hit in terms of merchandise not being able to come in and goods not being able to go out. You have at least sixty-five containers on the ship sitting outside English Caye right not and forty-seven containers in Belize waiting to be loaded on that ship for export. And all of this is held up so basically the economy on that level is at a standstill right now. This is very serious because you are talking income, jobs, the ability to make sales here and abroad and all of this is brought to a halt and could have some very expensive implications for all of us. Belize is an importing nation; Belize is also very rapidly becoming an exporting nation…we need ships to arrive in Belize. Unfortunately, we are a very difficult destination as it is…shipping is limited. Let us not forget ships have cost of operations. They have to pay their sailors, they have to burn fuel; it is expensive to have a ship sitting idle for a day. So at some point, you have ships that are on schedule and so far one has opted to leave Belize without offloading because it had a schedule to keep and you have one as we speak right now that is waiting see if it makes sense to come in to offload and if it will be able to offload. If this second ship makes that decision, we are very much in peril of having other ships say you sort out your problems and we noh di come until we are sure you are working. And that makes for a very dangerous problem for us and I want to stress again that it is not just the imports, it is also the exports. The fact is that this has a wide reaching impact that goes beyond just the importer that you are seeing at the top level. But the people that we’ve spoken to are very concerned. The fact that you are financing your shipment hoping that December is going to be your source of income, your big time that will carry you pass what we call, “maga season.” So you want to make your money in December to get past January and February. You are giving jobs; sometimes you are giving extra jobs for the Christmas rush. At that point in time, if your goods aren’t arrive what’s the point of having the extra jobs. The other items that aren’t arriving, construction materials, paint productions. If you have painters standing by to paint your house, they don’t have a job all of a sudden because there are paints on board one of those vessels that haven’t arrived. There’s construction materials…there are projects waiting on some of those items. If they come to a halt, the workers don’t get paid. So the effects…it will be impossible to fully quantify the economic impact of this one measure.”

 

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, President, CWU

“The decision to strike is not mine; that has to be a collective decision. I have explained to them the implications, but let me tell you how they simply put it…for eleven years, they’ve been abused sometimes they don’t even have work. They treat them all sorts of way; they don’t even get many benefits. They are not full time employees; they are casual workers so they are prepared to make that sacrifice. It is not me saying that you must make that sacrifice; it’s not me telling them you must strike. That’s a decision that they make and the union supports them. What’s the wider implication? I want when people ask what’s the wider implication that they don’t put the onus on the stevedores because the reason we are here is because the negotiating team for Port of Belize knows to their heard if they want to be honest that they agreed to certain things in principle with us and they are going back against it.”

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