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Oct 26, 2004

Carnival negotiations seek compromise

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Meetings surrounding the controversial Carnival contract continued this week as key players met in Belize City to navigate a way forward in negotiations. News 5 understands that on Monday, Minister of Tourism Mark Espat and Chairman of the Belize Tourism Board, Therese Rath, met with representatives of the Carnival Cruise Line, namely Giora Israel, Vice President of Strategic Planning and their man on the ground here in Belize, Francesco Morello. Also at the meeting was Luke Espat of Belize Ports Limited and his financial backers, Phillip Obsbourne and Phillip Johnson of the Belize Bank. While exact details of the meeting have not been publicized, reports out of Belmopan indicate that significant progress was made towards an understanding of Government’s position as Carnival made ‘a lot of movement’ towards a compromise. We understand that a list of draft points has been agreed to which will now be reduced to writing and finalized by the end of the week for final approval by both sides. But while this new agreement is supposed to get the Government out of hot water over the cruise port contract, the legal eagles are still trying to come up with language to characterise the document. Essentially, it will be a contract within a contract, but word is that Carnival has maintained its objections to calling the agreement an amendment, deed or anything close to those references, preferring the more vague term: “Memorandum of Understanding”. That M.O.U. is to lay out the strategy for “clarifying” some issues presently contained in the contract, including exemption of Carnival from the Belize Cruise Ship Policy, especially clauses speaking to the number of cruise passengers which may visit Belize on a daily basis, licensing fees and the use of Belizean labour by the company. Prime Minister Said Musa signed the contract with Carnival on the twenty-third of April of this year. In September, Tourism Minister Mark Espat asked cabinet to review the document and renegotiate with the cruise line. Official groundbreaking ceremonies for the fifty million U.S. dollar project were held on April twenty-ninth in Port Loyola. Actual construction appears to be waiting on the outcome of this week’s talks.

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