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Jan 6, 2011

Tenders; two sides of the cruise tourism debate

The situation remains fluid for tender operators in cruise tourism. Late last week, two catamarans owned by a US company landed at the Blue Creek Port as part of a new deal to take over the tendering process. The tender operators have invested heavily in the business and were clearly taken by surprise at what they saw as a move to put them out of business.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano has been following this story.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Tender operators responsible for ferrying cruise ship passengers to the harbor at the Fort Street Tourism Village are up in arms over a new policy which requires local vessels to have a carrying size of no less than a hundred and fifty passengers.  The change is unsolicited as small operators believe that it is being implemented to undermine their investments in the tendering aspect of cruise tourism in Belize.

In reading an excerpt from a letter written by Domenico Trigale, Carnival’s Vice President of Port Operations, Prime Minister Barrow summarized that the new measures will bring increased business to vendors and tour operators onshore.

Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow


“Our guests will now be transported in tenders with a minimum capacity of a hundred and fifty persons.  This will allow us to bring greater numbers ashore in a shorter period of time as well as in a safer and more comfortable manner.  In the past our guests have felt uncomfortable and unsafe in the smaller tenders and have not enjoyed getting wet during the crossing. This new arrangement will bring the locals more work than they have had before.  All in all, we anticipate moving guests in greater comfort and shorter transit times encouraging multiple visitors ashore.  We are confident this will result in more business to local shops, restaurants and land tour operators.

According to Jason Marin their perception is that the boats currently being used are no longer fit to transport tourists from ships docked off the coast of Belize City.

Jason Marin

Jason Marin, Tender Owner, Triple J Tours

“What we understand is that theyre saying that our locally built boats are not suitable or not suitable, theyre not up to standard but when you look at the boats that they are bringing in, they brought in two tenders [on] Sunday I understand they came into the country at Big Creek.  We got some pictures of them [and] theyre a piece of junk.  Theyre some old tenders, I understand, that have been sitting down somewhere in Hawaii for the last five years that was owned by Norwegian, the group of companies and they are putting those now over our locally built tenders and saying that we are not good enough when we know what our tenders are capable of doing.  Every time theres a jam and stuff we are the ones that always produce, never had an accident, its very, very minimal that youd hear [of ] someone getting hurt and if someone would be getting hurt it would probably be a deckhand hurting his hand or minor little thing.  Nothing to say a tourist or a passenger.”

P.M. Barrow attested during his appearance in the media today that those affected will primarily be small boat owners.

Dean Barrow

“It is obvious that the smallest, the smallest of the tender operators will face some difficulties because theyre saying that while Tino Castillos new tenders will not do all of the business.  Ive heard that its two tenders that can, with a carrying capacity of two [hundred] fifty [passengers].  Thats still not going to take care of all the business so they insist that more business will be given to other tender operators whom Tino Castillo will subcontract.  But they dont want the smallest tenders, they want tenders that have a carrying capacity of not less than a hundred and fifty.”

Although it remains unclear what will happen in the days to come tender operators are already preparing for the worst.

Myron Marin, Tender Owner, Three Star Tours (File: January 4th, 2011)

Myron Marin

Myron Marin


“Come Thursday, you know, on my part as Three Star Tours we have up to thirty employees, you know.  How can I tell these guys that come Thursday now, you know, thats it.  We want answers and thats why we have gathered today to just simply get answers on whats the situation.  What can government do to assist us as the people that have worked so hard noh to create this business and now it is basically being stripped away from us without any idea of whats happening.”

While Marin and his colleagues are turning to government for a solution the prime minister also made it clear that it cannot hinder development within the industry.

Dean Barrow

“I dont know that we can stop progress.  That is not the business of the government to stop progress.  Try to make progress as consistent as possible with compassion but dont stop progress.   You cant.”

Tender owner David Almendarez says the new requirements and safety standards are designed to benefit a select few who are well connected in the industry but it will ultimately affect the livelihoods of small operators.

David Almendarez

David Almendarez, Tender Owner

“It’s a get rich [quick] scheme for a few people but what these few people fail to realize is the amount of people’s lives they’re putting in [jeopardy].  How much people are going to lose their jobs?  It might look simple but like this right here you have people taking home on a very good cruise ship day, regular workers, five hundred dollars, three hundred dollars.  In this economy that’s welcome money.”

Both tenders remain in Big Creek and it is not certain whether they will be cleared for operations as of Thursday.

Dean Barrow

“The Port Authority has to license these new tenders and so government is looking at the situation and wants to be sure that in fact we do whatever is possible to protect small tender operators.”

Boat owners met with tourism minister Manuel Heredia and BTB representatives this afternoon to further discuss the matter. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

This afternoon, the Belize Shipping Agents Association issued its position. The Association says it is in solidarity with Belizean tender operators and owners in their rejection to the apparent high jacking of the tender business by a foreign interest.  The release says: “The Belizean tender operators have successfully managed and executed their responsibilities as tender owners to the cruise ship industry for the past fifteen years. Throughout this period we have maintained an exemplary safety record, as there have been no major incidents or medical mishaps to cruise ship passengers during the tendering process. We see no need for the attempt by any foreign entity to establish a monopoly in the tendering process.”

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4 Responses for “Tenders; two sides of the cruise tourism debate”

  1. rootsman says:

    Mr. PM you are speaking crap about not being able to stop progress, where is the progress you are talking about and whose progress are you talking about the progress of the Belizean people or the progress of you and your cabinet ministers, if these small tenders have been successfully carrying out their business serving the cruise tourism industry for over 15 years why is it all of a sudden they are no longer adequate enough to do this business, these operators should have at least been given advance notice that they will need to acquire larger vessels for this operation and you as a leader acting in their interest, should have done all that is possible to assist them in meeting these ends even if it means assisting in the financing of the larger vessels the same way you came to the rescue of the sugar industry and the same way you so aggressively took over BTL. It is obvious that there is a hidden agenda on your part we are not expecting you to accomplish anything in your talks with the cruise operators in Miami, it is all just a sham at the cost of the Belizean tax payers who have hired you to do a job that you are failing so miserably at.

  2. BZNinCALI says:

    I will repeat what I wrote before, politicians, industrialists & the people who control the flow of money, hide behind not standing in the way of progress whenever they want to exploit any country or industry or both. Look in the archives, one of our elected officials was at the Cruise Industry convention in Florida last year & when he returned just before the Bakabush blow up, he was critical of what these guys were doing by not participating but offered no suggestions on how they could pull together to afford the overpriced booths & adequate personnel to promote their products.

    I still believe that a representative from Mr. Marin’s industry should be present at this weekend’s meeting, even if it is as an observer so that they are not getting second hand information.

  3. Alf says:

    i agree with u rootsman….keep up the good commenting

  4. The People Had Enough says:

    Belizeans honestly think Barrow gives a flying crap about them? Seriously? Belize has been and is being bought and sold so many times over it is not even funny. Also, when will we get it that the Cruise Industry operates like this all over the damn world and why would they change how they operate for little ol Belize? Their business model works and works well and they will not change that for any country or anyone. BTW, PM only going to the states as a publicity stunt, he probably gonna end up in some nice hotel eating steak and sipping a 1000 bottle of wine.

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