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Jan 7, 2011

P.M. flies to Miami to quell unrest in Cruise Tourism Industry

Three cruise ships called on port today: Carnival’s Valor and Legend and Aida Luna, a German outfit. Several thousand visitors were transported to shore and back to the cruise lines by the local boat tenders. Business was brisk, but how long will it last? That’s what a top heavy delegation will find out in the next few days in Miami, Florida, where they will have the ears of executives of Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines. The Prime Minister along with the Minister of Tourism and other members of the Belize Tourism Board, traveled to Miami to attempt to stave off a new policy by the cruise lines that is threatening the livelihood of hundreds who were taken aback by the surprise move. News Five’s Isani Cayetano was at the PGIA when the delegation left but earlier he boarded a tender to get a firsthand experience of the process.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

It was business as usual this morning for some twenty odd tenders that made the five mile journey to and from three mega ships moored east of Belize City.  Boat captain Danny Weir and his two deckhands Reymundo and Eric are among a hundred and twenty employees who are subcontracted to ferry cruise tourists onto the harbor at the Fort Street Tourism Village.  It is no different from previous days when they’ve had to report to work at the Caye Caulker Water Taxi Terminal.  From the base of the Swing Bridge the crew launches Ocean Runner, a fifty-five foot boat that is being used for tender operations.  For the team however, today’s run means extra money in their pockets.

Eric Guevara

Eric Guevara, Deckhand, Caye Caulker Water Taxi

“I used to work as a tender before, that was the full [time] job I use to have, you know, but now thank God I work in Caye Caulker Water Taxi so I have a salary now.  But before, you know, when I used to work in tendering as a daily pay it was really, really tough, you know, because you get pay depending on how much days you work.”

That difficulty forced Guevara to find a permanent job shuttling passengers to Caye Caulker and San Pedro but unlike him the livelihoods of his peers remain uncertain.  A new policy that was recently implemented by Carnival Cruise Line threatens to leave them jobless if their employers fail to meet specific standards.  For that reason a delegation of tourism officials including the prime minister flew to Miami to negotiate an extension for tender owners to meet the new requirements.  According to P.M. Barrow the cruise lines had notified EuroCaribe Shipping Services of those changes prior to being put into effect.

Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow

“That main provider was told some time ago that these are the changes that Carnival wishes to make and it is my understanding that Carnival felt that that main provider would in turn inform the subcontractors.  Now that wasn’t done.  Whether it is the case that the notification was given to the main provider I can’t really say so this is one of the difficulties that we’re confronting, that we’re not sure if there’s a need not to apportion blame but to say to the cruise lines as reasonable people you cannot expect the Government and Belizeans to accept an abrupt change in policy.”

To understand how the adjustments will affect those in the tendering business I joined the crew on a trip where we picked up a group of tourists from Aida Luna, a German cruise ship that made a port of call to Belize.  What stood out immediately was the expertise with which deckhands docked their vessels near the anchored liner.

Eric Guevara

“It’s kind of, you know, hard and dangerous sometimes depends on the sea and depends on the weather you know.  Like today is a very beautiful day so it’s very calm, easy you know.  You just go out there, today you just go [and] hand them the rope or sometimes you just give them the rope, tie in the cleat you know and you just tie bumpers and just make sure that the boat is secure then your passengers can come in.  We stand by the entrance of the boat and help the passengers, you know, so that they don’t drop especially when it’s rough it’s very dangerous.  A few people have gotten hurt.”

While it is a dangerous undertaking its payout on a good day can net tender operators a few hundred dollars each.  The bigger picture nonetheless is for stakeholders to be able to make good on their investments.  A single catamaran is said to be worth a little over half a million dollars.

Dean Barrow

“The boat owners obviously have loans to service, debts to repay.  The employees have mouths to feed.  It seems to me that it really is a matter of national importance and so in that context, particularly because you’re talking about citizens, families, livelihoods we need to signal to the cruise lines that as a country we take this possible crisis very seriously.”

There are concerns in the industry that a contract to tender exclusively for Carnival and Royal Caribbean is being sought by a foreign entity.  Reymundo Heredia, himself a former tender, says it would be unfair to allow an outsider to compete in the business.

Reymundo Heredia

Reymundo Heredia, Deckhand, Caye Caulker Water Taxi

“I noh think ih fair fu mek dehn bring een wah foreigner fu mek dehn come tek ova fu we job noh.  Like if wah otha dog di come tek weh wah next dog bone and we cyant allow that fu happen mein cause we need fu eat too, noh only dehn one weh just wahn come een and tek ova fu we business.”

Despite the many concerns that have been raised over the past few days Prime Minister Barrow says he will do everything in the best interest of tender owners.

Dean Barrow

“If I have to beg I will beg.  If I have to cuss and kick and threaten I will do that.  I don’t know how much leverage I have. Clearly this is a complex situation.  These people are saying look we’re bringing bigger ships with more passengers.  We need therefore to be able to offload more passengers.  We all know the time constraints, it’s a what six hour window or whatever the case is, a very, very short window in any event.”

That limited timeframe nevertheless has proven sufficient for local tenders to make the excursion to all three ships anchored off the coast in a matter of minutes as opposed to the larger cats, Guevara says.

Eric Guevara

“I like the boats because they are faster, [more] comfortable you understand me and those big catamarans takes about fifty minutes, seventy minutes.  Meanwhile these ones would take like eight, nine minutes only so most of the tourists I would say, you know, like speed, like small boats because they take less time to get to shore.”

But while tourists have expressed their satisfaction with the service change in the tendering sector seems inevitable.  In addition to the new policies local tenders are also required to be insured for two million U.S. dollars. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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18 Responses for “P.M. flies to Miami to quell unrest in Cruise Tourism Industry”

  1. rootsman says:

    PM while you are in Miami can you look into the possibility of leasing two cats with capacities of about 200 passengers and bring them back with you so we can put an end to this whole mess you can then get your law firm to draw up a contract and sublease to the Belizeans you might even be able to make a few dollars out of the deal if you choose not to do it as a favor. Heck I have seen some pretty good sized catamarans by old Belize nice ones too; you might be able to even get them locally.

  2. BZNinCALI says:

    If they are generating enough business to cover the cost of that amount of insurance, then it is not too much to ask.

    I hope at some point we get the real story because the smoke & mirrors is making too many people out to be liars at best. Yesterday, the story was that a Belizean, Tino Castillo was given the contract, the day before that, the story was that none of the Belizean boats met the minimum standard & that was the reason for bringing in a foreign company, today we are being told that they informed the contractor they were working with of their new standards & he/she was supposed to inform his subcontractors. I hear greed, I hear corruption & we need to know who really owns the new “old” boats that meet the new standards & if these owners were not working as subcontractors before, who led Carnival & the others to believe that they could do what they wanted by simply claiming they have a deal with a Belizean tender whom they are prepared to throw under the bus as they run over the rest of his colleagues. If they cannot work with us, let them take their business elsewhere.

  3. Carl Ross says:

    My question is: What happened to the cruise terminal that was supposed to be completed long ago!!! I just returned from a cruise with Belize as one of the ports of call. Due to the large number of ships in anchor, it took us 2-3 hours to be tendered to Belize city, from the time we were ready to exit our ship. We went cave-tubing, which was fantastic, but due to the tendering time and terrible condition of the road to the cave-tubing site, we had no time to spend in Belize city or the tourism village. We had to rush back to the ship.

    Cozumel was completely different. We casually walked off the ship at our leisure, and spent lots of time and money in the town, which was spotlessly clean, and we felt totally safe.

    Carnival’s decision, no doubt, has to do with liability. Their lawyers and insurance reps have probably told them that they need more control over the tenders. We thought the tender operators were polite and professional and absolutely knew what they were doing, but there were no safety demonstrations, and it was not clear where life jackets were located, or whether there were sufficient PFDs for all passengers on the tender. A capsized tender might be a massive liability problem for the cruise line, which is likley the reason why they are resorting to this measure. It’s a shame.

  4. rod says:

    did i hear right this pm says he is going to beg for the people the same man who said he is not oliver twist he is oliver barrow and he begs no one now all of a sudden he wants you to believe that he is on your side this guy never seems to end with his lies.

  5. diddy says:

    The Prime Minister needs to reserve comment before knowing the full set of facts. He is insighting and passing blame before knowing much at all. It sounds like this is corruption at a high level. What would the tender operator gain from not informing the sub-contractors. From what it looks like they were thrown under the bus as well because they no longer control the operation and are now at the will of the new foreign company. Barrow needs to think before he talks. This can turn to bloodshed and by him insighting emotions innocent people could be harmed!!!!!!

  6. ceo says:

    This should never happen. They should not be allowed to come to Belize and dictate how business will be done. This is just another case of american arrogance. The PM should go to them to tell them how it will be handled not to negotiate. There was a time when no cruise ships came to Belize and we lived.

    Cruse ships and airplanes do not do much for our country anyway. he jobs they provide are “hand to mouth” jobs as we say down there. The profits are sucked out of the economy and we are left with the crumbs, now they want to take the crumbs too.

    Why don’t we have our own national airlines and fly tourists in and forget the dam cruise ships. More of the money will stay in our economy.

    I have seen that my Belizean people have learn to be more service oriented.

  7. Elgin Martinez says:

    These people are operating in Belize.Why do you PM Barrow need to go to Miami to resolve this issue?Use skype or do a video conference,stop wasting tax-payers money.This man spends more time in Miami than in Belize.He’s acting more like a tourist and not a Prime minister.

  8. EL CHE says:

    Rootsman,good mesage,hope those criminals with a law degree in the pup and udp mafia could read it.we can bet that the poor vendors will loose,they are like david fighitng goliat.bottom line is that the belize government(pup or udp)dont care about if belizeans have a job or not,if they have food to feed thier children,so we have seen in the history of belize.

  9. OW Resident says:

    this is what happens when one elects a bunch of idiots to the house. I cant understand why the pm has to be doing th work for the tourism, why he had to do it for agriculture, why why why. why can’t the other ministers do what they are being paid to do. You have the Pm jumping all over hoops in all sectors. PM does a good job in sorting issues but his cabinet need to pull thier wieght.

  10. Robert2 says:

    If you travel outside of Belize you will find there are international standards (not just American) for comfort, safety and protection of travelers whether by sea, air or land. QUICK RESOLVE: Belizean goverment, invest the money that you take in from your people and other sources and invest in your local companies (e.g. Tenders) to make them the among the best the world has to offer. Outsiders would have little negotiating power against such progress.

  11. louisville,ky says:

    It seems to me that to some individuals on this blog, it doesn’t matter what the PM does, he is always wrong. Why is that? Is it because you are allowing petty politics to fog your brains? If he did not speak to this tourism matter he would be accused of being callous and incompetent, now that he has, he is being labeled as a liar and waster of tax payer’s money. Mein…… the man is damned if he do and damned if he don’t. What is disquieting is that while you get your drawers in bunches playing sissy politics, the foreigners are consoliditing their hold on everything Belizean. So keep it up as you continue to ignore the real issues and be downgraded from second to third class citizens.

  12. Mr. B says:

    Wake up PLACENCIA! Better work hard and together to put an end to Royal Caribbean or else you will be the next fiasco!

  13. Elgin Martinez says:

    louisville,ky: Mr Barrow is wasting tax-payers money.furthermore why is he negotiating with the owners of these Cruise Lines isn’t he the PM of this country?No Belizean can go to any country and dictate to them.So why are we allowing it?This is the reason why everyone go to our country and think that they can do as they please.Stop been weak Mr Barrow.Get some Cohones.

  14. Earl Grey says:



  15. ap says:

    Elgin, BARROW haftu negotiate with Carnival because dah PUP SIGN DIH CONTRACT WITH DEH MONSTAS. Yuh wouldah tink dih man wouldah know bettah den fuh wah continue dealings with deh pipple. Now ih wah staat one dah placencia. lone rubbish, man.

  16. BZNinCALI says:

    @ Carl Ross, thanks for bringing their failure to demonstrate their safety procedures to our attention, that’s something they need to work on. I have been on boats in Belize & in all fairness, the ones I rode including the one piloted by the drunk who shut off his boat on the way to Caye Caulker, all had life vests for their passengers & crew & they showed us where they were. Maybe maintaining a deep water port is more difficult because of the reef, we are a low lying country, we cannot destroy our reef, marine life & coastline to accommodate cruise ships.

    Bad roads are common in most places where it rains a lot & the flaws more obvious in developing countries, after one month of higher than average rainfall in California, many of our roads are littered with pot holes.

    OW Resident, you hit the nail on the head, he should be able to delegate work & know that his people will do their jobs effectively & some of them are coming up short.

  17. Nayo Leonardo Forgarite says:

    The four dummies go to Miami. Heredia what a joke and Barrow well he cant Skype because HE IS BLOCKING SKYPE with his BTL. The other two from BTB are just there to visit the next bar. Take away the tourism Village like you did BTL if the cruise industry is stubborn.

  18. louisville,ky says:

    Elgin, old people used to say: “when yuh gat yuh han eena tigah mout yuh haffu tek it out slowely”.
    There is a new world order in effect these days called globalization and whether or not we are willing to accept that reality has absolutely nothing to do with the powers that be, accomplishing their objectives. Case in point: remember how our free zone almost collapsed when the international banks refused our US dollars trading currency?
    But let me connect. The PM knew fully well the negative end results on the entire economy that could transpire if he did not as much attempt to nip this potentially catastrophic situation in the bud.As the leader of the nation, how he chooses to do it, is his perogative.
    Consider this: “If the mountain won’t come to Muhammed; then Muhammed best take himself to the mountain”.
    That’s the real!!

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