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Feb 11, 2009

Clients of Westerhaven forced to pay more money

Story PictureThere’s a new twist to the story of the cargo ship that ran aground on the reef in January, the Westerhaven. Well, the ship is still in Belizean waters though the courts have offered bail of six point five million dollars. While the ship is anchored, many businesses in Central America and the United States claim they are being adversely affected. Jose Azcui, the President of American Feedmilling Systems, operating out of Florida has been closely following the situation. His company has equipment aboard the Westerhaven, which was bound for Guatemala. His client hasn’t received the goods, and not only is he losing money on the transaction, Seaboard, the company that managed the Westerhaven, is demanding more money from Azcui and other merchants who have cargo stranded aboard.

Jose Azcui, President, American Feedmilling Systems
“We are an engineering organization, we design feed plants for animals and supply equipment and spare parts. In this particular case, I guess we were unfortunate to have our equipment aboard the Westerhaven. The specifications sheet or the documentation that they have provided is outlining thirty-five percent of the commercial invoice value per container. In our case we have a twenty foot container which has commercial invoice value of about thirty-six thousand dollars so thirty-five percent is costing us somewhere around twelve thousand US dollars. If companies like ourselves that have a container on that vessel do not pay this salvage fee, we will not be able to reclaim the container. They don’t tell you if that’s an estimated percentage, how they came up with thirty-five percent, there is no language to how who or why it’s thirty-five percent. If we don’t pay that then we are not eligible to collect our container if and when it gets to Guatemala. You have a customer that is putting together a plant in Guatemala. Without equipment you can’t install that. They are looking at us, they’re kinda almost punishing us—the customer is—saying where is our cargo? They don’t want to pay for this thirty-five percent. So we have to disperse of that money to get it done. We can’t tell them it’s going to be there in ten days or thirty days after this; it’s totally open. There is no conclusion. The factory can’t be built, time and essence… they have to wait for people, lay off people because the equipment isn’t there to install it, the factory is going to be late. There’s a lot of…”

Jose Sanchez
“A lot of other businesses that are also suffering.”

Jose Azcui
“A lot of people being affected, absolutely. If we don’t send the money, we don’t get the merchandise and the possibility that the owner of the ship might confiscate the container and sell it as scrap to get money. It’s a very bad situation. I’m very sad for the Belize area and the coral that apparently was damaged. That is truly very sad. I’ve been to Belize, I’ve snorkeled in Belize. I love Belize. But quite frankly it’s a very bad situation, so many things are being jeopardized by this.”

While Seaboard is demanding a percentage of the value of the goods in each container to cover their costs, the Belize government may only be able to sue according to the weight of the ship.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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