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Jul 11, 2008

Water taxi association and newcomer go head to head

Story PictureThere are more problems brewing at the waterfront in Belize City where two heavyweights are battling to secure their slice of the pie. Jose Sanchez has been following the story and has more details.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting
And the gloves are off as a fight, a turf war between the Caye Caulker Water Taxi association and the newly established Belize Water Taxi Terminal has quietly been brewing. It seems that it might take a similar path like the Brown Sugar and Fort Point Tourism Village “bring down the wall and pier” fiasco. The Caye Caulker Water Taxi Association has decided to no longer be quiet about the competition which they say has no business operating out of their back yard.

Hector Alpuche, General Mgr., Caye Caulker Water Taxi Assn.
“I need to say that—to start with—competition is not the problem. We are not afraid of competition and we welcome competition, except that we believe that the place here is not the right place for the next water taxi. We already found out that we will have problems which we are trying to run away from. We will have problems here on land as well as on the river. The river is already congested. It has reached its capacity right now. Their boats are much bigger, meaning they will need more space. The space is not available, the space is not available. With them coming in we’ll have the blockage of the river, which already occurred. When they started operating they started operating and the first day they came in, may I say without a permit, without a trade license, without the Port Authority permission. They came in, drop off passengers and they blocked the river. They were perpendicular to the river and what happened, for thirty minutes nobody could move.”

Earlier this week, the Marins of The Belize Water Taxi Association told us that they have been granted their license. However, the current situation made it necessary for them to operate temporarily from a pier belonging to an understandably sympathetic Brown Sugar. Giovanni Marin, shared his enthusiasm with us on Monday.

Giovanni Marin, Co-owner, Belize Water Taxi Terminal (7 July, 2008
“We are going to be offering top of the line service for people. our terminal will have a/c, very nice clean bathrooms, we’re gonna be having special boots where they’re gonna be selling tickets for the Mundo Maya, Mexico, Salvador, Guatemala. All of those services we’re gonna be providing here in our terminal as well as a cargo area, as you can see. We’re gonna be accepting all kinds of mail, freight, when it comes to boxes and all of that. We’re gonna be serving in a way, in a professional manner that we’ll have freezers and all of that in case people want to send meat, or fish or whatever. Here as well as San Pedro, we’re gonna be having all those services.”

Hector Alpuche
“That’s news to us. The thing is that we have been getting info from both Port Authority and from both the Trade Licensing Authority that they will not issue a permit to them. They have told us that, no; given their word to us. So I don’t know if they’ve already gotten one. That’s what they’re telling me. Just today I was talking to the City Council and they assured me, they would not get a permit.”

“I think it is just a vendetta by Mr. Giovanni Marin who, for some reason he has something personal against the Caye Caulker Water Taxi. He took us off his pier and now he’s fronting an operation in which he says he has fifty percent investment in it. We definitely know that’s not so. We know that the only thing he is contributing is the pier where he removed us from.”

And is the Caye Caulker Water Taxi Association willing to take this issue and have it drag out in the courts the way the Fort Point Tourism Village, Harbour View and Brown Sugar did recently?

Hector Alpuche
“We might. We just might. Like I said, we are waiting. We don’t want to do anything that might affect us negatively with the ministers and so because right now they have our lease and we are depending on them to get our act straight. But we might just have to. I think if the land taxi, that the problem will happen out here as well. So maybe even the City Council will have to get involved in this and see the problem that will be caused out here.”

Jose Sanchez
“So no problem with competition but would it be fair to say as long as the competition is not next door?”

Hector Alpuche
“It’s not on our backyard, yes.”

Jose Sanchez
“Some people may think that you are afraid of competition right next door. They think you are being territorial. Are you being territorial?”

Hector Alpuche
“No I’m not. We think we created this industry. We’ve been here for over fifteen years. For someone to come and leech out of you by sitting beside you, you have a little concern on that. But our main concern is and what we were asking the authorities to do is to move them from here because of congestion. That’s the reason why.”

Alpuche says that four years ago then Chairman, Ramon Reyes, had a dream to construct a new building to house their water taxi association. And with that building they have also proposed to add parking on the vacant lot that once housed the post office. Reyes had revisited the idea as he reassumed his role as chairman.

Hector Alpuche
“We have contracted an architect and we have pictures. We have been waiting for our lease to be extended so we can start renovating. I could show you pictures of the renovation. Both City council have it. They have approved it and our lease right now is sitting with the minister who promised he will give it to us.”

And also fighting in Alpuche’s corner to block the new terminal is the current taxi association because they also believe that there is no room for any new taxis in the area.

Chester Haylock, President, Belize Marine Terminal Taxi Association
“The issue that we have out here right now is the parking and the congestion that will come about if another terminal is opened up right beside we. if you notice, the swing bridge is an area where traffic constantly flow back and forth, back and forth and even sometimes when we deh out here we have problem with getting in our parking space and getting back out due to the flow of traffic and thing. Especially like days when cruise ship come in and then other people be hanging around the area. We still have a lot of problem with different taxi men coming around and trying to pick up jobs and if another taxi association wah open close to we, ih wah be wah problem with that.”

Jose Sanchez
“So you don’t have any problem with competition, you just don’t want the competition next door. Is that correct?”

Chester Haylock
“Exactly. No problem at all with competition. We welcome the competition.”

And that concludes the end of round one of this new boxing match to hit the Fort George Area. Tune in next week for round two. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

The Belize Water Taxi Association is currently unloading passengers from the Brown Sugar pier until the Port has decided how to keep the area clear for its boats.

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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