I noted the reported recent arrangements between GOB and the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) regarding the future development of Crawl Caye. Given NCL is majority owned by Apollo Global Management LLC, I wondered if the latter had conducted an in-depth risk assessment of the location before entering into discussions with GOB officials?
During and after Hurricane Keith in 2000, the Mauger Caye and adjacent Crawl Cay suffered substantial weather damage. Mauger Caye was near flattened, with the majority of the sand area of the north side being transported to the south by the severe elements leaving the roots of the palms completely exposed. The light keepers only survived because they were able to take shelter in a concrete bunker near the lighthouse accommodation, which itself completely disappeared as a result of Keith’s fury. Crawl Caye fared little better, and it has taken 13 years for both to recover.
Unlike other sites inside the Barrier Reef, Crawl Caye is wide open to the weather conditions to the north and east. Outside the immediate boundaries of the Caye, deep water lies to the north, east and west, and it is subjected to the transmitted ocean swells from weather conditions far removed from Belize in the north and east Caribbean Sea.
It follows that both these Cayes are unstable and any proposed development, such as the one currently being considered, will be difficult to achieve. It is questionable, even in these times of technological advancement, whether berthing facilities for cruise liners can be economically constructed when the water depth plummets from a few feet to over 1,000 feet 100 yards off-shore. Breakwater defences, if they could be constructed, would cost a massive amount of money and would be subject to the weather risks I have mentioned earlier.
In times of good weather, it is an idyllic place. I have been there! I also witnessed the conditions there in the aftermath of Keith and they were frightening.
I would simply advise Apollo Global and Norwegian Cruise lines that ‘All that glitters is not gold’.
Captain John J Watson OBE
Ex-Port Commissioner Belize