Highlights — 21 January 2014 — by Kareem Clarke

GOB seizure of cargo ship is causing shipping delays

The European cargo vessel which goes by the name The CFS Palencia has been docked off the coast of Belize City for over a week, primarily because the Government of Belize (GOB) secured a court order to seize the international cargo ship on Friday, January 10.

The vessel is a sister ship to The Paranga, which, in July 2012, caused over 9 million dollars in damages to Belize’s Barrier Reef when it ran aground two miles southeast of English Caye.

The persons responsible made a false promise that they would return to settle any fines arising, and the Government hold-up of the Palencia is in the hopes that the ship’s owners will arrange payment of the $9.6 million environmental fee that was levied on The Paranga.

Well, that has not happened, and in the meantime, cargo – including citrus concentrate, shrimp and corn – for export to Jamaica is sitting on board, stuck in transit.

Today, CEO and receiver of the Port of Belize, Arturo “Tux” Vasquez, told Amandala how the situation has affected operations in terms of shipments at the port.

He said, “Operations have been affected because the ship is a regular visitor to the port, and it’s one of the largest ships that come through the port. It originates out of Europe and Panama and that area, and there are shipments that it drops off along the way. It usually drops off what it needs to drop off here, and we load it back to go to another destination.

“What affects us is that the ship is a regular visitor, so it would have been back here in another few days with cargo, and that’s really what we’re trying to figure out – the agent has to find another way to get that cargo to Belize now. I understood from them that they may be doing it through Guatemala and then trucking it into Belize. I believe the agent will find another way to get that cargo into Belize City, since the ship is no longer moving.”

We understand that the Palencia should have already made a return trip from Jamaica; however, it will be held under police and Port guard until the company which owns it makes arrangements to settle the outstanding fine.

When we asked about the effects on employment, Vasquez said, “That’s a question for the stevedores, because stevedoring is what happens at the pier, so if there’s no off-loading at the pier, then they will be the ones to be affected.”

This morning, Ports Commissioner Merlene Bailey-Martinez told KREM News that the Port Authority is simply enforcing a law with other authorities as per the court order.

We have yet to reach the Chief Environmental Officer for comment on how the matter is being resolved, but we will keep following the story.


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