Headline — 07 September 2019 — by Rowland A. Parks
Waterloo wants to build cruise port facility

The new facility is planned to be alongside the Belize Port Limited

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Sept. 5, 2019–The Cabinet Sub Committee on Investment (CSCI) met yesterday in Belmopan, according to a Facebook post from its chairperson, Minister Tracy Taegar-Panton. The CSCI reviewed some investment projects that Minister Taegar-Panton said had a total value of some 500 million US dollars.

While Minister Tracy Taegar-Panton boasted on her Facebook page about the meeting, she did not provide any details about who or what was involved in the US 500-million dollar investment.

Amandala has learned, however, that a company, Waterloo Investment Holdings Limited (WIHL), based in the Turks and Caicos Islands, has proposed building a cruise port facility alongside the Belize Port Limited, which has been in receivership for a number of years.

Our newspaper has also learned that the proposed investment for a cruise port by Waterloo was not approved by the CSCI.

Similarly, another proposed port by Belizean businessman David Gegg, which has been in the pipeline with a Memorandum of Understanding with the government since 2017, was also not approved by the CSCI.

Amandala has obtained a copy of a letter that Waterloo sent to Prime Minister Dean Barrow, in which the cruise port docking facility was mentioned, along with bulk handling facilities.

The letter, dated July 31, 2019, begins: “Dear Prime Minister: It is with great pleasure that we request an audience to discuss the substantial progress Waterloo Investment Holding Limited (WIHL) has made in developing a strategic plan for Port Loyola, which includes both cruise port docking and bulk handling facilities.”

Apparently, PM Barrow knew about this Waterloo offer since 2016, as the Chairman and CEO of Waterloo, Caroline van Scheltinga, indicated in the second paragraph of her letter, which reads: “When we last met in late 2016, we discussed that an initial feasibility study conducted with the help of both dredging company, Jan de Nul, and cruise operator, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, had indicated that a cruise port expansion at Port Loyola could be financially feasible.”

“This positive feedback and in particular, the minimal siltation in the existing port channel, strongly supported the carrying out of further investigation. This information was being shared at the time with your representative conducting the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) comparative analysis of Port Options in Belize, 2017, Belize Infrastructure Limited General Manager, as data was requested from our local team on both bulk-handling and cruise port potential,” the WIHL letter said.

The letter goes on to explain that since then, WIHL has invested significant sums in a full investigation that has confirmed the minimal siltation in the existing port channel since the last dredging in 2001, and provided very detailed analysis of the type of materials to be dredged in order to accommodate the largest class vessels currently on order in the cruise line market.

Our information is that the proposed dredging would go out to sea for five miles, but the disposal of the materials that would be dredged gives cause for concern because, we were informed, the materials would be dumped in other areas, creating an environmentally unsound scenario.

The letter to Barrow goes on to explain that WIHL has developed “a master plan and conceptual design” which would allow for both cruise operations and bulk handling expansion within the port area.

WIHL said that their draft Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) should be ready in August.

“Over the last year, WIHL has engaged in passenger guarantee discussions with cruise line operators Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Virgin Voyages and Disney Cruise Lines, who have unequivocally expressed that the development of our proposed cruise port at Port Loyola and the elimination of passenger tendering will offer the most favorable Belizean guest experience for their passengers,” the WIHL letter explained.

WIHL told the Prime Minister in the letter that they had reached out to share some of this experience with “your representative” (the representative is not named) … “and would very much like to share with you our findings and to discuss what is needed from the Government of Belize in order to support the expansion of Port Loyola.”

WIHL told the Prime Minister that their project team consists of experts in the field of port operations, project finance, dredging and marine construction, and that “it would indeed be a pleasure to meet and share our collective progress with you and other members of Cabinet at a meeting in Belize.”

The WIHL CEO said that they planned to be in Belize at the end of the first week in September “and would very much like to make a presentation to [the] Cabinet investment committee.”

At the last meeting of the House of Representatives, the Cayo South area representative, Hon. Julius Espat, asked Prime Minister Barrow about the communication with Waterloo.

This is what PM Barrow told the House on Friday, August 16: “But as to Waterloo and the Belize City Port, Sir, let me make absolutely clear, and to you, Madam Speaker, I am in no negotiations with Waterloo…Waterloo wrote to say that they have been in fact doing all sorts of tests, and by the way, how Ashcroft get fi own di Port? Da noh from unu? … Da noh from the PUP? That da weh ih get it from, from the PUP. Luke Espat, who unu give (the Port)…couldn’t pay the bill, and so Ashcroft tek it.

“So the Ashcroft-owned Port is Ashcroft-owned because of the People’s United Party. But anyway, Madam Speaker, so these people are saying they want to improve the container port. They want to actually turn the site into a bulk port and they also wish to, in fact, do an alongside docking facility for cruise ships. The person who says that she’s in charge of Waterloo wrote to me to ask if they can come to meet with the Cabinet of this country to, in fact, make a presentation. I did not even answer; my CEO answered on my behalf after the matter had gone to Cabinet, and Cabinet agreed that the investment subcommittee of the Cabinet would in fact give them a hearing. That is where it stops, Madam Speaker.”

This past February, a high-level Cabinet delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber, which included Minister of State in Economic Development, Investment, Trade and Commerce, Minister Tracy Taegar-Panton, and Attorney General Mike Peyrefitte, went to Stake Bank for the ground-breaking ceremony of the $80 million Mike Feinstein cruise facility that is expected to be completed by next year.

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