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After a 5 year delay, GOB signs agreement to build Docking Facility

The Government of Belize has finally signed an Investment Agreement with Stake Bank Enterprise Limited to construct a world class Cruise Ship Docking Facility after about five years of delays. The Stake Bank Cruise Ship Docking Facility is a project led by the Feinstein Group of Companies. Today, Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte and Michel Feinstein signed the agreement.

Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte:

“After much back and forth over five months sometimes if felt like it would never end but we had to ensure that whatever agreement we entered into, whatever the situation was it had to be compliant with the law especially since that the court had said that exclusivity was not something that could be entertained by the business. I am glad that after much back and forth we have come not only to an agreement that is legal but an agreement that both the Government of Belize and Stake Bank are satisfied with. This is a definitive agreement we call it and what it does is it outlines the agreement between the government and the developer and within that agreement for example you would find that there is the act as amended because when the original act was passed it was passed giving Stake Bank exclusivity and so I  think this definitive agreement has asked Stake Bank to agree that in the future the act will be amended to take out that exclusivity. So what this is  a governing document that will set out the basic parameters within which Stake Bank will be operating.”

The facility will be equipped with a resort and a theme park on the Stake Bank Caye located four miles southeast of Belize City. It will be able to accommodate four Voyager class cruise vessels, inclusive of a 60-slip marina, 80 luxury rooms and supporting amenities. The theme park will include water rides, a roller coaster and aquarium. Feinstein spoke more on how they will secure the financing.

Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte:

“We have engaged with at least three different cruise lines all of which showed an interest. The local banks are definitely impressed they have all said that they would want to be a part of it, they would form a syndicate of three or four banks to take care of that so I don’t see financing as an issue. We have many options including foreign investment. So we have to look at the best option for Stake Bank very shortly. At this time we are looking at probably offering 45% shares to cruise lines, local investors whatever but we will maintain 51%. The option has always been there to just get rid of the project, we could have sold the project from 2012 but we hung on to it so that we could finish what I started and maintain majority share. It doesn’t have to be the cruise line they are an attractive source and I think some sort of usage agreement is all that we need more so than investment.”

Patrick Faber, Deputy Prime Minister, was also present for the signing.

Patrick Faber, Deputy Prime Minister:

“You saw compromising definitely. You saw that in fact there was an initial proposal for a cause way, that is not being included. You heard the talk about exclusivity and you see that the legislation will now be amended to reflect that that exclusivity will not be there. So we spoke about the length of time that we took, we are now at a common place where we think we can work with each other. The bottom line is that we wanted a facility that the ships could dock without having to do the tendering and I believe this initiative achieves that objective and that was primarily where we wanted to do. The Feinstein Group and Mr. Feinstein have assured us that they are able to work with the existing players and that was of concern for us what is going to happen with the FSTV folks but that is now clear. So we are happy that we are able to make this development, we believe that cruise tourism will continue to play a major role in Belize’s development, we believe that this sends the right signal to the players and we look forward to greater times.”

The total price tag for the Project is estimated to be US$62.5 million. Stakeholders say the project seeks to employ at least 500 Belizeans and provide long-term socioeconomic benefits to Belize and the Cruise Sector. Construction is expected to commence after the hurricane season closes and it will take about eighteen months to be completed.