Impasse continues as ship seeks to dock at the Big Creek Port
The MV Aries 056 ship will be leaving the Port of Belize with all its 200 containers onboard. That is the latest information coming out of PBL via a press release. As we told you yesterday, there is an impasse between the stevedores and the Port of Belize which has prevented the offloading of the containers. The financial implications are huge due to this impasse, as not only will each stevedore, who was to work the ship, lose an eighteen hundred dollar income, but Belizeans could possibly see an increase in goods at the store, as a delay like this one, does come at a cost. Love News spoke with the Chairman of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Marcello Blake, who explained to us that the ship is currently seeking permission to dock at the Big Creek Port.
Marcelo Blake, BCCI Chairman: “As far as I have been informed it is still in the harbor in the Port of Belize and so they are at this point I think seeking permission in order to be able to move on to the port down south. So we will wait to see because obviously as I said there is a process to be followed and that process then has to take effect before. That ship cannot arbitrarily make a decision to go to the other port in the south without permission being granted by the relevant authorities. I think it’s quite unfortunate that this matter has resurfaced in regards to the approaches or the views that are being shared by both sides as to interpretation because obviously there was already the essential services tribunal judgment if you can call it that or recommendations there. For us it is important that operations continue as seamlessly as possible because the wider impacts, the wider economic impacts are what are important. We’re already in an era where there is increased inflation just because of all the other issues that are feeding into that you know and so with that it’s important that we try and ensure that we minimize the cost at all levels and so with this type of action which allows for a delay in clearing of the shipment it means then that of course the items coming off that ship at whichever point it does will come off at a higher cost which obviously will trickle down to the end consumer who is actually going to feel the pinch and I think at this time as I said earlier because of the high inflation rates we’re seeing it’s not the best place to be in for anybody not business, not consumers to be able to have an increased cost overnight again in things that are essentials for our daily consumption. On the flip side of that you have the export opportunities and as far as I’m aware there are in fact containers sitting at the Port of Belize that were supposed to be loaded onto that ship and as you know the primary sector has been hit. There’s been lower than anticipated yields on production which means that we aren’t necessarily in a position to take advantage of those opportunities outside of Belize for the export of those specific items. So what we have at the port that needs to go out needs to go out. Not only that but also the impacts that that will have on foreign exchange earnings which we all require for the purposes of ensuring that we can fulfill our obligations in paying for those foreign supplies that we import. We’re a heavy import country.”
The impasse between the Port of Belize and the stevedores is nothing new as we have seen this happen time and time again. This time, however, Chairman Blake says that there has been some improvements as there is now an alternative for ships, if they choose to not use the Port of Belize or to avoid any issues with the stevedores in Belize City.
Marcelo Blake, Chairman, BCCI: “I think we are in a better position than we were maybe a year ago when this similar situation had arisen in that there is the option for the goods to be moved to another port and so in that obviously there is a process that needs to be followed for that to occur. Obviously the ship that was calling on Belize was calling on the Port of Belize and so for any changes to occur to that plan as far as I understand the process to be is that they would need to be some communication requests made to the Port Authority for any change in the way any ships that should occur with which port they will call on. I think that puts us in a position where from a business standpoint while there may be some increased costs it does not delay fully the clearing or reverting that ship out so that there is no clearing. And so there is an opportunity then for us to still get goods into the country. With that said I think in the last year or so the business community has learned how to adjust and while it’s not the most favorable because there is as I said that increased cost the point is that there has been an alternative that is available for the goods to still come in to the country and in the case where there were exports necessary then businesses could make those adjustments of their own free will to change by moving it to another port in order to ensure that those goods left the country as they needed to.”
A release from the Port of Belize noted that a meeting was had today with the Labour Commissioner and the negotiating team of the Christian Workers Union. It was the hope that the meeting would lead to the offloading of the ship, but that was not the case. According to PBL, the Labour Department had recommended that the two parties return to the Essential Services Tribunal in order to conclude this matter, but the CWU reportedly declined.
Just before news time, the Christian Workers Union (CWU) issued a press release indicating that the Port of Belize Limited have issued mistruths over the current impasse. According to the CWU, they have offered solutions to prevent any further lockout from the Port, despite the PBL’s report that there is no lockout happening. Interestingly, the CWU noted that the stevedores had agreed to work the container vessels, but only for BEC and Marine and Services. They also noted that in working these containers, they would continue with the two gangs’ rotation to one ship. This was their offer but according to the CWU, that offer would only take validity if the PBL would honor the tribunal’s order to compensate the stevedores for the income lost due to the sugar business now going to the Port of Big Creek. The release further stated, quote, “PBL squandered today’s opportunity for an amicable resolution. Their disingenuous press release notwithstanding, CWU has indicated its readiness to meaningfully engage with PBL to settle our differences. CWU acknowledges that the involvement of the Labour Department ordinarily produces results better than engaging with just PBL. “End of quote.