Multiple Cruise Tourism Port Projects Cause Alarm In Belize

Photo of author

BELIZE CITY, Belize. Wed. Apr 14, 2021– Numerous cruise port projects being proposed to the Government of Belize have been raising Oceana’s concerns due to the possible threats that these projects pose to environmental safety and sustainability. An online leak of a government document granting permission for the construction of a cruise port approximately three miles south of the mouth of the Sibun River in the Belize District caused Oceana to break its silence. Oceana’s concern stemmed from a letter dated April 9, 2021, that was signed by the Chief Environmental Officer, Martin Alegria, and was addressed to Portico Enterprise Ltd. (Port of Magical Belize). The letter in question grants the Portico Enterprise Ltd. permission to construct and operate the Port of Magical Belize — a cruise ship port and day resort development.

Oceana says its position is based on scientific principles. The area off the coast of the Belize District is a high retention zone (a region where there is limited exchange between currents and surrounding waters), and according to an Oceana release, “The proposed scale of dredging from even one project is a significant cause for concern.”

The new port site development project will involve a proposed mangrove clearing along the coast. Oceana highlights that mangroves are of great importance, especially at this time when there is a battle with climate change.

The Manatee Man, Jamal Galvez, also commented on the situation. He said, “If the ecosystem dies, the economy dies.” Such a massive development will surely have repercussions, he said. Galvez noted that studies have shown a direct correlation between tourism and manatee deaths. Those who are allowing such developments to take place “are pushing the manatee to the brink of extinction,” he said.

“We need to reassess and really evaluate the purpose of these organizations that are approving these things and ensure that they are doing what they are to do, because the Department of Environment and all these agencies are there to safeguard Belize’s environment,” said Galvez. The proposed development of a port will definitely affect the passage of manatees, megafaunas and other species that frequently traffic the area. The Manatee Man of Belize calls for development to be done in a more sustainable manner.

Despite the public concern, and the issues raised by Oceana, the Government of Belize has not issued an official press release on the matter to date; however, the Chief Environmental Officer, Martin Alegria, spoke about the matter today in an interview with Channel 5’s newsroom.

Alegria says that these environmental concerns had already been accounted for in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The Chief Environmental Officer said that the acceptance of the proposal was a lengthy process. “It was February they submitted a proposal, a concept. By the ending of February an EIA was requested of them and in March/April, we developed the terms of reference for the EIA and since then, March/April of 2019, they started developing the document via their EIA preparers”, he said.

Belize Marine Life NGO put out the following release today

The Proposed Port of Magical Cruise development, 6 miles south of Belize City near the Sibun river manatee habitat was given its EIA approval this week. Another proposed development by Waterloo, Port of Belize Cruise Port expansion project has not received its EIA approval as Environmentalists continue to call on government to review the cumulative impact of multiple cruise projects. Several attempts have been made to quietly push through these two projects last minute during the Covid19 pandemic, within the first month of the new government entering into office.

This week we find out yet another proposed cruise port development is on the table, this time at the Commerce Bight port.
There is no sign of the promised strategic review of Belize´s cruise terminals in the light of the fact that Belize already has three cruise ports FSTV, Harvest Caye, and Port Coral at Stake Bank Island which is currently under construction. All three ports are already capable of handling the volume of passengers pre-COVID plus the expected yearly growth.

Tourism in Belize is based on two major environmental draws, our inland ruins, river and jungles, and our amazing barrier reef and Atolls. This quantity of ports will have a major negative impact on the latest of those two. The Reef can not sustain this much development. The industry first and foremost has no need for it, the volume of visitors does not justify the quantity of proposed projects. The impact on the environment is cataclysmic for Belize’s future. However, this can all be circumvented with a check to your friendly politician who will push through what you need, since this is how they make their wealth.