Belize is about to have a new cruise port at Stake Bank, earning the country about $700 million per year, Mike Feinstein, of the Feinstein Group announced at a press conference at the Biltmore Plaza Hotel in Belize City on Wednesday, September 4.
He said the project could be completed and operational within the next 18 months once the Government of Belize gives the go-ahead.
Feinstein is perhaps best known for creating Belize’s first cruise tourism port destination at the Fort Point Tourism Village.
He promises that over 1,000 jobs would immediately result during the construction phase of this ambitious project, and as many as 3,000 more would be created when the project is completed.
It calls for a US$67.5 million investment to build a deep water port at Stake Bank, just four nautical miles southeast of Belize City, where cruise ships can tie up directly alongside a dock, and cruise passengers will be able to walk directly ashore without any need for cruise tenders.
This would totally eliminate the need for passengers to board cruise tenders at sea, where a number of accidents have happened, with significant negative feedback from cruise visitors.
The Stake Bank port will go hand in hand with another US$89 million investment to develop the Ocean GranView luxury resort village on North Drowned Caye, which is just two nautical miles offshore from Belize City. Both islands are to be connected to the mainland by a concrete causeway that would carry a two-lane traffic supported 11 feet above the sea on concrete pylons.
One causeway would connect the Stake Bank port to North Drowned Caye so visitors could zip over to the resort village by bus. Those who opted for tours on the mainland could proceed directly ashore by bus, across a two-mile causeway.
Mike Feinstein explained that his port would be open to serve ships of all cruise lines currently sailing the Caribbean, and the Royal Caribbean Cruises have already committed to come on board as a major investment partner in the project.
The Ocean View resort would be completed within three years and would have economic free zone status with duty-free shops and boutiques offering luxury shopping to cruise passengers, but would also be open to Belizeans looking for a taste of the finer things in life.
The resort would also have restaurants, night-clubs and other forms of entertainment for its guests, both visitors and Belizeans.
The project prospectus states clearly that the idea is to keep Belizeans dollars at home, noting that Belizeans spend as much as US$175 million in Chetumal each year.
The Ocean View Resort would offer this same sort of luxury high-end shopping.
The project will include a 163-ship marina to handle vessels of all sizes, from mega-yachts to small sailing boats. It would also include a luxury condominium hotel and villas.
Feinstein also said he has proposed to government to charge a $5.00 head tax, since government gets almost no share of the head tax charged at other cruise destinations in Belize, and this introduction might help the government to revamp its Head Tax regime.
Civil engineer Roque Matus of M&M Engineering, the firm that will actually be building both causeways, was also present. He thanked Feinstein for his confidence in M&M’s ability to execute the project.
Civil engineer and environmental consultant Jose Garcia was also present, and he intimated that approval was imminent for the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and environmental compliance plan.
He said the project had already been approved seven years ago, and the EIA prepared then had been revamped to address more recent concerns.
There was simply the matter of the Department of the Environment coming to agreement on what fees would be charged for monitoring to ensure compliance with the EIA.
The National Environmental Assessment Committee (NEAC) had met to review the project’s EIA on Tuesday, but Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria declined to comment on the status of the project until a final decision is reached.