Earlier this week Norwegian Cruise Line announced that Harvest Caye, the cruise line's new resort-style port of call in southern Belize will now open in November 2016, originally scheduled to open February 16, 2016.
Plans for the new development were announced back in August 2013, when Norwegian Cruise Line purchased approximately 75 acres in Southern Belize for the planned development of an eco-friendly cruise destination. The land, called Harvest Caye, is made up of two adjoining islands in the Stann Creek and Toledo districts that had previously been approved for a resort development with an air strip.
In a statement released today by Norwegian, Vivian Ewart, vice president, passenger services, said that the grand opening will now take place in November 2016. Guests sailing on Western Caribbean cruises now through mid-November will instead call in Belize in Belize City.
But the announcement of the development has not come without public objection and controversy over the proper undertaking of an environmental impact assessment. On Wednesday, January 13, 2016, the Belize Supreme Court ruled on the (BTIA) Belize Tourism Industry Association’s lawsuit against the Department of the Environment (DOE) and the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC) following the DOE's decision to approve the construction by Belize Island Holdings (BIHL) of a cruise port at Harvest Caye, just three miles south of Placencia Village.
A press release from BTIA indicates that the Hon. Justice Abel declared that there was a breach of Regulation 20 of the EIA Regulations concerning to the published notice in relation to the Addendum to the EIA. The court also ruled that the content of the published notice was deficient in various areas and, very significantly, that the decision of the NEAC to recommend the approval of the EIA was in breach of EIA Regulations, prior to considering the EIA for approval. In delivering the judgment, the Hon. Justice Abel also observed that the consultation process was somewhat short-circuited and that short cuts were taken, "which ought not to have happened, and one hopes this will not happen in a similar situation in the future".
The Court determined that BTIA was "largely and significantly" successful against the DOE, NEAC and BIHL, and ruled that the Defendants should pay the cost of the Court proceedings in the sum of $50,000. The Court judgment means that the DOE and the NEAC must now do a better job at discharging their legal responsibilities to safeguard Belize's natural resources and administer Belize's environmental regulations fairly and responsibly. Click here to view the full judgment.
"BTIA is not against large tourism development projects. It has always advocated that the Government of Belize must ensure that the EIA process is fully complied with, no matter who the developer is, and that meaningful public consultation is had in the interest of safeguarding Belize's natural and cultural resources. It is the integrity of these resources that makes us a premier tourism destination", said President of BTIA, Osmany Salas.