There's a negotiation process underway between Norwegian Cruise Line and Belize right now and when you read through all the he-said, he-said, what it comes right down to is this:
Democracy at work.
Norwegian wants to help the Belize government built a new port, south of Belize City in a place where no cruise ship of any substance has been, called Crawl Caye. For cruise passengers who have been to Belize more than once — that would include us — this is a welcome change because it means an opportunity to see part of the country that was otherwise off limits.
Crawl Caye is a small island, a mangrove island ringed by the Barrier Reef. It is located approximately 25 miles south of Belize City, between it and Roatan, Honduras, and east of the long strand of land known as Placencia, Belize. It is privately owned and sits inside a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Therein lies the debate about building a cruise port.
Environmentalists are concerned about the impact of cruise ships on the Barrier Reef. Lobbyists are more concerned about the economic impact that comes with cruise ships. These discussions have been going on for a few years, the Belizian Government on one side, Norwegian on the other. Last week, Minister of Labour Godwin Hulse said this:
"Crawl Caye is off the table and we've informed NCL accordingly. That does not mean that we are not continuing to dialogue with the people, we must understand that this is a huge investment. NCL is a reputable company, it's a world-class cruise company and any investment proposal to our country that could enhance jobs, enhance growth and create a better way for people – we can't just simple 'shush' away. So we have informed them of that, they have not completely withdrawn, we are continuing to talk and we will see where we go from there."
In other words, the people of Belize will decide whether the economic benefit outweighs the environmental impact. The politicians will be forced to listen to the people…isn't that what politicians always do?
If they do, that is democracy.
Here's a touch of irony for you…the idea is being called a $100 million tourism project, and Crawl Cayes is for sale, for $5.6 million.