Belize City Port

The Belize Ports Limited (“BPL”) recently acquired 26,545,984 shares representing 99.50 % of the ownership in the Port of Belize Limited (“Port Co.”).  Port Co. was incorporated in Belize on 15 November 2001 as a public limited liability company with the objective of succeeding the operational business of the Belize City Port which was previously the responsibility of the Belize Port Authority (a governmental entity).  Port Co. is fully privatized and has been vested with the assets and liabilities of the Belize Port Authority (“BPA”) to operate and manage the Belize City Port. Additionally, under a 35 years  lease arrangement, Port Co. will assume full responsibility for the management and operation of the Commerce Bight Port.  Through its operation and management of Belize City Port (“BCP”) and the Commerce Bight Port (“CBP”),  Port Co. currently handles approximately 87.5% of the national port business of Belize.

Ownership of The Belize Port Limited

BPL has currently 10,000 shares outstanding. Luke Espat, BPL’s Chairman, is the majority shareholder with holdings of 8,999 shares. Ten percent of the issued and outstanding share capital of the Belize Port Limited is granted to the Belize Bank Limited by BPL as defined by an agreement between the two parties.

The Belize Port Limited



Luke Espat

Belize Bank

Bertha Espat


















BPL acquired 26,545,984 shares representing 99.50% of the outstanding shares of The Port of Belize Limited and with these shares the vesting of the assets and liabilities of the Belize Port Authority and the rights to operate and manage the Belize City Port and Commerce Bight Port. The Belize Minister of Finance retains one Special Rights Redeemable Preference Share (the "Special Share"). This Designated Share may be transferred only to another Government Minister or someone acting on his behalf. This Special Share in the equity of the Port of Belize Limited gives the Government the right to appoint two directors, one whom shall be the Chairman of the Company’s Board of Directors. Currently, the two seats selected by the Government on the Board of Directors are represented by Mr. Alberto Mahler (existing Chairman) and Mr. Louis A. Lue (Advisor for Government of Belize Investments). BPL will have the right to appoint nine Directors by right of its majority share



 Belize City Port

The port facilities in Belize City and Commerce Bight were constructed between 1978 and 1981 respectively, financed by a US$ 20 million loan from the Caribbean Development Bank.  The Belize Port Authority, a semi-autonomous Business Enterprise (quasi-government) was established under the Port Authority Ordinance No.2 of 1976 to manage, operate and regulate the ports of Belize. Its business is conducted in accordance with this ordinance. The Statutory Instrument No. 26 of 1980 sets out the charges which the Port Authority may levy for its services. Any changes in either the ordinance or charges specified in the tariff must first receive approval of the Government.

Prior to the privatization in 2002, the BPA under principal legislation (the Belize Port Authority Act, Chapter 233 of the Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2000-the “Principal Act”) carried out the combined functions of operator, manager and regulator of the ports,  performing its duties as provider of a coordinated and integrated system of ports, navigational aids and port services. The Principal Act was amended to allow for the privatization of the operational and management functions of the Belize City Port and the leased Commerce Bight Port, and left the BPA with solely port regulatory responsibilities.  Port Co. was created to succeed BPA in the operation and management of the Belize City Port, and Commerce under a long-term lease with the BPA. Port Co. was fully owned by the Government prior to the acquisition of the shares by BPL. The Government will still retain one “Special Share” in Port Co. as described above.

 Commerce Bight PortThe two Ports were constructed between 1978 and 1981 and each consist of pre-stressed concrete T-piers, beams and open pile platform pierheads supporting heavy-duty decks constructed of steel grate at Belize City and wood planking at Commerce Bight. The main pierhead at Belize City Port is located 800 meters offshore and has 67 meters of berths with 5.18 meters of natural draught. This draught was increased to 10m after a recently completed dredging operation by the Government. It has a roll-on, roll-off berth of approximately 25 meters in length and a 4.6 meter draught. A trestle bridge connects the pierhead to shore. All types of containers can be handled by the port. It is serviced by one mobile Manitowoc crane with a lifting capacity of 140 tons, two Hyster forklifts with a capacity of 25 and 50 tons respectively and several smaller Hyster forklift with five ton capacities and one Super Stacker with lifting capacity of 49.5 tons. Water can be supplied to vessels by dedicated pipes up to the pierhead. Containers and break and dry bulk cargo are generally serviced off the pierhead. The Port has a low berthing facility adjacent to the eastern side of the trestle bridge leading to the main pierhead with berthing lengths of 60m and 153m respectively and a draught alongside of 2.39m. This facility is generally used for local trading between the coastline and Cayes. The Port also has five mooring buoys which allow tankers to moor offshore in 5.7m of draught and can discharge their cargo via a submersed 8 inch diameter pipeline. These are owned, operated and maintained by the Esso Corporation. This facility is used for the import of oil products.

Commerce Bight Port offers a similar layout to Belize City Port but on a smaller scale. Its pierhead is located 150m offshore and has a berthing space of approximately 50m with a 7.0m draught. The major cargo handled at this facility is citrus products for export.

Management, Employees and Facilities

BPL is the Company that has controlling shares of PBL. BPL will have substantial representation on and control of the Board of Directors of PBL. BPL will from time to time engage the services of certain professional port consulting firms on an “as needed” basis. The same will be done for issues concerning port planning and design.

Port Co.’s current workforce at July 2002 was comprised of 152 employees as well as the CEO, the Chairman and the Board of Directors. The management function is divided into five areas all reporting to the CEO. These functional areas include: Piloting, Operations, Security, Finance/Accounting and Administration and Personnel.  The Piloting function is managed by the Chief Marine Pilot and has seven personnel reporting to it, although the position is currently vacant. The Operations department is divided into three areas, the Mechanical, Maintenance and Port Operations sections. The Mechanical section is led by the Mechanical Supervisor and has ten personnel reporting. This position is also currently vacant. The Maintenance section is led by the Maintenance Supervisor who has 16 personnel reporting. Port Operations is headed by the Operations Manager with the Senior Operations Supervisor reporting to this role. There are 65 personnel reporting to these senior managers. The Security Department is led by the Chief Security Officer and has 28 personnel reporting. Finance/Accounting is headed by the Financial Controller with 11 personnel reporting. Administration and Personnel is headed by the Administration and Personnel Manager with 8 personnel. 

The Privatization of Port Co.

The process of privatization resulted from the Government of Belize (GOB) examining the effectiveness of its role as the commercial provider of port services in Belize City and at Commerce Bight. It concluded these services could be better served by fully privatizing the operational and management business of Belize City Port and entering into a long-term lease of the Commerce Bight Port. This decision follows a trend in port privatization in the region by countries to better position themselves to compete in the regional market. Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean with poor performance by the public ports have turned to privatization in recent years. By 1998, seven countries in these regions have transferred control of their port facilities to the private sector. These countries include Argentina, the Bahamas, Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, Mexico and Panama.   

*The objectives of the GOB to privatize the port facilities are:

1)      The introduction into the company of a strategic industrial investor whose role will be to provide and enhance access to capital, strategic advice, access to sophisticated technology and training, expansion and modernization of the port facilities in Belize City and Commerce Bight.

2)      Improvement in the Belize City and Commerce Bight Port’s economic efficiency in both operating performance and sourcing of capital to finance extensive improvement and modernization of the existing facilities.

3)      Improvement in port sector services to shippers and consumers to better meet their individual needs and preferences.

4)      Creating regionally competitive port services which will broaden employee opportunities and increase cargo handling volumes and ship calls.

5)      Participation of the private sector and, importantly, Belizean citizens in the financial and technical accountability of the port sector.

6)      Recognition of the continuous progress of globalization of shipping and trade resulting in Belize’s more active role in the integration of international port logistics and, in this respect, assurance of Belize’s contribution to recent advancement of information technology such as EDI and e-commerce.

*GOB Offering Memorandum 2002 pg. 11

The process of the privatization was initiated by the GOB in November of 2000. The Government placed an official advertisement in the Economist and Beltraide (Belize Trade and Investment Development Service) website in November of 2000 inviting submissions of expressions of interest in the ownership and operation of the Belize City port facilities. Expression of interest was received by ten parties. These included the Bristol Port Co. (UK), Grace Kennedy & Co. Ltd. (Jamaica), Lopez Equipment Co. Ltd. (Belize), Port of Barranquilla (Colombia), Hutchinson International Port Holdings Ltd. (HK/UK), International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (Philippines/Mexico), P&O Ports (Australia), Stevedoring Services of America (US) and BPL. A Prospectus dated January 2002 was released to the interested parties. The GOB Privatization Committee received and evaluated the bids submitted and a recommendation was made to the GOB of the successful investor. The criteria applied for the selection are described in the objectives above. The Privatization Committee was satisfied that BPL met and/or had the potential to meet the stipulated criteria and the GOB accepted the recommendation.

The Need for Port Facilities in Belize and Position of Port Co.

Belize is a relatively small country with an area of roughly 23,000 sq. km. and a total population of approximately 250,000. Agriculture, Agro-products such as sugar and citrus products and tourism dominates the Belizean economy. Sugar, bananas and citrus products, marine products and small manufacturing are the leading export products for the country representing approximately 33% of the GDP and tourism about 20% in 2001. Currently, the U.S. and the U.K. are Belize’s major trading partners accounting for 54% and 30% of total exports in 2001. Agro-products and tourism are also the major foreign exchange sectors of the country. Belize is also highly dependent on imports for a substantial portion of its domestic consumption. In this light, the Ports play a significant role in meeting the day to day needs of the economy. It handles 87.5% of the national port business in Belize. Due to the relative low value of goods exported and lack of efficient land transport alternatives, sea transport remains the only viable option.  Given the significant role of the ports, Port Co.’s long-term goal is to develop an efficient, cost effective, and robust facility to promote economic growth.

A major strategy of Port Co. is to promote the benefits that Belize has from its inclusion in certain existing trade agreements. The focus is to establish value-added businesses at the Port to take advantage of these benefits. Belize is a member nation of CARICOM, a regional common market, which signed CARICAN. The CARICAN agreement allows for many things including duty-free access to Canada for many exports.  Similarly, the Caribbean Basin Initiative enacted by U.S. Congress, CBI, allows all export from Belize (other than specifically excluded products such as garment and textile) to benefit from reduction or elimination of tariffs to the U.S.. Port Co. will promote the Ports to local and foreign investors on the basis of it designation as a Commercial Free Zone (CFZ) and Export Processing Zone (EPZ). The CFZ was established to attract foreign investments and provides for various activities including manufacturing, processing, packaging, warehousing and distribution of goods and services. One of the major benefits includes duty exemptions for investors on certain products and goods. The EPZ Program is intended to attract both local and foreign investment to boost production for export with a focus on manufactured goods and non-traditional agricultural products and has one major benefit of full import and export duty exemptions.  

Port Co. Revenues

Port Co. derives the bulk of its revenues from the operation and management of the Belize City Port with some minor contributions from the Commerce Bight Portand other facilities, and some residual revenue from the privately owned Big Creek Port. Specifically, the revenues generated by these ports relate to the handling and storage of containers, cargo dues, docking and mooring fees, as well as a variety of other labor and service related services. The Belize City Port contributes 87% of the operational revenues for Port Co. The largest line items contributions to revenues are from the handling of containers, and cargo dues which accounted for approximately 48% and 17% of operational revenues respectively during the last four years.

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