Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Belize Port Authority Mandates Boat Manifest


The implementation of a mandatory boat manifest for water taxi companies operating within Belize came into effect on Thursday, August 1st. Passengers traveling to the islands from the Belize City via Ocean Ferry or San Pedro Belize Express water taxi companies, including Thunderbolt from Corozal Town, will now be required to have with them an identification document (ID) to purchase a ticket. The directive for this manifest came from Belize Port Authority (BPA) under the Water Taxi Regulations Statutory Instrument 29 of 2019. The manifest will provide entry and exit information of passengers and is essential in case of an accident at sea.
The measure has been welcomed by the water taxi companies, as they believe this will enhance the safety and accountability of their runs. However, they shared that the implementation was very abrupt. Nevertheless, they are doing their best to adjust to the new system. During the first day of the manifest implementation, the water taxi companies reported long lines of passengers waiting as the staff transitioned into the new process. Although an I.D. is now required to purchase boat tickets, for the time being, if passengers do not have their documents with them, they still need to provide their names, date of birth, gender, nationality, and destination. Crew members are also recorded in the boat manifest.
According to one of the water taxi companies, Ocean Ferry, they will now have to pay additional fees to the BPA for every run they make, including charters, which may lead to an increase in ticket prices. Another measure that comes with the regulation is a passenger’s fee that will be added to the boat ticket. This was confirmed by the BPA via a press release sent out on August 1st. The official notice explained that a passenger user fee of $1 would be included in the fare when purchasing a ticket. The water taxi companies are required to submit a Passenger Manifest at least 15 minutes before each scheduled departure time. In the case of cargo, operators will not be allowed to carry cargo with a passenger; only personal items of passengers will be allowed.
Additionally, the BPA informed that there must be the issuance of personal flotation devices to passengers over one-year-old. They also warned passengers on board who may pose a threat to other passengers may be removed from the vessel and charged. Water taxi operators were also reminded that they cannot operate without a valid permit and Seaworthiness Certificate by the BPA.
For years residents on Ambergris Caye have appealed for a boat manifest. The explanation for the long delay was that it had to be approved and sanctioned by the BPA. The last time the topic of a boat manifest was brought up, was on June 26th at a public safety meeting at the Angel Nuñez Auditorium. Islanders had gathered with island authorities, including the Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, to discuss the crime issue on the island. Area Representative for Belize Rural South, Honourable Manuel Heredia Jr. took to the microphone and announced that a boat manifest would come into effect in about two months. In less than that duration, the manifest is now in effect. This regulation will now create a database of passengers traveling to the Cayes in case of an emergency and help law enforcers when monitoring potential criminal activities.
The BPA asks everyone’s support in this new measure and invites them to contact their offices for further information. Call them at 222-5665 or email to [email protected].

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