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Boat Captain’s License & Regulations Being Reviewed

A few weeks ago, Ambergris Today reported on the boat captain license issue that was causing much concern amongst the community in particular with the U.S. nationals living on the island.

Boat Captain’s Licenses are required for private boat owners and those concerned believe that this creates obstacles for our foreign owners that are in the country periodically. The Belize Port Authority had announced that these licenses will only be issued to citizens and legal residents, but not to any foreigners or even those on Retirement Residency.

Tackling the matter head on is the Ambergris Caye Chamber of Commerce that now reports that the boat regulations are being reviewed by the Port Authority for possible changes and that the US Embassy is also researching the situation.

The present issues at hand with the boat captain licenses is that the Belize Port Authority is still refusing to allow foreigners to be able to apply, only allowing Belizean citizens, residents, retirement residents, and those with a work permit to obtain the license.

The position of the Chamber and many other residents is that captain licenses should be required only for commercial vessels, like other countries and if Belize really wants to require licenses for private boats, then acquiring a private boat captain license should be made fairly simple, inexpensive, and open to all applicants. Then this should be only for boats of a certain length and engine size. Many believe that it is ridiculous to require the driver of a dingy, small skiff, jet ski, wind surfer, a sailboard, or small sailboat to be licensed.

This Captain’s License requires all applicants from all over the country to travel to Belize City and spend two days (one day to take the test and one day to do the practical). The time and expense of this trip to anyone, and especially Belizeans, is not reasonable. If this is to be required, the Port Authority has a responsibility to make it available throughout the county without making it a burden to its citizens.

Now with issues of boat registration, the Port Authority is refusing to register a boat owned by a foreigner, even if it is Belizean-made and previously registered. They will issue a 3 month “permit” for $250 to allow it to stay in Belize and they will allow you to buy the permit for a year for $1,000.

The Chamber reiterates its position that it likes the idea that ALL boats need to be registered, but that any boat that meets the safety and ownership qualifications should be allowed to be registered. Any boat “made in Belize” or having a permit of importation & with all duty fees paid should automatically be registered here. All these limitations can hurt our economy by chasing away the many foreigners that own property and invest here. This also hurts boat building and sales, boat mechanics, marine supply companies, not to mention anyone that wants to sell property. Many would like Boat Registration to be allowed for 3 years, at least until such a time that the Port Authority has the staff and locations to provide timely registration on location.

Another issue coming out of all this chaos is that of change in ownership of boats. Presently the Port Authority has a $50 charge to change ownership of a boat. As is both the buyer and the owner have to be present in Belize City to make the transaction. If they are not both present, the Port Authority requires an affidavit by a notary, and indemnification by the purchaser. Then the Port Authority charges you $250 to make the transfer. This again sounds pretty silly, according to the Chamber.

It is hoped that the Port Authority and higher powers can do something to change all these rules and regulations which can hinder the tourism industry and drive potential investors away.

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