Screen_Shot_2014-02-18_at_7.57.04_PMThe start of the current sugar crop saw a delay due to an impasse in the industry triggered by the standstill in negotiations between the Belize Sugar Industry and the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association. But the crop kick started on January 26th and by all accounts all is flowing rather smoothly.

 

Today, after almost a month the first shipment of sugar left the Belize coast. The Belize Sugar Industry, in an effort to educating the public and other stakeholders in the industry as to the extent and magnitude of sugar production took the media on a tour of the first cargo ship to leave for this crop. Our crew went on board the San Remo II along with a delegation from BSI and filed this report.

 


Dalila  Ical – Reporting

 

This is the final step in sugar production before the product leaves the country towards England.

 

Two gangs of stevedores work along with the deck crew to load the first shipment of sugar onto the San Remo II, a cargo ship of 8,500 metric tonnes, but this ship is smaller than the ones BSI normally charters, according to Manager of Marketing and Export Operations at BSI, Damian Gough. BSI made the call due to the late start in the current crop.

 

Damian Gough – Manager of Marketing and Export Operations, BSI


“When the crop started we weren’t necessarily sure what the initial cane deliveries or cane quality would be like, we didn’t want to over commit and charter too big of a vessel at the beginning, normally we would charter something between 12,000 to about 15,000 tons but we felt that going with a small vessel at the start would have been better for the industry on a whole that would have been able to easily manage the vessel once it is here now that the vessel is completing.”


After the cane is milled at the BSI factory in Orange Walk, the product is loaded into a fleet of steel hull barges owned and operated by BSI. And this fleet was the same being used as early as the sixties by the factory.

 

Damian Gough – Manager of Marketing and Export Operations, BSI


“Over the course of the years I think some of these barges may have been rebuilt over at least once or twice in the last 30 or 40 that they have been in operations.”


Dalila Ical – Reporter


“What goes into these kinds of operations but will it be actually cheaper to get new barges or bigger barges?”


Damian Gough – Manager of Marketing and Export Operations, BSI


“Yes, definitely there is an advantage to that and it is something that the company is looking at right now as everybody knows we were recently majority bought over by American Sugar Refining and those are some of the studies that we have recently conducted to look at the benefits or the positives to perhaps replacing the fleet completely and upgrading it.”


Once these have been loaded, they are pulled along the New River and down the coast to harbour in Belize City.

 

Damian Gough – Manager of Marketing and Export Operations, BSI


“The journey takes about 37 to 37 hours to bring down four loaded barges averaging between 475 to about 500 tons of sugar, once the sugar gets here it is loaded directly from out of the barges into the ship using the ships’ cranes and gearing equipment, we supply the clam shell bucket grabs that are used for the loading process.”


The loading process may seem unsanitary as sugar is spilled along the ship’s deck and these are actually scooped up and added to the cargo. But there is no need for alarm since Gough says the sugar, in its raw form, is not fit for direct human consumption.

 

Damian Gough – Manager of Marketing and Export Operations, BSI


“It still need to be further process at its destination it will be melted down and reprocess down into refine sugar, the handling of the sugar is pretty safe, the barges that we use are used extremely and exclusively only for moving sugar there aren’t any other products that go into the barges, the ships that we charter usually have to provide us with a certain degree of or a certain type of qualification that we refer as to  a Cleanliness Certificate as to how they clean the cargo holes before we loaded.”


To date over 180 thousand tonnes of cane has been delivered to the factory which has produced over seventeen thousand tonnes of sugar. At this pace, stakeholders say production is coming along pretty well. The hope is that the next shipment to leave Belize will be larger.)

 

A ship like the San Remo II takes twelve to thirteen days to load. Men like Dale Waters work on rotations from Sunday to Sunday until they are relieved by new workmen.

 

Dale Waters – Stevedore


“Yes we do and I guess that at the end of the day it comes back to brotherly love for each other.”


Dalila Ical – Reporter

 

“So the crew really works with each other well together?”


Dale Waters – Stevedore


“Well we try to make the best of the situation and each and every given day or night as it might be.”


Health and safety is of importance for the crew.  During rains operations cease. But even with the most coordinated operations, accidents do happen. Waters, who has been on the same job for 24 years, has had his day in the ER.

 

Dale Waters – Stevedore


“Well, has its challenges from day to day and take it as a learning experience whenever I can and whenever pitfalls or whatever comes that the day goes as smoothly and try to build on it for the other day.”


Dalila Ical – Reporter


“For over two decades of experience I am sure you have seen your share of mishaps on the job”


Dale Waters – Stevedore


“Yes I have and that is the reason why safety is one of the number one rules whenever we are coming aboard the vessel we try to as much as possible be as safe as possible when it comes to times of the work, whenever I see something is not going right.”


Dalila Ical – Reporter


“Have you yourself been involved in one of these mishaps?”


Dale Waters – Stevedore


“Yes I have, I have, very serious mishaps that my fingers were mashed actually between two containers so I have had my share.”


Dalila Ical – Reporter


“But even so you keep going on the job still pushing through?”


Dale Waters – Stevedore


“Yes I have I guess that at the end of the day is dedication that drives me, dedication to the world.”


Dalila Ical – Reporter


“Now, this is an out of the ordinary job, twenty four you mention so obviously there is some sort of a lot for this particular experience.”


Dale Waters – Stevedore


“Yes it has grown with me.”


Of note is that this system currently used by the factory is not the most adequate, in fact, the mechanism is out-dated in other sugar producing countries.

 

Damian Gough – Manager of Marketing and Export Operations, BSI


“Rather than this operation that we use, this operation that we use I can see is a bit inefficient but given its unique just to our operation here in Belize, most other sugar producing countries in and around the region have that mechanize operating resource available to them we have to cope with it this way.”


Dalila Ical – Reporter


“Have you considered other processes?”


Damian Gough – Manager of Marketing and Export Operations, BSI


“Yes, we’ve done extensive studies over the course of the last ten years that I’ve been involve with the company and even before that to look at road transportation to truck the sugar down to the port, we’ve looked at in the last years studies to perhaps increase the size of the barges, we’ve looked at several other angles that we can use, for now this is the most I guess advantageous operation.”


Stakeholders like the cane farmers and the community at large rarely have the opportunity to appreciate this step in sugar production, thus BSI’s invitation to the media says Cane Farmers Relations at BSI, Olivia Carballo Avilez.

 

Olivia Carballo Alvilez – Cane Farmers Relations, BSI


“Lo que pasa con la caña, primero ellos producen sus canas  en sus cañaverales, entregan la caña y ellos ven hasta a donde entra en la fábrica, en la fábrica ocurre un proceso bastante complicado pero también es bueno que lo vean.  Yo creo que con educación y con capacitación  y mostrar como es el proceso yo  creo que podemos avanzar bastante y todos podemos pensar y hacer buenas decisiones con información y con capacitación y ese es el objetivo.”


The crew started loading the San Remo II on February 3rd and the ship was scheduled to leave by five pm today. The shipments will more than likely head to London. According to Goughs estimations, as many as seven vessels will be chartered for the crop and spread out over a period of about six to seven months.

 

 

Manager of Marketing and Export Operations at BSI, Damian Gough says that as soon as the first shipment leaves the country, the next vessel should be arriving in the early part of next week.

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