Before the Port of Big Creek (PBC) was dredged to 11 meters depth in March 2019, the “tug and barge” cargo transport system—utilized for decades by the northern sugar industry—was one of the industry bottlenecks. The channel and nearshore dredging at PBC, however, created Belize’s first deep water port and also an opportunity for Belize Sugar Industries Ltd. (BSI) to materially improve its raw sugar and molasses logistics operation. BSI strategically conducted trials of sugar and molasses shipments through PBC in 2019 and determined that using PBC was more economical but required a significant investment for BSI to build its own assets at the port and change the mode of transportation.
The previous system of loading in the Belize City harbor posed several logistical challenges for the industry with significant financial impacts. Among those challenges were higher cost of ocean freight due to the slow loading rate, environmental concerns with the waterways, an aging molasses floating storage terminal, and fleet of barges and tugs with high maintenance, repair and insurance costs.
The new improved raw sugar and molasses logistic model includes a new, efficient fleet of trucks and trailers moving raw sugar and molasses from the mill to PBC. BSI investment at PBC includes a 30,000 ton raw sugar warehouse with portable mechanized appendages for loading and a 10,000 ton tank for molasses with underground pipelines to feed directly to vessels.
Mac McLachlan, Belize Country Manager and VP of International Relations, ASR Group says, “This is one of a series of strategic and transformational investments by the company to ensure the viability of this industry.” He continued, “This massive investment removes a major bottleneck by boosting our ability to export our products more efficiently and competitively thereby directly improving the long-term sustainability of the industry. It is also a major infrastructure investment in Belize, helping to modernize the countries logistic platform.”
The move to PBC required a BZ$30.6M capital investment. This investment directly benefits farmers, who will see savings from lower ocean freight costs, projected to be between BZ$1.4 million to $BZ 2.5 million annually.