Major H Gilbert Swaso (Ret’d) was appointed as the Ports Commissioner of the Belize Port Authority on 7 December 2020. He comes to the Authority with many years of service in various management positions in administrative and enforcement agencies throughout his career.
Major H Gilbert Swaso is a highly trained officer who served within the Belize Defence Force for twenty four years. He also served at the National Emergency Management Organization and the Belize Port Authority as the Operations Manager and Deputy Ports Commissioner. Major Swaso attended the School of Infantry in Warminster, England where he became the first International student to earn the grade of Distinction on the Skill-At-Arms and Minor Tactics Instructor Course. He later attended and graduated from the United States Coast Guard Officer Candidate School. He went on to attend and graduate from the Advance Infantry Officers Course. He was seconded to the Regional Security System in Barbados where he served as the Staff Officer Training. Major Swaso graduated with honours from the University of Belize after completing a course in Para-legal Studies and graduated with merit from University of West Indies after completing Legal Method and Writing course. Major Swaso is a Certified Master Marine Surveyor and a Marine Cargo Surveyor. He later founded and incorporated the Wafagua Nautical & Safety Institute in 2007, through which he implemented the PACT funded Pristine Seas Project in 2010. He conducted several maritime training sessions including Marine Pilots training and Maritime Port Security Course throughout his career.
As the Ports Commissioner/Harbour Master, he is the director of the Authority and responsible for all functions entrusted to him under the Belize Port Authority (BPA) Act CAP 233, Harbours & Merchant Shipping Act CAP 234; Wreck and Salvage Act CAP 237 and Abandoned Wreck Act CAP 235. He is the Chief Executive Officer of the Belize Port Authority, with all legal and financial responsibilities that entails.
Under Major H Gilbert Swaso’s leadership, the port state control operations and safety and security of the maritime community in Belize continue to be a main focus of the Authority, particularly in fulfilling Belize’s obligations under the various international conventions and ensuring that the training opportunities continue to be utilized.
With a committed and competent workforce of sixty six (67) at the end of fiscal year 2019/2020, the Authority continues to rise to the challenge to meet the demand of the public by offering efficient and flexible services.
Major Swaso stated that, “he is honoured and excited to have been selected to lead this esteemed organization. I look forward to working with the employees of the Belize Port Authority whilst maintaining a harmonious relationship with the Maritime Community and Stakeholders to ascertain safety of life at sea and the maritime environmental protection.”
The Legal Department’s role is to offer professional legal services to the Belize Port Authority with our main focus on safety and security. The department’s functions are to provide legal advice to the Authority, prosecute violators, prepare maritime cases, review & update legislation and prepare reports based on maritime inquires.
Conventions Ratified by Belize
The International Maritime Organisation Convention Act, 2008, Belize Statutory Instrument No. 17 of 2008 makes provisions to list the various Conventions/Protocols and date of Accession by Belize. The International Maritime Organization is the umbrella organization with responsibility for those listed Conventions.
Of note on 8 July 2014, the Government of Belize deposited with the International Labour Office the instrument of ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006). Belize is the 62nd ILO Member State and the eighth Member State of the Ocean Memorandum of Understanding on port State control in the Caribbean Region to have ratified this Convention. Belize’s merchant fleet consists of vessels of over 1.8 million gross tons in total. This ratification brings to 50 the total numbers of ILO Conventions ratified by Belize.
The Belize Port Authority (BPA) is a statutory body established in accordance with the BPA Act Chapter 233, Harbours and Merchant Shipping Act Chapter 234, Wrecks and Salvage Act Chapter 237, and Abandoned Wreck Act Chapter 235.
- Belize Port Authority Act Chapter 233 (Subsidiary & Substantive) Revised 2011 – focuses on aids to navigation, and hydrography; international conventions relating to safety and security of ports (Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS); International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) Code)
- Harbours and Merchant Act Chapter 234 (Subsidiary & Substantive) Revised 2011 -focuses on inspection of foreign ships for compliance with International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Conventions, assessment of seaworthiness of local vessels, certification of local crew and marine pilots, facilitation of cabotage, marine casualty inquiries and investigations.
- Abandoned Wreck Act Chapter 235 & Wrecks and Salvage Act Chapter 237 – focuses on removal of wrecks from waterways to allow for safety of navigation.
Update on Legislations
Water Taxis Regulations
- To regulate routes, designated landing places, schedules and fares
- To ensure adequate service to and safety of passenger
- To require the submission of passenger manifests on local and transnational voyage
- To require VHF radios on passenger vessels with capacity of 12 or more (SOLAS Class Vessels), and to require the emergency numbers of the BPA and the Coast Guard to be prominently displayed on all such vessel
- To require an approved emergency plan for SOLAS Class vessel
- To require Third Party Insurance on all commercial vessel
- To provide for a passenger user fee
Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2016
Other Legal Instruments
The proposed PSC and ISPS regulations are in accordance with the standards set by the IMO, to improve the effectiveness of Belize’s responsibility falling under the purview of the BPA. The regulations are intended to implement the provisions of international maritime conventions and contain provisions giving rights of appeal and compensation in respect of detained ships, and allowing inspection of operational requirements.
Port Reception Facilities
Comprehensive National Transportation Master Plan
- Belize Port Authority Act (CAP 233):
- Cargo handling equipment at privatized and leased ports
- The licensing of Shipping Agents
- Requirements for vessels engaged on international voyages and
- Provisions for commercial services permit
- Harbours and Merchant Shipping Act (CAP 234):
- Maritime Safety
- Port State Control