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Electronic Chart Committee (ECC)
Working Group 1: MesoAmerica Pilot Project
Chairman: Vacant

Gulf of Honduras (GoH)Project
(Component 3: Enhancing Navigational Safety in Shipping Lanes)

Map of the Gulf of Honduras Watershed
Main Ports in the Gulf of Honduras.

CLICK HERE to see a chart showing the relationship of the Working Group 1:MesoAmerica Pilot Project with the MACHC and the Gulf of Honduras project. 


The purpose of this web page is to facilitate communications and organize the materials being produced by the MACHC Electronic Chart Committee’s (ECC) Working Group 1 (WG1): Meso-American Capacity Building Pilot Project. WG1's goal is to improve hydrographic capacity in the region by conducting a pilot project that demonstrates the importance of hydrographic information for safe navigation, protection of the marine environment, and sustainable economic growth. WG1 members include representatives from Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and the US. The work of the group is supported by the International Hydrographic Organization's (IHO) Capacity Building Committee.

WG1 has focused its efforts on developing a Hydrographic Activity Implementation Plan for "Component 3: Enhancing Navigational Safety in Shipping Lanes" of a trinational project called “Environmental Protection and Maritime Transport Pollution Control in the Gulf of Honduras.” This project involves the countries of Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, is administered by the InterAmerican Development Bank (IADB), and is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

WG1 representatives actively participated in the consultation meetings organized by the IADB to develop the Gulf of Honduras (GoH) Project description and successfully made the case for including hydrographic capacity building as a key element. The project was submitted to the GEF and the IADB where it was approved and is expected to become operational early in 2006. WG1 is now supporting Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras in preparing the detailed hydrographic action plan to be considered for the first year’s budget allocation.


Overview of the Environmental Protection and Maritime Transport Pollution Control in the Gulf of Honduras Project
[the following is adapted from the full Gulf of Honduras Project document]

The Gulf of Honduras is a unique tri-national body of water that includes portions of the exclusive economic zones of Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, and is home to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS)—the second largest barrier reef system in the world. Maritime transport plays a critical role in the region's overall economy, but the unregulated expansion of this sector places highly valued environmental resources in the Gulf, like the MBRS, at risk. In 2003, the five major ports in the Gulf accommodated nearly 4,000 ships and handled more than 12 million metric tons of cargo, and the volume of maritime traffic and goods shipped is only expected to increase (see Table 1). With an increase in port traffic and cargo loads comes an increase in the possibility of accidents and threats to human safety, property, and the environment—events that carry the potential to negatively affect the region's economy.

Table 1: Cargo Imported/Exported through Gulf of Honduras Ports Annually
(metric tons x 1,000)

Belize City Port, Belize
Big Creek, Belize
Santo Tomás de Castilla, Guatemala
Puerto Barrios, Guatemala
Puerto Cortés, Honduras

In 2000, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, the Central American Maritime Transport Commission (COCATRAM), and the Central American Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD) officially approached the IADB with a request to finance the preparation of a tri-national project that would provide marine environmental protection along with sustainable economic development in the Gulf of Honduras. The project partners recognized the need to focus on marine transport issues as a way to protect marine ecosystems and related maritime-based economies in the Gulf, and, as such—with support from the IADB and the GEF—the project partners developed the Environmental Protection and Maritime Transport Pollution Control in the Gulf of Honduras Project.

Project Objective

The Project's regional objective is to reverse the degradation of the coastal and marine ecosystems within the Gulf of Honduras by enhancing the prevention and control of maritime transport–related pollution in major ports and navigation lanes in the Gulf, improving navigational safety to avoid groundings and spills in the Gulf, and reducing land-based sources of pollution draining into the Gulf. The Project’s global objective is the implementation of a regionally coordinated Strategic Action Plan that will result in regional, and by extension global, environmental benefits through protection of international waters, their resources, and sustainable use of resources, while simultaneously reducing threats to the globally significant Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. The Project aims to achieve these goals by focusing on demonstrations of innovative technologies in the region.

Project Components

The full project consists of four components:

• Component 1: Building the regional capacity for maritime and land-based pollution prevention and control in Central America.
• Component 2: Building the information base and developing a Strategic Action Plan for the Gulf of Honduras.
Component 3: Enhancing navigational safety in shipping lanes.
• Component 4: Improving environmental management and hazard reduction measures in the regional network of five ports within the Gulf of Honduras.

This website focuses on the MACHC/ECC's WG1 contribution to Component 3: Enhancing Navigational Safety in Shipping Lanes.

Component 3: Enhancing Navigational Safety in Shipping Lanes

Activities under Component 3 focus on prevention of accidental groundings and discharges from maritime transport operations in the Gulf of Honduras, and on development of infrastructure and capacity to address such spills if they occur. Specifically, these activities are designed to improve hydrographic and oceanographic cooperation in the region, to define national and regional policy and legislative interventions, to demonstrate new technologies that can aid in the prevention of accidents, and to develop contingency plans to address accidents.

For more information on the Gulf of Honduras Project, see the Gulf of Honduras Project document.

For GIS data, see the "Gulf of Honduras Direct To GIS" map service demonstration.