Floating dock idea sinks in EIA

| 17/06/2015 | 11 Comments

(CNS): The idea of a floating dock as an alternative to the proposed concrete piers for cruise ship berthing appears to have been sunk in the environmental impact assessment recently released for public consultation. The consultants question the technical feasibility of the proposal because despite its environmental credentials, it cannot offer a sufficiently robust mooring system. Pointing to some fatal flaws in the concept, the consultants noted that no floating dock structure has ever been developed in a hurricane exposed environment.

The proposal for a floating pier made to government last year was within the scope of work undertaken by Baird, the lead consultants on the team that carried out the EIA. Although they found that it offered “some advantages” over a fixed pier solution, such as considerably less marine environment damage and disruption during construction, Baird said it identified a number of “significant technical challenges that don’t appear to have been addressed by the proponents”.

Baird questions the ability to develop a sufficiently robust mooring system, given the water depths into which the floating piers would extend.

“The proposed concept is unique, and without precedent, for a site exposed to hurricane waves. Based upon the information available at this time regarding the floating pier concept, Baird questions whether the concept is technically feasible,” it stated in the recently published EIA documents.

The concept of a floating facility was put forward by a group of local businessmen based on technical input from two Dutch companies — a project which could be financed using a private sector investment. The scheme was proposed by local advocate and businessman, Bo Miller.

The proposed alternative had been presented as having virtually no environmental impact, and since no dredging would be required, the lengthy piers would also cause less of a visual change to the harbour. A quicker construction period with far less disruption, the project offered what appeared to be an attractive option. However, Baird was concerned that the project was not technically feasible without dredging because of the need to anchor the piers in very deep water off the Cayman Wall in excess of 500 feet.

“Even in the absence of dredging, there is still the potential for damage to corals associated with the anchors,” the consultants said, noting the need for some 240 seabed anchors that would impacts corals. The first 900 feet of the pier would be “fixed” by either a conventional pile-supported or gravity-based design, which would still damage the reef within the footprint of the fixed pier.

Suggestions that the floating structure could be repositioned during rough weather has raised a number of questions, the consultants said, including the identification of a suitable place to store the massive structure and the time needed to move it. They also noted that while there are numerous large floating marine structures around the world, this concept is unique for a site exposed to hurricane waves. Although some of the challenges posed by the idea might be addressed in the design, there are some “fatal flaws” with the idea, they warned.

“The ability to design a suitable anchor system to restrain the piers and resist the significant loads associated with winds, currents and waves acting on the cruise ships is questionable,” the consultants found. “The installation of anchors on a steep slope at these depths would be very challenging.”

Nor’westers may make it impossible for larger ships to dock on floating piers and the length of the piers may defeat the purpose of berthing because passengers will still have a considerable distance to travel from pier to shore.

While the consultants raised doubts about the genuine potential of the proposal, pointing to problems constructing a floating dock and the amount of concrete required, as well as a number of other technical challenges that don’t seem to have been considered, they nevertheless recommended that if government presses ahead with the dock project, the proponents of the floating pier be given a chance to address the technical and design questions before a bid process begins.

Cayman News Service

Proposed floating cruise ship dock for Grand Cayman

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Category: development, Local News, Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (11)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    In doing some quick research it looks like a floating port that is structurally sound is a possibility. Even if it is an extreme engineering feat, would the CI community be happier with a cutting edge environmentally friendly port unlike any other of its kind. That in itself is sure to attract tourism.

    Just because you can design and monetize the cost of the common pier and pillar structure, it obviously looks like the reasonable option when compared to a floating design with so man unknowns. I’d agree if cost and construction is the extent of your impact analysis, but your looking a construction project that could change your entire ecosystem and have damaging effects to the beautiful surrounding coral reef ecosystem the CI community depends on.

    I am not a CI citizen but travel their frequently and have a family residence on Seven Mile Beach so I’m not sure what weight my opinion holds but…I urge all parties that are for the pier expansion to look at the environmental impact of what a similar situation in Key West FL has caused. Key West, also a small island with a huge Cruise ship industry with a large coral reef ecosystem, dredged their main channel to boost cruise ship tourism, and it cost them their precious coral reef ecosystem. I’ve unfortunately witnessed this ecosystem decline first hand over the past 30 yrs and its truly devastating to see such a beautiful and flourishing coral reef turn completely white and lose all significant marine life.

    Is the additional tourism economic boost really worth the loss of your beautiful coral reefs in and around the harbor? These are extremely fragile ecosystems and be assured that this level of construction will impact more that just the local harbor. In Key West, this dredge largely affect all local coral reefs and continues to affect the ecosystems as the ships arrive in record numbers due to the channel expansion.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The statement that floating docks or piers is a ” that has been around for years ” is really a great stretch of the truth and fact. Have a look at floating airports, London,Japan, floating hotels, Offices and apartment buildings across Europe. On Google images you’ll also find cruise ships docked at floating piers in California, Canada and Alaska. As to whether there is technology to safely anchor such a floating structure in a hurricane or other storm, is matter for the engineers, who in this case have never been asked by Baird or anyone else to do so. As the EIA was clearly focused on the current plan assigned to them by their client, CI Government. If the engineers are asked to provide a complete Engineered Report on the Floating Pier, addressing all the concerns, who should be expected to pay for this?
    Needless to say, a casual review on Google will clearly demonstrate that Floating Concrete Piers is a well established method for mooring ships and other marine interests of many types. One primary reason they are used is to preserve marine environments. Oil Rigs are one example where substantial structures are moored in extremely deep water and under adverse weather conditions. Seaflex is one of the manufacturers which make mooring systems for mooring large heavy floating structures and keeping them secure in any weather condition. Floating docks survived a harsh hurricane in the Bahamas using Seaflex moorings, see it on YouTube. Given the importance of this project to our island and the considerable challenges posed by the current plan, it seems only reasonable to consider another option if it is less damaging to our pristine Marine Environment in the George Town Harbour which sets us apart from other cruise Destinations.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The engineering and design of a floating dock is not proven in the region and has no precedence around the world. Should the country risk gambling on financing this proposal with the peoples money when it is totally unproved without engineering and design. The only floating cruise pier is in Monaco and a single pier cost over $150m and as the Cayman floating cruise pier is the equivalent of 4-5 piers in the total number of pontoons involved, the cost of this project would be over 3-4 x the cost of the proposed two piers now presented. We are looking at over half a billion dollars with the 240 tension legs involved in securing this floating pier structure. What a huge gamble!

  4. First of all I want to make it perfectly clear that I am NOT against cruise tourism.I think it is needed BUT not in the way some of if not all merchants in town want it to be.I have for many years said that we as a small country with limited infrastructure cannot handle more than 4 ships a day PERIOD.The madness that goes on in town with 4 ships is bad enough without some saying we need 6-8 ships.”Hello”Its like a “chineese fire drill”so what more do you think it will be like with larger and more ships per day.I would like to see 4 ships per day 7 days a week if necessary and that way everyone can get a piece of the pie.I know what some of you will say to that in that ships cant just change schedules to suit us BUT give them enough notice and I am sure it can be done.Lets face it Cayman is one of their most popular stops and even without the dock they will continue to come.Lets all see proof that they will NOT come before I am convinced.
    Now for the harbor dredging etc etc.The ships bring their passengers and many of them snorkel right there in GT harbor.Some say that those reefs are dead and need to be removed to make way for this possible disaster in the making.I personally have dived that harbor more than most and say quite emphatically that those reefs are far from dead and in fact are doing exceptionally well considering where they are.Talking about moving the reefs to another location?That in itself is a futile almost impossible task.I know how hard it is to rebuild a reef that was destroyed by a cruise ship in GT harbor but as small as it was it has done remarkably well all facts considered.That was maybe at most less than half an acre and we are talking about an area of 13-17 acres possibly?Where are you going to put something of that size?At whose expence certainly not mine?The wonderful wreck of the Balboa dived on by literally thousands upon thousands and rated as one of the best night dives if not THE best in this part of the world?.That might be able to be re-located but again where do we put it and at what cost to the avid divers?
    I can go on and on about this topic but will close with this fair WARNING to all involved.We have one thing here in these wonderful islands to attract our VISITORS and that is our FRAGILE ENVIRONMENT once it get damaged or destroyed it will be gone if not forever for many many many years and our job situation here will become a nightmare as people get laid off business’s close down and our visitors will find somewhere else to go The ball is in your court and lets hope the RIGHT decision is made for future generations to follow.As my good friend and diving mentor said to me some weeks before he passed away “Peter when I am gone its up to you to carry on fighting for our environment”Bob Soto dedicated his life to this and I will fight as long as I can
    PMilburn Not afraid to sign my name.!!!!!!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    lets bind together all the tires from the dump – 2 birds one stone

  6. Anonymous says:

    As nearly all coral grow to a depth of 210feet, with a few exceptions. Anchoring into the wall at excess of 500 feet will have little effect on the coral. The difficulty of building anchor sites at this depth would be more of a technical difficulty but still possible and the technology is available to do this. Even with the 200+ mooring anchors the reef affected will be tiny in comparison to the dredging of a solid dock.

    Piles would probably be a better idea so the dock is allowed to move up and down with the waves in heavy seas, with no ships docked of course.

    The distance can be overcome with a nice shuttle service. Most cruise stops I’ve been to have shuttle services with permanent docks, as the docks are usual a way away from the town.

  7. Anonymous says:

    When questioned the Dutch crew also could not answer questions of how to build the floating pontoons since Cayman has no dry dock. To build such a dry dock would affect more coast line, coral etc than the cruise pier itself and would take longer to build. The costs are misrepresented too.. Expert opinion says that the floating system could easily be twice the cost of the proposed cruise pier and would not solve any cargo operation needs. This needs to go to rest along with Bo Millers political attempts.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I’m in favour of a floating dock anchored to the Kirk Pride and anything else they can find over the edge of the drop-off. If it’s only 10% of the cost of a fixed dock then it’s probably worthwhile to replace it every 10 years if a hurricane should carry it away. And if it’s build by private enterprise then all the better.

  9. E. Stenna says:

    When the floating dock idea was floated (pardon the pun), I saw it as being less impact to the SMB than a solid structure but I was curious how it would be safely anchored. Not being an engineer I thought the proponents had a solution for that significant facet. However the EIA focus primarily on that same concern.

    If the anchoring issue can be solved it still appears that a floating structure is better for the surrounding environment than a solid structure. What now??

    • Anonymous says:

      First nor’wester will put the floating structure all over the street in GT, that’s the problem with a floating structure. Madda nature is a serious force and will surely snap any straps used to secure the floating dock.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t believe that the floating dock needs to be anchored to anything but the shore. It is a folding structure which can be configuered in many ways so as to allow for flexibility of use. In a Norwester it can be simply folded up in the lee of the land. In a hurricane, the same thing. If it is indeed a fraction of the cost and saves our precious environment, then replacement or repair in case of a big blow may be the answer.

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