PIR petition launched to stop cruise port

| 30/06/2015 | 45 Comments

Cayman News Service(CNS): A group of local activists have launched a campaign to trigger a People Initiated Referendum (PIR) on the government’s proposed cruise berthing project. In an effort to save more than fifteen acres of reef and marine life, which will be directly destroyed through dredging or gradually because of the turbulence and silt from the construction of the piers, Save Cayman is hoping government will put the issue to a national vote.

Following revelations in the recently published environmental impact assessment of significant and permanent damage in George Town Harbour, many people are questioning the wisdom of the plan.

With almost 18,500 registered voters, the petition will need to collect nearly 4,750 signatures from registered voters to force government’s hand to hold a national ballot on the subject before pressing ahead with the development. However, the activists are hopeful that the importance of the issue will see voters rally to the cause and sign up to trigger the referendum, which is provided for in the Cayman Islands Constitution 2009.

The campaign website www.savecayman.org was launched Monday and the activists will be promoting their campaign across the local media.

Visit the Save Cayman website and sign the petition for a referendum

Keith Sahm, general manager of Sunset House, who is one of the organizers spearheading the campaign, said that Grand Cayman’s nearshore marine resources, its beaches, coral reefs and clear waters are vital to its economy and the quality of life of for residents and visitors alike.

“This plan will destroy coral reefs and put more at risk,” Sahm told CNS, as the Save Cayman campaign was launched. “It is bad for the environment, Grand Cayman, as well as the cruise industry.”

Sahm said that such a loss of natural resources would mean a loss of tourism, jobs, revenue and the beauty that is Grand Cayman. Sahm, like other activists, is not just worried about the acres that will be lost directly as a result of dredging but the loss of coral during construction when it is covered in silt.

“The siltation plume, dense enough to kill coral reefs, stretches as far south as Jackson Point and as far north as Treasure Island Resort,” Sahm warned, as he noted the virtual impossibility of transplanting and relocating reefs. “Loss of coral reefs means loss of critical habitat, productivity, and biological communities along with all economic revenue they bring in through tourism and recreation activity.”

Urging people to say no to the current plan and for voters to sign the petition for a PIR, Sahm said it’s not about saying no to cruise tourism but about finding a balance. Sahm’s involvement in the Save Cayman campaign is not just about his business interests but to save the crystal clear waters of the Cayman Islands, its beautiful reefs and gorgeous white sandy beaches.

“What we also wish to accomplish is the legacy of protecting this for our children, their children and their children’s children,” he said, pointing out that this is spelled out in the Cayman Islands Constitution, specifically the Bill of Rights, which provides for environmental protection.

“A Marine Protected Area should be just that — a marine protected area in which destruction of natural marine resources is not allowed,” he added.

As well as the online petition for Cayman Islands voters to trigger the referendum, there is also a general petition open for anyone to sign, launched by local photographer Courtney Platt, who has now collected over 2600 signatures.

Sign the general petition to stop the cruise port development

With an all-out campaign to engage the community in this issue, Save Cayman is hoping that it will reach the target of 25% of registered voters in a short space of time to persuade government that this matter is of such national importance it should go to a public vote.

Premier Alden McLaughlin said that he does not believe government needs to put the issue to a national poll as he said the PPM spelled out in their manifesto during the 2013 General Election campaign that it would press ahead with the development of cruise berthing facilities in the capital.

“We campaigned specifically on plans for a port in George Town so there is no doubt that we have a mandate for the project. The question is whether it will be possible or not to significantly mitigate the  findings in the EIA,” the premier told CNS. He said the aim now was to run the cost analysis and weigh in the balance the factors surrounding the potential economic benefits for pressing ahead and losses if not versus the environmental findings. He said the decision would be made by Cabinet following the current public consultation on the EIA.

“But it was in the manifesto. We said we would do it and we got a majority, so no, we are going through the process,” he added.

Consultation on the EIA continues only until this Friday, 3 July.

See all of the relevant documents on the DoE website.

Members of the public can also submit comments of their own as per the instructions found on the site or complete the questionnaire.  

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

Comments (45)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The real issue is whether or not we wish to continue to participate in cruise tourism at all. We are not poised to compete, in anyway at all, in this market as we stand now. Given the trend towards mega ships, we are only looking at a future decline in cruise arrivals, as we cannot accomodate these vessels.

    If the answer is yes, we want cruise tourism, then we need to build a dock to remain competitive. If it is no, then we need to massively refocus our onshore tourism efforts…because there will be many more visitors gained by a dock than by air arrivals. Yes those cruise visitors spend less per capita than their air arriving conterparts, but by sheer volume, it represents a significant income stream.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Really not sure what all the fuss is about. I have every confidence that, directly opposite to the udp gowerment, (who are very likely behind this “PIR petition”), we now have a sensible and educated Government with our best interests at heart and who will certainly not require intervention by the UK to stop this project if it is not in our best interests. The udp will stop at NOTHING to put the PPM in a worse light than themselves when it is blatantly obvious this is an impossible goal.

  3. Anonymous says:

    As can be seen from the comments on here this subject is far too complex for the average person in the street to make the final decision via a referendum. We are all for or against it for our own reasons but whether it should go ahead will have to be decided by some very enlightened, educated and qualified people not by me, you or us.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Turks & Caicos Premier seeks funding from cruise companies to build cruise port terminal development on East Caicos

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure a referendum is a particularly smart idea because it’s too easy to play on emotive issues to manipulate the outcome and once the votes are in the result will be binding.

    What really does bother me about this project is the total lack of interest being shown in it by the cruise lines. In recent years they’ve poured $millions into other destinations but (apart from a token contribution to the on-going reef repairs) won’t put a penny into Grand Cayman. In fact if you talk to some of the watersports operators who rely on the cruise business they’ll tell you that income has actually declined as margins have been slashed by cruise lines demanding unrealistically low rates for their services.

  6. Driftwood says:

    here are three important and major capital projects that Are being looked at. The dump, the airport and a dock. Do,we really think we can fund all three? If we had to choose one what would it be? The dump is more important than either a new dock or airport. If we can then afford another major project do we want to focus on our stay over tourists or our cruise ship visitors?

    • Garfield says:

      Driftwood, The airport deal could have been done without taking on new debt if the CIG had agreed to the airport Public / Private Participation deal offered by the Canadians last year. Bermuda took the same deal offered and they are now well on the way to a new airport with jetways without taking on new public debt.

  7. nauticalone says:

    And in other news; All Civil Servants were sent a reminder today about signing PIR’s. Subtle warning from the powers that be? The same ones who railed against Mac for such tactics.

    • Anonymous says:

      Please state which bit said we couldn’t sign.
      You need to reread it. It is stating that it is our democratic right to sign

  8. David Miller says:

    If people would check with the Principal Secretary of this portfolio during that year ,one would see I’m correct. The tender owner and myself took his boat to look for a missing diver off Northwest point. He was driving the boat and I was putting my gear together. He noticed that the “Dredge boat” was dumping its materiel on the reef. We stopped, I went down to take the picture with his camera. I went down to 70 feet and the top of the mountain of marl ,sand and silt was 30 feet from the surface.
    We pondered that the next Northwester would destroy Soto Reef, ” IT DIDN’T “, as anyone has seen from the 80’s. Smit Rotterdam had a dredge cut a canal on her starboard side so that the next full moon they could winch the ship off the reef.
    We keep forgetting that Soto Reef has been hit by cruise ship in the past. When a northwester was coming they allowed the holland america ship to anchor by Soto reef and it swung around and hit the reef side on, it should have went to spotts. We had another cruise ship years ago that also hit Eden’s rock and took out a huge section which is still there. When the cruise ships come to anchor they drop their anchor on coral that is never given a chance to recover. 12-20 ton anchors and 100’s of pounds of chain link. Take a morning and watch when a ship comes in and see 100’s of feet of chain link fall on the reef. Every time she swings she’s breaking new coral trying to grow back . That distance is from Edens rock all the way to Pageant beach. Now that is a lot more then 15 acres. But alas no one wants to fix that ? No one wants even talk about it, really? If we going to pretend to be concern about the coral reef then speak the truth.
    Diving has been going down for years people are coming to see the stingrays. Thats on sand . All over the world they speak about climate change global warming . Now all of sudden reefs are NOT DYING? Ladies and gentlemen we need to make up our mind. Diving up or down , Prove it. We already proved cruise passengers are up. Where are the Caymanians working for any of these companies? We got lots of Caymanians working Taxis,tour busses, stingray boats and they making more then $10 per hour.

    • Anonymous says:

      Inaccurate clam regarding hundreds of feet of chain on coral DAILY. The central part of GT Harbour is so heavily impacted that it is not worth trying to save. What is worth it, and what the EIA highlights, are those areas (such as around the Balboa) that haven’t been anchored on by cruise ships because they are too shallow (and which haven’t been hit yet) but would be part of the 15 acres of healthy reef destroyed by the dredging. (And excluded from the other acerage which would receive ‘sub-lethal’ impact.) – As for your question ‘is no one worried about those reefs’, how quickly you forget the proposals in the 1980s and 1990s to put in deep-water cruise ship moorings at GT and possibly Spotts. It would allow the ships to moor where they now anchor, with much less environmental impact than a dock (or even anchoring, long-term). But you’d still have tenders so the dockists rejected that proposal for decades.

      (Spotts is just a money issue: was it worth the cost of moorings vs the cost of ships holding position with thrusters, once they were made to stop anchoring in Spotts. Though it wouldn’t be acceptable to prove the moorings worked at the secondary anchorage while not using them at the daily anchorage out of a misplaced desire for a dock.)

      • Cathy Church says:

        Well said. Permanent moorings have always been a very good idea. I have never understood why they did not do it a LONG long time ago. Although my pessimistic mind can certainly surmise why it was not done. Money talks the best in most places.

    • Anonymous says:

      Caymanians working for the companies? Really? It is a bunch of lovely (but usually stoned) foreign dive masters and captains, Jamaican bus drivers and Philippine shop assistants. The only Caymanians are those pretending to own 60% of the businesses.

  9. Satirony says:

    This idea of a referendum is badly thought out.This is not a yes or no decision, as there are other port options evaluated by Baird in their EIA which will do very little damage to the environment. When correctly priced to include the reef rescue costs, at least one alternative is not only the cheapest but reduces the dredging by 90% over the option being discussed. Let’s do our homework and look at the facts before getting all emotional.

    • Anonymous says:

      Good question to ask is ‘why wasn’t the least cost option proposed?’. I don’t recall my skim of the EIA finding an answer.

  10. cimboco says:

    I do not have any experience to throw around on this topic but I would like to just warn the Premier to tread slowly on this one. Please ensure that this is looked at from all angles and please Sir do not cut off your nose to spite your face. Not because the PPM campaigned on building the port and won the elections you should stick to your guns no matter what. Remember back then we did not have the benefit of the EIA. I voted PPM but not because you said you would build a port but because I felt that you had the best candidates to run the Country and so far I still believe that is the case. I had no interest at all in the port. However, if there is any doubt that this plan is the one to take I think you should err on the side of caution. I know this talk about a pier has been going on for decades but really has it been so difficult? Tourist are still coming, cargo can still be off- loaded. Now that the EIA has been done should not all the pros and cons be weighed carefully. some people say it should go to Red Bay- I don’t know maybe that is the safest place but I guess the wealthy home owners will not like that. If I had a nice house up there I probably wouldn’t like it either. The divers don’t want it in town because it will negatively impact their businesses. The wealthy business people want it in town so the tourist can off- load easier – every sector has their own agendas but you Mr. Premier and your government has to do what is best for the entire island. This is a tough one so please do not be foolhardy – take your time with this and remember it is ok to change your mind.

  11. Anonymous says:

    If we continue opposing every development plan we will soon be “the Islands that will be forgotten”. The reality is that George Town survival depends on those piers being built. I am a bit skeptical of the motive of those persons spearheading this petition who seem to have the most to lose if the piers are built i.e those who own the tenders. Whose interest do they serve, their own or for the majority of the George Town merchants, employees and small business people whose livelihood will be improved by the construction of these piers?

    • Anonymous says:

      1) Not even the OBC claimed (much less showed) that ‘George Town survival depends on those piers being built’. Quite the opposite in fact, the reports have highlighted the need for other improvements (roadwways/pedestrianism, beautification, etc.) as being more important to our tourism product. And the need for any improvements (dock or otherwise) to be part of a wholesale tourism management / improvement PLAN. (BTW GT and Sand Bar are at ‘max capacity’ already, so bringing in more tourists actually just degrades the product, according to the Tourism Management reports.)
      2) If the majority of people actually support the docks, as you claim, then a referendum will show that. So why don’t you support letting people’s voices be heard? – Perhaps because you know the majority of GT merchants, staff, etc., know that more tourists is not the solution for GT its better tourism management & an improved ‘product’. Which the docks aint.
      3) So what if someone is representing their own interests in a debate, isn’t that what you’re doing?

      • Anonymous says:

        Apparently you have not driven around George Town and seen the vast number of closed businesses since the downturn in the cruise ship passengers loads or have seen the movement of offices and shops up to Camana Bay. You perhaps are not aware of the number of Caymanians who have lost their jobs since so many shops have shuttered their doors or have shopped on Christmas Eve and seen how dismally void the Streets are of shoppers. The survival of George Town greatly depends on the health of the cruise ship passenger loads. Infrastructure improvement should go hand in hand with pier development. If we do not get our act together I am afraid that we will be left behind the rest of the Caribbean, particularly with Cuba opening up soon.

        • Cathy Church says:

          The businesses downtown are hurt by Caymana Bay, they are hurt by their own unwillingness to beautify the town. They are hurt by congestion. The dock will not change Christmas Eve! They could make downtown a fantastic destination instead of the ugly area it has become. Also, there are far more businesses than the tenders who will be badly hurt by the dock. Do they get an equal voice? Does Eden Rock, Don Fosters, Sunset House, Cathy Church’s, Glass bottom boat, Atlantis Submarines,and more — they all depend on clear water and a healthy reef. But a long term, on-going siltation for each piling will last longer than the coral can survive it. And later, every time a boat moves, every time the bottom is stirred, the silt just keeps flowing. The pit that is dug will accumulate silt until the next ship blows it back into the water. You have to see it for yourself and understand coral to realize the implications.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Once again Cayman will not be following how the rest of the developed world does things because they are so much smarter then them. No dock because…. No dump solution because… etc….etc. Cayman is too smart to get anything done.

    • Anonymous says:

      So the rest of the developed world don’t do EIAs on big projects and then compare the costs to the benefits and make a decision? Wow. If I wasn’t Caymanian I’d be pretty insulted by your disparagement of the rest of the developed world. As it is I must take it as a compliment. 🙂

  13. Anonymous says:

    Holy cow @9:35am……I went and downloaded the report. Took a while but it also says that if the turbidity barriers are used there would be a maximum plume of 490ft….that doesn’t really paint a picture of what Sahm and Platt are trying to say. “All the way to Jackson point” really Mr Sahm…come on now cut the garbage. I hope everyone gets the right information.

    • Cathy Church says:

      Did you read the section about the expansion of the plume? It does indeed go much further in their report. Also, have you ever seen a turbidity barrier that actually works?? The report fails to asses their effectiveness with silt. The barriers also will be taken down after the piling is in and then when the ships come in, their thrusters will stir things up every time. The report based their observations on aerial shots of sand turbidity during a Norwester!! Sand settles quickly and does not travel far. Marl silt takes forever to settle and travels onward. You need to see the part of the report that shows the range of the plum well beyond the barriers. That is the plume that will just keep going. The report also says that if turbidity exceeds standards, they will shut down the dredging. I can see it now — I am teaching underwater and cannot see more than 20 feet. So I surface, make a call and ask them to stop dredging. 1. They will say it is too expensive to stop these machines. 2. Even if they do stop, it will take days for the water to clear. It is a no win situation. Remember — our island is built on a coral reef. Without hard corals, the bottom erodes. Then we erode. Plain and simple.

      • Anonymous says:

        Cathy: You should get your facts straight before you publish them. Cayman is not ‘Built On A Coral Reef ‘. Cayman ( all 3 islands) are a result of tectonic plate movement, sinking & uplift over geologic time along the Oriente Fracture Zone & Transform Fault, that extends as part of the North American Plate , eastwards to Cuba-Haiti and westwards to the Central American continent.

        Geology of the Cayman Islands by Brian Jones c1994
        Read excerpt here: http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-011-0904-8_2#page-1

  14. Anonymous says:

    Whilst this is clearly a matter for the people of the Cayman Islands, a matter of such grave and significant environmental destruction should not just rest in the hands of a comparative small number of voters. This is a matter for all those that will be affected, this includes the many thousands who stand to lose their livelihoods and consequently their investment interests here on Cayman. Without work and the money that workers invest in the local economy, any slight advantage that a fixed cruise ship dock will have will be negated by serious and permanent damage to every aspect of the islands income.
    People try to compare Cayman with other islands and their capacity to accommodate cruise ships. But, Grand Cayman is far smaller than most, it’s marine environment is far better protected and consequently more complete and diverse, and most importantly their ports are not situated so close to the main tourism beach or marine attractions.
    Such environmental vandalism is of international importance and should be subjected to the highest possible scrutiny. So whilst any petition that is gathered locally is most welcome, the main target for petitioners should be the UK FCO who hold ultimate responsibility to ensure the preservation of critical environments within UK Overseas Territories.
    The numbers will need to be vast in order to trigger a UK parliamentary debate, but with an organised blitz on international social media such numbers should be possible.

    This is not a situation that should be reliant on a few thousand votes. This can and should be made an international campaign so that Cayman and the rest of the world understand that cheap cruises may make their oversized, underdressed, freakishly pierced and tattooed passengers feel good about themselves, but are destroying terrestrial and marine environments in the process.

  15. Anonymous says:

    As the ships typically sit ‘On Station’ now with their thruster’s to maintain position in deep water , once you get 5 of them in shallow water dockside to manoeuvre off & on the dock/s.. what is now crystal clear water in GT Harbor & both north & south along the coast will vanish. The construction phase is one thing , but then to have decades of turbid silt along the coastline areas will be entirely another. This is outlined in the EIA under ‘Thruster & prop wash plumes’. There will be no turbidity barriers once construction ends.

    • Anonymous says:

      When the ships are sitting tied up to the dock no engines or thrusters will be engaged. Thrusters are only used for approximately 20 seconds maximum uppon approah or departure. This is another anomaly and bad information from the thruster simulation of the EIA. They showed a thruster at 100% for 15 minutes. Thrusters are only engaged for longer than 20 seconds under adverse weather conditions for then a maximum of 60 seconds. Do some research or ask someone that runs ships.

      • Anonymous says:

        This is not true 3:57pm. You are saying that it will take them each 20 seconds to dock!!?? LOL
        Plus, the animation showed only ONE thruster in operation. It takes all 4 to dock. And I can promise that it takes longer than 20 seconds to dock one of those behemoths. More like 20 minutes.
        Do some more research.

        • Anonymous says:

          Not 20 seconds to dock. 20 seconds of bow thruster use. You don’t run the box thruster the whole way in or you’d be going sideways. …

  16. caymanaindonkey says:

    All I want to know is, has there been a letter from the cruise ship companies stating that if we don’t build the port, they will not come to Cayman? If so, please provide this letter to us!

    • Come Little Donkey Come says:

      Come on now Tingalayo, do you really think a multinational Corp is going to send a written threat to any country with ultimatums? People with big business experience like you should know better about legal implications and extortion.

      • Caymaniandonkey says:

        according to the PPM,UDP they have been told this!!!! maybe verbally, well I wan this in writing!!!!!!
        I have no objection on a dock being built, what I have a problem is that being told by our ministers that “if we built it they will come”!!!
        What I really like is CNS’s writers all appear to be PPM voters as there are way more thumbs up on this article compared to the FB page showing the damage.
        I personally believe we should be looking at expanding the runway and overstay tourism, which will provide income for 1000’s of caymanians, not a port which will only put money into 5 Caymanians pockets!!!!
        We have a lot more important issues to deal with in Cayman right now. LIKE EDUCATION AND CRIME!!!!!

        • Anonymous says:

          You might be right on the education part because it looks like no one ever taught you how to count past one hand if you really believe the number 5.

        • Fuzzy says:

          Caymaniandonkey – the port will obviously help those downtown business owners but you are being very myopic if you think they’re the true winners.
          You talk about crime, if the cruise industry drops down to where it was just a few years ago (before our government promised a dock and they increased routes) then many hundreds of Caymanians will lose jobs and many thousands will suffer (from persons that work in stores downtown to taxi drivers, excursion workers, turtle farm, stingray city, dive operators etc.). When all of those thousands of people don’t make as much money (or lose their job in many cases) they won’t be spending money at restaurants, stores, gas stations and the people who are employed at those places will be affected and so on. When all of those people are making less money that WILL affect crime. Cruise tourism is a large player in our island economy, if you look at the money they actually physically spend you are looking at less than 10% of its economic impact.
          On top of that I’ve been told (I don’t know how valid it is because it isn’t mentioned in the EIA) that we need to dredge anyway in the next few years to accomodate cargo ships (or move the cargo port somewhere else that we can dredge) because the ones they use now are on their last legs and they don’t make them that small anymore.
          Bottom line is that we NEED a new airport, and we NEED cruise tourism. IF the cruise tourism will drop substantially with no pier then we NEED a pier.
          The “five” Caymanians who may get richer in your estimation could probably cash out and walk away if the pier doesn’t happen, if that happens then your crime problem becomes an epidemic.

          • Anonymous says:

            It was only a few weeks ago that the Caymanian workers you mentioned will loose their jobs were called Ex-pats!

  17. Anonymous says:

    I’m really glad that Mac and the Chinese weren’t allowed to go ahead and build the dock! Have you seen what the Chinese are doing to major reef systems in the South China Sea?? These people don’t give a damn about the environment.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I am not totally for the piers as shown/described in the EIA report. HOWEVER, we need to stick to the facts. Yes 15 acres of sea bed will be removed, but NOT 15 acres of reef or coral. Most of the harbour is sand, hard rock bottom and rubble from decades of anchoring. So it would seem that only about 3 to 4 acres of live reef/coral would be affected by the dredging.
    That being said, I feel that we should continue investigations to determine if there is a solution with lower or no environmental effects. If not then we the people need to decide if we are willing to let the piers die, cruise tourism to settle to whatever level, and focus more attention on stay-over tourism. Persons involved in the support of cruisers should seriously consider switching to the support of stay-over tourists which must be a more lucrative living.

    • Anonymous says:

      Please check the EIA again. The actual dredge area is larger than 15 acres. The 15 acres is just the area of directly impacted, i.e., killed, reef.

    • Cathy Church says:

      Facts copied from the report:
       Total project footprint ~ 32.5 acres (13.2 ha), including:
      o Dredging footprint ~ 23.0 acres (9.3 ha); AKA Dredge Pocket
      o Land reclamation footprint ~ 7.7 acres (3.1 ha);

  19. Know the Truth says:

    The statement by Mr. Sahm is a misrepresentation of the truth. It clearly states in the EIA:

    “The BHD operation simulated two mass-loss rates of 0.1 and 0.5 kg/s, corresponding to low-productivity and high-productivity scenarios. The deployment of turbidity barriers was not simulated, but the low-productivity rate would be representative of the deployment of turbidity barriers for a high-productivity scenario.”

    Not only are turbidity barriers a best practice, they are common practice when dredging and especially in sensitive areas.

    The EIA also quotes under the visuals: “These simulations do not include the containing effects of turbidity barriers, which can be effective in containing sediment plumes”

    • Capt Ebanks says:

      Jonny Mck why don’t you post in your own name and be sure own your conflicts since you are trying to ‘educate’ and manipulate the masses?

  20. Eco Warrior says:

    The potential destruction of the coral reefs and marine environment will decimate the dive industry and small businesses in GT. The proposed solution of reef relocation is insane and does not guarantee success. Protect the thing makes Cayman world famous. Even if there is a 5% risk to 7mb it is not worth the harm that it will cause Caymans tourism product. Greed cannot win over protection of the only product that drives millions of visitors to the Caymans.
    This is possibly the most expensive, destructive and poorly thought out project from the same ppm who championed the environment and its protection prior to getting elected in May 2013.

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