More consultants hired to review port seabed

| 15/07/2015 | 48 Comments
Cayman News Service

Tube Sponge on Balboa Reef (Photo by Courtney Platt)

(CNS): The Cayman Islands government has contracted more marine consultants to examine the seabed in the port in connection with the increasingly controversial plan to dredge the George Town Harbour for a cruise berthing facility. Although more than $2 million was spent on an environmental impact assessment (EIA), which gave an comprehensive report on the extent of the destruction to the reefs and wrecks in the harbour detailing the damage to the sea bed, a Benthic Habitat Survey has also been conducted by Continental Shelf Associates within the proposed dredging footprint.

The presence of the consultants has raised concerns among some campaigners, who say the development of the port will cause too much destruction and that the decision to hire additional contractors is to try and find a result that sounds less devastating to the marine environment and the Grand Cayman’s watersports product.

Government dismissed allegations that the survey cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and stated that the contract with Continental Shelf Associates and its local partner, West Indian Marine, owned by John McKenzie, only cost US$27,000. The chief officer in the tourism ministry, Stran Bodden, said that such a small amount didn’t require the ministry to tender the review or make the decision to look again at the sea bed public.

Cayman News Service

The Balboa Shipwreck and reef is located in 10 to 30 feet of water immediately in front of the cruise ship landing and will be completely removed by dredging operations if the cruise berth goes ahead as planned. Many consider the Balboa to be both the number one and number two of the top ten dive sites in Grand Cayman – night dive is #1, day dive is #2 (Photo by Courtney Platt)

Although a sea bed survey was included in the costly EIA conducted by Baird Associates and a number of other specialist partners, Bodden said the “information gathering exercise” by Continental Shelf was “separate and distinct from the EIA and public consultation process”, and that the EIA would remain as presented by the consultants.

“The ministry commissioned this survey to provide additional factual information that may assist Cabinet to reach an informed decision following the EIA public consultation,” Bodden added. “It is estimated that the details of the work will be made public in August 2015.”

As the campaign to promote the environmentally devastating project, led by a number of George Town merchants, continues, the campaign to save the capital’s harbour, marine life, reefs and ultimately its watersports business is also gathering significant support from all over the world. An international petition has already collected well over 7,700 signatures.

See the petition: Dredging the Cayman Islands Will Kill the Coral Reefs. Say No!

Concerns are that the supporters of the port are promoting the idea that the damage will be far less that suggested by the EIA and that those consultants are presenting a doomsday scenario without mitigation.

But divers, marine experts, conservationists and the evidence in the EIA itself present a very different picture of irreversible destruction, not just in the immediate area of dredging but encompassing acres of marine habitat that will put an end to the harbour’s marine park and an end to shore diving and snorkelling in the capital.

Registered voters are urged to sign the SaveCayman petition

Sign the local general petition against the cruise dock

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

Comments (48)

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  1. Cathy Church says:

    How would the inland merchants feel if the waterfront, aka watersports, merchants wanted to tear down the inland stores and build a big boat ramp for the glass bottom rides so they could get more customers to pay to visit the harbour reefs. And by the way, there would be no compensation for the damage to the products or stores of the displaced inland merchants. And yet, they seem perfectly OK with the thought of doing that exact same thing the other way around. Why is it different when the inland merchants want to destroy the product that the watersports sell — i.e. an adventurous experience in warm, clear water with living fish close to the cruise ships to reduce our guests travel time. The watersports merchants sell the commodity of looking at the reefs. Sure, they can travel to other parts of the island, just as the inland merchants to build closer to the big hotels. But their facilities are already built here and except for a long trip to the north sound, this is the best area for snorkeling and it is right here, close to the cruise ship passengers! Everyone knows that many passengers do not want to take a long trip away from the ship when they can get right into the water. It is why the down town merchants do not move their stores to East End.

    So — we must find a non-destructive way to improve the profits of some merchants without the destruction of other merchants. And, there are some wonderful ways to do that!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Cathy, I have the utmost respect for you and I admire your passion and love of the ocean but this comment is a bit of a stretch. Your comment make it sound like you or the dive community own the ocean. Tearing down private property for your own gain and comparing it to a proposal that is in the ocean (Crown territory or the Queen’s bottom) and is not owned by any individual is quite different. Your group tries to make it sound like all coral will go extinct, this is so far from the truth. At least you are finally admitting that this is a business decision. All of your inferences in your last statement are about dive and watersports business and how you use the ocean to make a profit from it. I’d love to hear more about those wonderful ways, but you fail to figure out how to compensate for the economic destruction your group is pushing for.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think the firm doing the new (cheapo) study should be forced to issue a surety bond on behalf of the Cayman people that will cover the billions of dollars lost over time if they are incorrect on the damages. This bond should be in place before Government allows even one shovel load of work to be done.

    It is clear the they are trying to buy justification.

  3. Anonymous says:

    SO the new company preparing a cheapo EIA is a marine construction company? seriously no conflict there!

  4. WaYaSay Again says:

    Come on man…………One Kirkconnell is the Minister of Tourism whose ministry HAS to spearhead the development of the mega cruise ship dock for Cabinet.
    One Kirkconnell owns the majority of the Duty Free stores in central George Town…………..another gift from the people of the Cayman Islands of importing goods without having to pay the duty that we ALL have to pay on a daily basis. Incidentally not changed by a grandfather Kirkconnell 25+ years ago when he was a member of Executive Council, now cabinet………..?

    Another daddy Kirkconnell is the Deputy Director of the Port’s Board of Directors……..who gets to spend Governments (MY) money on a mega cruise ship dock……….?.

    Another uncle Kirkconnell owns the only private beach on Seven Mile Beach that caters heavily to cruise ship tours and will benefit from the cruisers who do not want to buy duty free goods………..?

    Now the same Kirkonnell Minister of Tourism is paying extra for additional information because the expensive $2million EIA he paid for with OUR money did NOT tell him and the Kirkonnell Deputy Chair of the Port Authority Board of Directors what they needed to hear to justify the project that makes life better for the 1% at our expense. I’m not saying it’s corruption but it sure is NOT Good Governace and sound financial management. PPM are doing same things as UDP wasting MY money to help the 1%’ers.

    I am not suggesting anything crooked is going on here…………I am saying, stop wasting MY money on a dock for the 1%………they have enough of it already!

    Yes I am also saying that I am conflicted, I am retired and need to keep as much of MY money as possible and pay out as little of it on import duty that others are NOT paying, for the rest of my life. This mega dock certainly conflicts with MY interest.

    I am also NOT supporting Legge’s contention that ALL Caymanians are corrupt……..don’t paint ME, and my family, with the tar brush of the 1%’ers.

    Improve the tendering experience for the cruise ship passengers, we know this service can handle 2 million plus passengers as it has serviced over 1.9 million in 2006…………..Oh yes, open up the process to competition among Caymanians, as the way it is now monopolized also stinks. Government just needs to legislate the quality standards……..then get out of the way of free enterprise!

    • 1 If By Land, 2 If By Sea says:

      There is a lot of inaccuracy here and I feel the need to clarify.

      Firstly, Minister Kirkconnell was hardly the first person in government to come up with the idea of cruise berthing. Look back just at the last couple of governments and you see that Chucky had an MOU with Atlantic Star, UPD considered DECCO and gave a presentation on their proposal to the public, Cline was in negotiation with GLF and then finally Mac stopped the GLF deal to bring in China Harbour. Minister Kirkconnell happens to be the current minister of tourism so yes this falls in his portfolio but he did not invent the dock to suit his distant family members.

      Yes there are Kirkconnell’s that own large retail stores in George Town, but nothing that they sell (except for crystal that is 100% lead crystal) comes into the island duty free. I’m guessing you probably haven’t looked at the duty codes and rates since more than 25 years ago. They are fighting for their business and employees the same way CMS (Caribbean Marine that operates the tenders) is fighting for theirs.
      I have never heard or seen the Kirkconnells that own the “only private beach” in this at all. My guess would be that the supplement of the cruise business has helped to keep this the only Caymanian owned part of 7 Mile, honestly if I was them I would probably consider cashing out as there is way more money in the land value than renting beach chairs, I’m sure there is a developer right next door that would pay top dollar to increase their beach frontage.

      The Port Authority Board has nothing to do with the cruise berthing proposal. They only oversee the operation of the current port. They have had no input, go and read the port minutes that are online of all their meetings or ask any of the non-Kirkconnell board members.

      There has been a lot of debate on how much coral is in the project area, and this seems like a reasonable supplementary inquiry. If everyone is arguing about what will actually be affected it would only make sense to make sure we have all the information we need.

      As far as the 1%, there are over 3500 people working in cruise related businesses on island. The majority of these workers are Caymanian. Much higher % of Caymanian workers than the restaurants and hotels.

      Going on to financing, the financing model has not been presented yet so it probably will not be “your money” being used.

      If CMS felt that investing in larger or improved tender boats would have brought in the Oasis class ships they would have done so 6 years ago when the ships first launched. The fact that they have not done so and the Oasis and Allure continue to bypass Cayman shows you that improved tenders will not help.

      Concerning competition, CIG went the other way with that years ago when they allowed multiple international companies to be majority owners in the businesses. I’m surprised there are any fully Caymanian owned operations after that.

      • West Indian Mariner says:

        Thx for more self righteous indignation and spin. You obviously are not conflicted or commercially invested in the project moving forward (SARCASM)

        The fact that gowermint is sanctioning an additional BHS study to ‘fix’ the parts in 2million EIA they do not approve of says it all about them and the supporters of this project

      • WaYaSay says:

        1 if by land, 2 if by sea, Your opening paragraph is rather disingenuous, if you are going to start off by saying there are “a lot of inaccuracies” in my post, you should back up your statement by pointing out what those inaccuracies are; I always welcome being educated by the truth.

        Your whole post appears to agree what the facts that I pointed out, you just opine on them to try to cloud the facts, not correct what I said.

        In your attempt to divert our attention from the facts, you make statements like “Minister Kirkconnell was hardly the first person to come up with the cruise berthing idea”…………I never said that he was! It was a bad idea when Chuckie floated it, a bad idea when the UDP and Mac floated it and a bad idea when Cline floated it……in my opinion. Thank you for agreeing with me in your final sentence of your cloudy comment!

        thank you again for agreeing with me that the Kirkconnells benefit from duty free status with the import of crystal……..I never said differently. You obviously can read………I only mentioned the “private beach” ownership in the context of who could benefit from an increase of cruise tourists brought about by the expenditure of Government’s (MY) funds. Again you only go on to attempt to cloud the facts that I pointed out.

        Your contention that the Port Authority Board of Directors have nothing to do with the cruise berthing proposal is laughable, are you even sure they realize that it is being annexed to the existing port for which they are responsible? I have read the minutes of the Board’s meetings, the fact that there are NO mention of the cruise berthing facility, showing up in these minutes, is exactly what leads me to lament the lack of transparency and openness displayed by the Board of Directors and its Deputy chair. NOT ONE WORD PUT IN WRITING and I am to believe not one word was spoken at any of their meeting over the past 4 years………..come on man!

        Your ignorance of the meaning of 1%’ers adapted around the world is rather naïve …………suffice for me to say that no one but you believes it includes ANY of the 3,500 workers you refer to.

        The fact that the financing model has not been presented yet, nor openly discussed, is the scariest thing about this mega project. Your assertions that it “probably” will not by my money, gives me NO reassurance whatsoever. Here is a news flash fact for you….of the $4million plus already spent, with the exception of the money spent by DART…….all of it was my money. You may want to rethink that whole paragraph.

        I made NO claim that bigger and better tenders would attract the Oasis Class ships, in fact if you took the time to read my previous posts, you will see that my contention is that we do not need these ships in order to raise our cruise arrivals above the 2 million level, we simply need to add one more regular cruise each day for the 4 days that cruise ships now anchor. The improved tender process should be there to enhance the disembarkation for the bread and butter cruise ships that took us to 1.93 million arrivals in 2006.

        CNS I have no idea why you added the “again” to my fake name………..I have not seen you bestow that honor to any other poster on your website to date…….but here I go again.

        CNS: Honestly – hand on heart – I didn’t add anything to your pseudonym. What would we gain from that?

  5. Rp says:

    After spending 2m on an EIA we spend another 27k because we need further analysis.

    Did govt screw up the terms of reference on which the 2m report was based? Or was the 2m report incomplete and we accepted it as final without ensuring completeness?

    In any case where did CIG screw up?

    Or, more concerning, are we not happy with the results of the study and we’ve gone fishing for a report which suits our leaders agenda?

  6. Anonymous says:

    No, they weren’t trying to disprove the EIA, uhm, they heard about all that live coral realised the public had turned against the port plan and were looking for where to put in a new dive site instead.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Did the Department of Environment commission this, since they are the experts on the EIA over the Department of Tourism, or did the they just go around DOE? Someone please answer this question… Who made the call to have this work done?

  8. Bigsoup says:

    I hope this government doesn’t repeat the same mistake it made previously when they undertook numerous capital projects at once (I am not saying the schools were not needed, however look at how expensive they turned out to be). As a country we need to decide whether we want to focus our efforts towards airport re-development or extend the port. We cannot take on both of these projects at once!!!!!! Personally I would choose the airport, as stay over tourism has a far greater impact on the economy.

  9. SKEPTICAL says:

    Does CIG think they are fooling anyone. If the new survey give them and the retailers the answer THEY want, how will they justify the $2 million they initially paid – why didn’t they go to these people in the first place. This sort of potential manipulation of the cruise ship dock issue is very worrying.

  10. Anonymous says:

    What an amazing coincidence….the Deputy Chair of the Port Board, the Tourism Minister, and one of if not the largest retailer downtown….all share the same surname and business interests 2 of them may be the same person!

    Of course, there is in all likelihood nothing underhand going on….but lets be frank….perception is reality…..either our country couldn’t give a monkey’s about perception…..or we’re really in Legge territory…..surely they’d think it kind of wise to recuse themselves and stop wasting money on consultants to write what they want to read especially after PPM already spent millions on the EIA.

  11. Frank Ford says:

    whoever is supporting this port – it is the worst public relations job i have seen

  12. Fools, Frauds and Failures says:

    Definition of a consultant…
    Someone who borrows your watch and then charges you to tell you what time it is!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Let’s get our priorities right. Who cares about the few remaining lumps of underground rock off the harbour, selling more rum cakes and duty free alcohol is far more important.

  14. Anonymous says:

    5 acres, 10 acres, 15 acres really is not the point. The point is there is a significant amount of living coral in the harbor that will be destroyed for a few rich people to get richer and the rest of us have to wear it.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I guess they are hoping these set of consultants will say what they want to hear…

  16. Sharkey says:

    I have to really think that those politicians and other that for the cruise ship dock, has no idea of what the dredging in George town harbor would cause to other parts of the Island under water environment, and what guarantee do Government has from the cruise lines that if cruise ship dock is built that they would have to come to Cayman? I have to say that doing certain things for the development of the Islands is good, but this one has too many IF’S AND BUTT’S to be good for the Islands.

  17. Anonymous says:

    If the anti-port campaign wasn’t trying to misrepresent the “15 acres of coral reefs” government wouldn’t have to consider this. The Anti-port group uses this line without including all of the information that the full line reads “Direct impact on approximately 15 acres of coral reefs and associated marine habitat within the project footprint”. The Anti-port group conveniently places a “full stop” after the word “Reefs”
    The EIA further goes on to state “The coral cover on George Town Harbour reefs was variable, ranging from 14% to 30%, with an average cover of 20% (SE +/-5.0) across all sites.”
    I feel it is fully justified to make sure we have the full valid information.

    • Anonymous says:

      What the anti-port people are trying to stress is the silt plume that will for sure be there (see any other dredging project to coral reef substrate, not sand) that will indeed kill more than what the EIA represents in the greater GTH.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Is this a case of government paying someone now to say what they want said, so they can go forward with the project? Since the original was not the results they wanted.

  19. Cruise Controller says:

    Why did government pay 2million dollars for the EIA and then need additional information SMH. Who negotiated that bogus deal?

    • Anonymous says:

      Same person who then went and paid ‘someone’ to do a more basic survey to get the answer ‘someone’ wants so that ‘someone’ will be able to get a support contract when the dock is built. – ‘marine engineering’ is good work if ‘someone’ can get it.

  20. WB Voter says:

    If McKeeva and UDP did this there would be investigations and charges filed

  21. Anonymous says:

    There is no corruption in the Cayman Islands ROFLOL

  22. Anonymous says:

    This latest story illustrates PPM will continue to pay for more consultant reports until they get the response they need to justify the Cruise Berthing project after they have spent 2.5m already on the EIA prepared by Baird group. That is a waste of money and unethical!

    Where is the Good Goverance?

  23. Anonymous says:

    Really guys?
    “campaign to promote the environmentally devastating project” vs. “campaign to save the capital’s harbour, marine life, reefs and ultimately its watersports business”
    How biased can you be? As with ANY development, there will be some environmental damage. Such is the cost of progress. But…”Environmentally devastating”!? Says who?
    Have either of you who publish this paper ever been in the water in this area? It is a dead zone due to 40+ year’s of ships anchors and chains continuously raking the bottom. Of course the local photographers choose to post pictures of pristine reef systems and without regard for the truth, infer that this is what’s in the proposed dock area. If you and the campaign to stop the dock as currently presented are ultimately successful, expect it to rammed down all of our throats in a few years on a massive scale as soon as a corrupt Government gets back in power. Remember the Chinese and be careful what you wish for.

    • Joe Antidock says:

      Who says, “Environmentally devastating?” I do! Certainly not 100% devastation around our island, but any area of devastation is certainly NOT good….. and totally unnecessary. Everyone who has ever been in Georgetown when several cruise ships are here knows that there are too many tourist piled too deep! We should be trying to find a way to spread out our tourists’ arrivals, not pile them up! Don’t ruin Cayman for a few greedy wheeler-dealers!

    • Anonymous says:

      Anyone who says GT Port is dead go and snorkel the Balboa (when no ships in port, call Port Security for clearance). Before you get to the wreck there is very pretty, live, reef, i.e., inshore of the wreck. Its right in the footprint of the dredge area. It hasn’t been destroyed yet because its too shallow for cruise ship anchoring (your dead zone) and but not so shallow the tender boats and other vessels can’t go over it.

      So any claims ‘there is no reef there in the dredge path’ is bogus and anyone can test it themselves if they’re willing to put in the effort for a snorkel. There are even companies taking tourists snorkelling to some of those areas that you could go with, for real first-hand research.

    • Cathy Church says:

      To repeat. The dredge pocket is 32 acres. Yes, THIRTY TWO ACRES. But the deadly silt is waaaaayyy more than that. It can kill completely, as far south as Sunset House (that includes Don fosters, Eden Rock, Paradise, and as far north as Soto’s Reef, Soto’s central, the Cali, and on past Lobster Pot divers. These are the very areas that the snorkeling cruise passengers visit. It will also kill off the life over the wall when they dump 170,000 cubic yards of dredge material there. Although, again, much of that will flow to the sides and smother sponges, etc. When the shallow reefs of places like Eden Rocks is fully dead, it will become quickly covered in algae since we have killed off a large percentage of our algae eating parrot fish, and we are adding lots of nitrate fertilizer pollution into the harbour. So it will be really ugly, with poor visibility. This is all according to the EIA and good common sense from anyone who has ever been around a dredge!!!

      This project is destructive!!! There are much better ways to rejuvenate downtown, and bring riches to the inland merchants without destroying the waterfront merchants like submarines, glass bottom boats, snorkel operations,Don Fosters, Eden Rock and Sunset House — our last Cayman built and operated hotel. Just because the waterspouts merchants are small volume operators, is no reason to not care if they are ruined by this project. And so far, I have yet to hear anyone care about them.

      • Cathy Church says:

        Yes, it is not easy being a waterspout merchant–I meant to type watersport merchant.

      • Oh Boy says:

        I know you’ve been peppered by the rest of the Sunset crew but you surely could not have read and actually understood the various scenarios in the EIA and how they were compiled if you really can stand up there and say so much will be devastated. When this all goes through and you realize you were just like those calling for the end of the world at Y2K the entire savecayman group is going to look a little silly and Courtney will still be able to take all the pictures he wants.

  24. Anonymous says:

    What a waste of money. All we have to do is take a couple of aerial photographs on a good calm, clear day of the area in front of the port and the dark areas are coral, the clear white areas are sandy / white holes. This will show you that it is probably less than 20% of coral that the environmentalists claim exists in that area. Likewise it appears as if the majority of Caymanians support building a cruise facility and those against are nearly all foreigners. In fact the few Caymanians against it are probably being led and influenced by the foreigners that oppose it.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s an ecosystem dummy. The sand between the coral is part of the reef habitat. Would you argue that a parking space is only the ground direclty under your car?

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah probably because they don’t have a brain to think for themselves? Whatever.

    • Bob Barker says:

      This is the dumbest comment of the day. Send me your name and address, Anonymous10:11am, and I’ll send you your prize.

    • WaYaSay says:

      Your thumbs down to this post does not support your argument Re. Caymanians VS Foreigners………unless Caymanians are not allowed to vote on CNS.

      I am Caymanian by birth and I gave you a thumbs down!

      I really don’t give a damn about the reefs, as they will be gone soon enough already………..the mega dock is just too much F’ing money, that will all have to come from borrowing by Government.

      Are you and Government listening? Stop wasting MY damn money…….a couple more $million to get someone to say that what we already wasted a couple $million on is crazy. This sh*t add up!

      YES, I said MY money, because the $millions that Government collects off work permits is only a drop in the bucket, compared to what Government spends each year……….most of it spent servicing DEBT.

      • Diogenes says:

        1. “I really don’t give a damn about the reefs, as they will be gone soon enough already” – says it all really. Its sad – some expats seem to care more about Caymans natural resources and the birth right of its indigenous population than some “born” Caymanians like you who apparently only care about money, which leads to…

        2. “YES, I said MY money, because the $millions that Government collects off work permits is only a drop in the bucket”,…its a helluva big drop, bobo, and that’s before you add in all the expenditure of expats of foreign controlled corporations, and the business licensing fees. Try looking at how much of the governments revenue is contributed directly and indirectly by outsiders, none of whom, unlike you, got a vote on the identity of the politicians that are going to cut this deal, or how the money that they have paid is spent, before you start talking about “your money”. No argument that Caymanians should get to say how tax revenue is spent, but its not YOUR money – other Caymanians get a say too, you know, and being a little less arrogant about where it comes from may be appropriate.

  25. Anonymous says:

    LOL, the CIG solution to everything – hire consultants, pay them lots of money to produce reports then ignore their findings if they don’t agree with what the local vested interests want.

    I’ve got a suggestion – bring Jean-Michel Cousteau back. CIG fired him as a consultant after a falling out over things like dolphins in captivity but when I met him at R-C a few years ago he was still happy to put forward some very interesting ideas for protecting and promoting the future of these islands.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Another $27K study is a bargain if it prevents a $27M repair job later on.

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