(CNS): Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has told Cayman’s tourism minister that they will not tender their mega cruise ships, while Carnival has said it is unlikely to consider tenders for the mega class of vessels. In the latest statement from the tourism minister regarding the controversial proposed cruise berthing dock, Moses Kirkconnell said the cruise lines are transitioning to megaships and have more of them under construction. Given that in 2014 approximately 82% of Cayman’s cruise business came from Carnival and Royal Caribbean, he asked them about their future plans and was told that tendering is not something they are willing to consider.
According to a statement from the tourism ministry, Adam Goldstein, President and COO of Royal Caribbean Cruises said, “When Royal Caribbean International launched Oasis Class ships 6 years ago it was never intended that these vessels would be tendered. Royal has never tendered these ships and we have no plans for tendering them in the future.”
Despite claims regarding the cruise industry’s concerns about environmental responsibility and the well-publicised details of the significant destruction cruise berthing would cause to the Cayman Islands’ coral reefs and marine environment, the cruise lines are still insisting that they want piers or nothing.
Giora Israel, Senior Vice President of Global Port and Destination Development for the Carnival Corporation, also said piers would influence future itineraries.
“The key for a smooth operation of large ships in transit ports is the availability of piers / berthing facilities. The itinerary planning executives at our various cruise brands that will operate those ships in the future, will consider the availability of piers/ berthing facilities as a key element in considering a port or destination, and are unlikely to consider tender ports for such class of vessels.”
Carnival announced earlier this year it had started a construction programme for larger ships, the first of which is to be delivered in 2018.
“These state-of-the art ships will have a capacity of over 6,000 passengers and will use for the first time in the cruise industry the environmentally friendly LNG. The ships will require berthing facilities that can efficiently operate in all the destinations where they will operate in the future,” Israel added.
Kirkconnell said that the comments were made by the cruise bosses during meetings at a recent cruise conference in Mexico when he discussed the issues with the cruise lines and Cayman’s own plans.
“As more of these mega-ships are introduced it is becoming clearer that if Cayman wants to seriously be considered as a cruise tourism destination into the future, we have to provide the services and facilities cruise lines require, otherwise our cruise tourism business will sail past Grand Cayman to other destinations,” Kirkconnell added.
He said that talks had begun with the cruise lines about the financing of the piers and were ongoing.
“Whatever agreement is reached for financing the piers will be an arrangement that is unique to Cayman and developed to suit our particular needs,” he said, without giving away any suggestion as to how the $200 million plus project will be paid for.
“Our goal is to partner with cruise lines and arrive at a formula that will not only fund the piers but will ensure that they are owned by the people of the Cayman Islands. While these discussions are complex and sensitive, we are aware of the significant interest from the community and we will continue to keep the public informed of developments as much as we can,” the minister stated.
The government has said that it will not be giving the cruise ships retail opportunities but the current design proposal for the two piers to accommodate the mega-ships includes some seven acres of upland development, which government has made no comment about. Local economic experts believe that CIG will be forced to offer retail space to the cruise lines to get their financial support over and above passenger commitments and, as a result, they will take the lion’s share of any increase in cruise passenger spending, undermining the purpose of the facility.
The project remains extremely controversial due to the doubts surrounding any economic benefit, weighed against the massive environmental damage and the certain economic loss that will cause.
The issue continues to polarize the community. Hundreds of people from all walks of life came out to show their opposition to the proposal recently at a recent peaceful protest. Environment Minister Wayne Panton has also raised his concerns that the balance between damage to the environment versus the possible economic benefits had not yet been struck.
Although the cruise lines say they do not want tendering and this will play a part in itinerary plans, those opposing the project believe it is possible for government to call their bluff because Cayman is a particularly popular destination among passengers and regardless of the threats they will not remove the destination from their itineraries and eventually will tender.