(CNS): The government will soon be selecting a team of engineering consultants to design and cost a change to the proposed cruise berthing facility to put the piers in much deeper water in an effort to mitigate the massive environmental damage that the project is likely to cause to the marine habit, including coral reefs in the George Town Harbour. Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell has said that once government has a better idea on how much and how viable it will be to change the current designs, it can move on to the next step.
Whether government will make any significant advance towards a request for proposals for the actual project before the next election, however, remains to be seen. The RFP process for the engineers does not close until next month and it will be unlikely that government will select an appropriate engineering firm and have them come up with new costed plans for the piers much before the year end.
The prequalification and RFP which was circulated last month is looking for civil engineering consultants experienced in marine engineering and design to look at the redesign and costings as well as prepare the tender documentation to enable contractors to bid for the work. The consultant will also be required to manage the prequalification and tender processes, undertake the tender evaluation and provide assistance with the contract award.
Once government selects the consultants, for which an announcement is expected this summer, even if the successful bidder is able to complete the work before the year-end, government will still need to work on a financing model, which will in turn need to be approved by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office before an RFP for the actual work could be circulated.
With less than ten months before Nomination Day, however, the government will be hard pressed to have tendered the actual construction project before the general election in May 2017.
Speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday to mark the signing of the airport development contract, Deputy Premier Kirkconnell said the government was still pressing ahead with the process of the cruise berthing project but “everything was a matter of timing”.
The minister said officials were still gathering information, and although it had a report that indicated it would be possible to push the piers out further to limit the environmental damage, it now needed to have the new designs drawn up that show what can or cannot be done and then have that properly costed.
The proposal for a cruise berthing facility remains controversial, not just because of the far reaching and potentially devastating impact on the environment, but also the impact the increase in cruise arrivals will have on the islands’ infrastructure and the cost to the public purse.
The price tag remains a mystery, but even before the re-design to push the piers further out to sea, government was looking at a bill in excess of CI$200 million. The change to the design is likely to make the project even costlier but the government has stated it will not be liable for the cost of the project. It still hopes that it can finance the development via significant increases in passenger fees that the cruise ships will willingly commit to without any ownership of the berthing facilities or access to upland retail development.
Although government claims it does have community-wide support for the cruise project and that it is necessary to protect the local cruise sector, a public consultation survey revealed three to one against the development. The majority of responses to the survey came directly from employees of Kirk Freeport and a handful of tour operators.