(CNS): The tourism minister has dismissed speculation that the development of a cruise berthing facility in the Cayman Islands would cost as much as $350 million, as has been suggested by local pundits, and he predicted that proposed changes would bring what was once a $150 million estimated bill to about $200 million. While government has been relatively quiet recently about progress on the controversial and costly project, Moses Kirkconnell revealed that a company has been chosen to redesign and cost up changes to the project that would see the piers moved into deeper water as a way of mitigating the damage to the reefs in George Town Harbour.
The minister told the local media at a tourism press briefing Wednesday that Royal HaskoningDHV, an international engineering firm based in Holland, has secured the government consultancy contract to examine the port project plans and redesign them to accommodate longer piers.
Kirkconnell said he expected that the work to reshape and cost out the project would be completed within the next few months, paving the way for government to examine the most suitable financing model for the project, which the Progressive government remains committed to.
The tourism minister said the goal was to still ensure that the country retained ownership of the cruise port and that, despite the growing price tag, it would be financed through cruise passenger fees without placing any liability on the Cayman government for the tab.
Facing uncertain times both economically and politically, given the situation in the UK and its departure from the European Union, Kirkconnell did not feel that the UK would necessarily be even more cautious about its contingent liabilities regarding the territories but that the FCO would want to see the CIG act in accordance with process and prudently as it moved towards the enhancement of the cruise sector.
He said the UK supported the principle, given how important cruise berthing would be to the future of that element of Cayman’s tourism product.
“We continue to do everything that is prudent,” the minister said, as he pointed to the continuing development of the airport project, which has been heralded by the current administration as the way that a major public capital project should be managed. Kirkconnell said that example was also being followed in the cruise berthing project, taking one step at a time to achieve the best outcome and create jobs and opportunities.
Although the cruise project has taken some three years to get to this stage, Kirkconnell appeared confident that the PPM administration would have an agreed financing model in place and a signed contract with a marine developer for the project before the general election.
The minister also revealed that while air arrival figures have fallen a little in the first six months of 2016 compared to 2015, which was the best year ever for Cayman tourism, he said that cruise passenger numbers were up by an impressive 7%.
Despite not having any piers, with cruisers still visiting Cayman using tender vessels from ships at anchor, 973,305 people came via ship in the first half of 2016 already — 60,000 more passengers than during the first six months of 2015.
According to a statistical report published by the Department of Tourism, the current average spend of cruise passengers is more than $96 per head.
Category: Local News