Conflicts emerge over cruise project

| 09/11/2017 | 57 Comments

(CNS): The tourism ministry’s chief officer outlined a precise timeline for the progress of the cruise berthing project when he answered questions in Finance Committee Wednesday. But conflicting messages from the premier on the unresolved talks with the cruise lines, which were revealed Friday, and environmental questions over coral relocation throw the timeframe into question. The still controversial project saw members of the Legislative Assembly, including the speaker, involved in another heated exchange over the history of the proposed development and current issues relating to the costly facility, with the opposition alluding to the secrecy and marginalisation of the port authority.

As the committee began examining appropriations for Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell’s tourism ministry, Chief Officer Stran Bodden told members that the ministry plans a tender for bidders who wish to pre-qualify for the project before the end of this month and for bids to be returned in the New Year, when a short list will be created.

The successful qualifiers will then be invited to bid on the project in March next year, which will be due back in May. Bodden said the evaluation was expected to happen in June before going to the Central Tenders Committee, which would be expected to announce the successful bidder in August; shortly after that the contract would be awarded. He said pre-construction work would then start at the end of 2018.

But as he closed the budget debate Friday, Premier Alden McLaughlin made it clear that government’s talks with the cruise lines over their commitment to the project were far from complete.

“The reason why the deal hasn’t gone more quickly …is because the cruise lines have been used to, in Jamaica and in Honduras and anywhere else they’ve gone, to walking in and saying ‘this is the deal if you want the port’,” he said. “We are not prepared to do that.”

McLaughlin was emphatic that no piers would be built unless the cruise lines were part of the deal, saying that “they must have as much to lose or gain as the people” of the Cayman Islands. He explained that the financing model for the project would be from passenger fees, so if the cruise lines don’t bring the people they won’t get paid, and the project hung on the guarantee of a certain number of passengers from the ships.

Following suggestions that the project could cost anything from $100-300 million, the premier said that the costings are not complete so there was no fixed figure, and if government was to suggest an estimate it would only fuel the speculation. He also refuted allegations that secret deals were being made behind closed doors with unspecified conglomerates.

Given that scenario, the report from Bodden that a tender for pre-qualifying could be going out in the next two or three weeks is surprising, even more so given Bodden’s own comments about attempts that are expected to be made on coral relocation.

Even after a redesign that would take the piers further out to sea, the project will destroy a significant amount of reef, and the ministry has said it plans to relocate the coral in the dredging footprint. Bodden told Finance Committee that an application had been made to the Department of Environment for a pilot project to run simultaneously with the tendering process, and around $1.8 million has been set aside in the 2018 budget, much of which will be spent on this relocation trial.

Bodden said the ministry wanted to see if “the methodology we are proposing works …before doing it on larger scale”.

He said coral relocation has been done around the world in different ways and the ministry wants to “take up a whole block of seabed with coral on it”, which would then be relocated to a donor site. He said one of the many problems with this method was to “check that it doesn’t crumble as we relocate it”.

The proposed experimental method is different from the work the DoE has already begun, which involves coral recruitment, where juvenile corals or free-swimming coral planulae attach to stone tiles; later the tiles are collected and moved to the relocation site and reattached there. Although it takes longer and is more costly, this process potentially results in more diversity in the new reef, experts from the DoE recently explained to CNS.

The application for the relocation of whole blocks of seabed is the second made to the DoE. Department officials have previously advised the ministry that breaking up sections of the existing coral spur and groove reef formation and relocating large chunks posed a real threat of active destruction of coral without any understanding the likelihood of success. The DoE confirmed it had received a new submission to do the trial outside of a marine protected area, which would now be considered by the National Conservation Council.

When asked by opposition members about the timelines of all this, Bodden admitted it could take a long time. He implied the construction could be delayed and it could take more than four years to complete the piers, even if the work began at the end of next year, as efforts to save the reefs would have to continue throughout the construction period.

As opposition members grilled both the tourism minster and his chief officer about the project, the issue of the lack of involvement by the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands Board was also raised. That started a heated exchange between the speaker and the opposition member for East End, Arden McLean, who reminded the committee about the last time the board was excluded. He recalled the board resignations following the decision by McKeeva Bush, the premier at the time, to terminate the deal with GLF Construction Corp, which was poised to undertake the project, in order to give it to the Beijing-based firm, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC).

Bush refuted the allegations made by McLean that the board was kept in the dark, even though McLean read from the relevant board minutes suggesting otherwise, and said McLean’s “facts gave rise to other facts” , as the Finance Committee proceedings erupted into another row between the speaker and opposition members before FS Chairman Roy McTaggart was able to restore calm.

Moses Kirkconnell also accused opposition MLA Alva Suckoo of cherry picking from the PricewaterhouseCoopers outline business case, which found that the data was insufficient to justify the scale of the project and the damage to the marine eco-system more than outweighed any benefits that could be gained from the development of piers. The minister pointed to an additional part of the OBC, which was done later, that took into account the additional spend of passengers. That, combined with the redesign, he claimed, made the project worthwhile.

See the premier’s comments about the port and the finance committee session on the CIGTV videos below

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  1. Anonymous says:

    So has anyone throughout this process though about what happens when we have north westers?!?! Even with a pier, it will be difficult if not impossible for the ships to dock… then what? I think they really aren’t thinking this through…. and that money budgeted could be better spent improving the spot dock area. But with Moses as Captain and Alden as first mate… they gonna get it done… by hook or by crook! To hell we go…..

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah have a cruise port at Spotts so every morning the traffic coming into town will have to deal with a 5 mile line of buses and taxis dropping tourists off in GT.
      Methinks YOU are the one who needs to think this through.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Cayman is not an exclusive island, just look at the shops on the front. The Kirkconnells selling watches and pendants. The next three largest retail units all sell toot t shirts bottles of sand and string Ray’s with your name on.
    Certainly not the exclusive Gucci, LV or Dior of an upmarket island destination.
    Oh and how many work permits are issued for these shops maybe that is where the truth lays, government greed.

    • Anonymous says:

      Where are the cruise passengers going to go once on land? Royal palms closing. Tiki beach closed .. Camana Bay to expensive for most. George Town not much there. Sting ray still good option.

  3. Unison says:

    What a waste of time!

    And to know that we will get into a deal that will cost the country millions for years to come. We don’t need a cruise birthing facility!  What we need are boats that will simply transport our guests from the cruise ships to our shores. And yes … they enjoy the boat rides!  To know our government is engaging in a massive project when we can provide a simple document for tourists to endorse; yes … sign a simple disclaimer of responsibility for any boat ride to our shores!  Coming to our shores in small vessels has always been a part of our history. And I know the tourists will enjoy the boat rides instead of being landed on a concrete dock!


  4. Anonymous says:

    11:56, I recognize your writing style and know you are a troll pushing for the multi-million dollar pier to help the rich merchants. We do not need the pie-in-the-sky dock!

    • Anonymous says:

      10:18. I am not a troll and have no connections that would benefit from the piers. I said I am on the fence with this and was stating what I have observed elsewhere. I am just putting thoughts out there for discussion.

      I had not thought about the casino point that someone mentioned. OK, this is going to be controversial, why not include a casino in the GT revitalization? Lots of revenue for government.

      As for the costs for tourists in Cayman, try Aruba. More expensive than here, downtown is busy and supports a mall full of stores like Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc. Imagine the duties to be earned from sales of those products! BTW, Aruba has at least 2 casinos very close to the cruise terminal, but ships stay into the evening.

      I will restate, I am not a merchant or have any financial interest in my suggestions. I just travel a lot and wanted to express why I switched from anti to neutral. In the end, I want what is best for this great country. Not what is best for a few rich businessman.

      I rarely post here, but admit to being a “troll” if that means someone who likes to be a voyeur of people’s comments and thoughts to understand the pulse of what’s going on, so 10:18, you would not be able to interpret my writing style.

  5. Have said this for years until we establish a carrying capacity(or in plain English)how many visitors can we sensibly accommodate we will achieve nothing but frustration and the possibility of chasing away our STAY OVER visitors.

    • Chris Johnson says:


      How right you are and to date no one has addressed your sensible comments.

      It is all chicken and egg as regards the Harbour. Like you I doubt if this will work out favorably for any of us.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I am on the fence with the piers. I was anti, but having spent time in a number of cruise destinations that have piers, I am starting to change my mind. I am not a cruiser, nor will likely ever be one. What I have observed elsewhere is the fact that the ships stay longer, and particularly into the evenings, with sailings as late as 11:00pm. Those destinations have a vibrant atmosphere and business for all tourists and locals.

    Cayman lacks a “centre” or “strip” so often found elsewhere. Camana Bay does not fulfill that role due to its location and exclusivity. I believe the piers will be the stimulus that GT needs to help revitalize. But, and a big but, is that it has to be part of a wider plan, that includes making the waterfront and side streets pedestrian friendly. Creating central parking (with security) so that locals and visitors can visit GT and park conveniently and safely. Another factor is this “new” area needs proper policing and security to make people want to spend time downtown. a great way for community policing to interact with the population. Add evening and weekend markets, food stalls and music into the mix to create a vibrant centre. That will benefit all people and create opportunities for Caymanian entrepreneurs to start a small, affordable business that can grow.

    I know this means some road closures, but a proper traffic management plan is needed regardless of a pier or no-pier if GT is to revitalize. I am no traffic engineer, but perhaps some roads could be closed for parts of the day only. For example evenings or weekends, or maybe just certain regular nights of the week. If that happens, it will become the new normal and people will adjust their travel arrangements to suit. I appreciate that the port is not likely moving anywhere, but most unloading is done late at night, so heavy traffic should not be affected. All part of the planning…

    • Anonymous says:

      Those ‘buts’ you outlined? They were what the consultants said should be done INSTEAD of the piers. (Better return on investment, in OBC-speak.) But …

    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman lacks a “centre” or “strip” so often found elsewhere. Camana Bay does not fulfill that role due to its location and exclusivity.

      Camana Bay is the only development in Cayman the offers public open space – not bad for an exclusive place.

      • Anonymous says:

        If CB had a local flavour, such as jerk stands, island crafts, places where “ordinary” families could also eat and shop I would agree with you. These thoughts are in addition to what already exists. Those types of businesses could enhance the experience of CB, but would likely affect the rents paid for the existing commercial space. Therefore, CB will remain “exclusive”. That’s fine, but another concentration of activity is also needed.

    • Anonymous says:

      Another thought. What about swapping the locations of the port and cruise terminal to the north? It separates the port from the strip to make the strip contiguous? Would also move port traffic away from the centre. I am not sure about feasibility regarding the marine environment though.

    • Anonymous says:

      cayman will not let the ships open their casinos when they are in cayman waters…..hence the ships like to leave asap….
      welcome to wonderland.

    • Unison says:

      Revitalized? No pier is going to help revitalized the economy when custom duties on businesses are so high. Its too expensive in Cayman! You can build a palace birthing facility all you want, but if tourist see its too costly here, they will merely pass through!

      We need to revitalize our way of doing business, not have government waste our monies on some cruise port!

    • Anonymous says:

      Idea is great..but you have too many Ifs and Buts. security , safety,community policing, people feeling safe . Policing .. lacking a center or strip. Just how many of these boxes do you expect CIG to be able to tick ? I happen to dislike Camana Bay , but it is able to tick all these boxes. George Towns biggest hamstring is the ghettos that border it on 3 sides, no disprespect to the people that live in those areas. Sadly..fact.

  7. A. Caymanian says:

    Dear Government

    Please enlighten the public and provide clarity on the following questions:

    1. Will the public be informed of the full details before you commit to the final agreement in Q2 2018?

    2. (a) When will the public be able to review details?
    (b) Is it a secret?
    (c) Why are details being treated as a secret?

    3. How will the project be financed? Cruise lines will not pay for the cargo expansion component.

    4. Has the government updated the Outline Business Case given the new design and financing projections?

    5. Will the results of the new Environmental Impact Assessmebt be made public? If so, when and how will the information be shared?

    6. How will Cayman accommodate the 2.3-3million Cruise passengers per year?

    7. Is new infrastructure being put in place along the SMB to accommodate the volume that wish to soak up the world famous beach and it’s pristine waters?

    8. Where is the transparency that was promised and the Progressives campaigned on in May 2017?

    9. What exactly do you have to hide? Is the deal that bad?

    Unfortunately, the attitude and behavior being displayed by the government, Cabinet Members , caucus and ministry officials regarding the promised public consultation and information sharing phase with relevant details suggests that there are significant issues that may embarrass the government. The question to be asked then is why are you committed to moving forward at any costs? In fact your collective actions are reminiscent of the conduct of the previous UDP administration during its covert negotiations with China Harbour Group in 2011-12.


    A. Caymanian

    • UnCivil Servant says:

      The devil is in the details. Interesting that the Premier seemed to be contradicted by Ministry of Tourism Chief Officer Stran Bodden based on what was told to finance committee about the process and timelines of the project. Looks like the Premier doesn’t have a clue and thinks he’s in control but the minstry is driving this process. Which one is telling the truth and why can’t the key players get their version of facts coordinated before making public declarations or more importantly committing to this project?

  8. D. Prognosticator says:

    What do our fearless leaders want? Why, MONEY, of course! Doesn’t anyone realize that Grand is not ready for prime time? We do not have the accommodations for all the visitors we are getting now. How do you expect to accommodate thousands more? Our infrastructure is sadly lacking. Has anyone not noticed the gridlock we have when we have a surplus of tourists? I don’t want to be out and about when the roads are like parking lots! I don’t like it, and a lot of other Caymanians don’t like it…. even the tourists don’t like it. The only ones that like it are the merchants! Well….. what can be done? The first thing is to expand the commercial areas and build more wide streets. Then build more shopping areas and hotels and restaurants and fancy bars and liquor stores and jewellery stores etc. and etc. Soon we will be like Aruba! Won’t that be great? Note to our fearless leaders: Don’t spend OUR money turning Grand into something we don’t want!

    • Anonymous says:

      Diversifying, or expanding, the economy is a sensible strategy. I see a possible bottleneck and some areas of friction that could result from the Port build. First let’s review the bottleneck potential. A new 5 star resort to be built at Pageant Beach. A possible other 5 star resort to be constructed by the Dart Group. A continued inching up of the stay over clientele on island who will arrive with certain expectations of experience and services.

      How will the increased cruise passengers mix with this new upper class of tourists? Is their enough public beach to satisfy the number of cruise visitors? How will traffic be impacted? How does that impact the experience of stay over guests?

      What happens at Sting Ray City- how many more visitors can it withstand? Or put another way, do we understand the carrying capacity of the North Sound in general for snorkelling, Sting Ray city and the boat traffic?

      The Cruise business served an important role after 9/11 when Americans quit flying and again post Ivan. They did bring visitors and $’s at a time when stay over guests waned.

      How are other “high end” islands balancing the cruise and stay over guests? Are there lessons to be learned? I am not convinced that “high end” Cayman stay over visitors are compatible with ‘cruise’ passengers. Whether cruise passengers deserve a derogatory reference or not, perceptions tell a lot.

      It feels like another crossroads for Cayman. Tourism is a fickle industry and guests can be fickle. Serious work on the management of the projected growth in both streams of the tourism industry is vital.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s called greed, my know nothing about how the world works, friend. Get enough people and greedy people will build the business’s and other such things in order to accommodate the extra people.

      This will create jobs for all sides and increase government revenue.

      Pretty simple really

    • Anonymous says:

      If they were fearless, this would be a transparent process. They are the opposite…fearful that the public will figure out the sham before their reinstallation in 3 more years.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Relocating coral is the stupidest thing yet. Pro-port do not get it. It is the entire area of Hog Sty Bay, Eden Rock, Hamburger Reef, Cali etc. You cannot move things and have it make up for the loss of the entire area.
    I always wondered who paid that cargo ship to back into Eden Rock and obliterate that…?

  10. Anonymous says:

    How anxious should RCL, CCL, and NCL be to devote hundreds of millions of dollars to develop a competing Port to their private islands in an increasingly violent Western Caribbean market that refuses to recognize LGBT rights? Not very, I suspect.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Congrats Decco!

  12. Ambassador of Absurdistan says:

    Two different stories from the same government.

    Just Another day in Absurdistan

  13. Anonymous says:

    If corals wanted to be someplace else it would have been already there. It grows where all conditions are right for the species. Relocation doesn’t take into equation things we don’t understand because we can’t see it smell or touch such as sun light, magnetic force, currents, etc.

  14. Brian Tomlinson says:

    This is from the Government’s procurement website. It appears the prequalification of bidders has already taken place.

    CTC/16-17/DATT/048 – Cruise Berthing Facility – Prequalification of Bidders
    Cayman Islands Government

    Project: Cruise Berthing Facility – Prequalification of Bidders
    Ref. #: CTC/16-17/DATT/048
    Type: RFPQ
    Status: CLOSED
    Open Date: May 15th 2017, 9:00 AM EST
    Questions Due: Jul 27th 2017, 12:00 PM EST
    Closing Date: Jul 28th 2017, 12:00 PM EST
    Days Left: Submissions are now closed

  15. Anonymous says:

    The Hon Premier is showing his naivety here if he believes that CIG can dictate terms to the cruise lines. His comment that, “they must have as much to lose or gain as the people,” is particularly dangerous nonsense. As has been posted more than a few times before the cruise lines want things their way and if they don’t get what they want they’ll simply dump Grand Cayman as a destination.

    We are dealing with multi-billion-dollar businesses not some small-time contractor or developer who can be bought off with a few incentives. Their role is to make money and provide high returns for their shareholders, helping out small Caribbean islands isn’t part of their agenda. Check out – There’s a very clear message there that cruise lines are profit and dividend driven.

    We are in a situation where the ‘floating resort’ format of cruise ships allows them to spend 70% of their time at sea and they’re cutting back on stopovers. In fact there are already itineraries that sail straight past the Cayman Islands as they head for Cozumel. If you that want situation to get worse this kind of attitude is the quickest way to do it.

    Personally, I think it’s all bull anyway. If the cruise lines do ever sit down with CIG and the other stakeholders to talk this over the people involved here will be too busy making sure they get their cut to give a damn about anything else.

    • Anonymous says:

      6:17 The real answer isn’t to try and re-invent GT as a cruise port but to offer RCCL or Carnival land on the Brac to build another resort like Labadee or Falmouth. That’s a real ‘win, win’ option because it would not only create much needed employment but also ease the load on Grand Cayman.

      • Brakman says:

        Hush your mouth, 3:43! We don’t want that crap. We like the Brac like it is! We don’t even like Mr. Dart’s enterprises being here!

  16. Boggy Sound man says:

    Does anyone expect anything different from these characters? They will push this project thru no matter what and the hell with the majority of the tax payers. These videos show it all. What a disgrace!

  17. Anonymous says:

    ppm exposed again….but unfortunately the opposition is more frightening……

  18. Anonymous says:

    the usual soon-come nonsense……..end of story.

  19. Anonymous says:

    do-nothing ppm…..

  20. Anonymous says:

    The tail (Moses) seems to be wagging the dog (Alden) which explains the moniker Alden the Weak

  21. Anonymous says:

    They haven’t got a clue.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Im all for progress but we have to look at the infrastructure. The harbor was closed tonight. Camana bay had an event and a crash at AL Thompsons roundabout. For 2 1/2 hours everything was gridlocked. Total chaos on the roads driven by short tempers and angry drivers. If we up the amount of tourists in town we wont have access to harbor drive. Then all it takes is a fender bender on the bypass and there is no alternative route. This evening was awful and the vibe on the road was far from tourist friendly

    • Anonymous says:

      Absolutely correct. What did the port consultants recommend to do first? Improve the ‘tourist product’ in GT. We’d get more return on our investment from that than building docks they said. But …

  23. Anonymous says:

    Conflict, Conflict of interests, in Cayman politics? Say it ain’t so!

  24. Anonymous says:

    Waste of public funds.
    Waste of our marine environment.
    Waste of time and breath we are paying our political clowns for.

    This should have been struck from the agenda years ago. Looks like more years of futility bickering over this.

  25. Anonymous says:

    On a busy day we have 7 ships all happily tendering to GT Port, with what appears to be a level playing field for all liners, and lots of jobs reliant on orchestrating everyone. If we build a special pier for just 2 or even 4 privileged vessels/operators, even if their boats are marginally larger capacity, we disadvantage the other 3 that would normally call, possibly losing their business and headcount. Foregoing a 20,000 arrivals day for a 12,000 day doesn’t make numerical sense. It definitely doesn’t sell more wrist watches or feed more bus drivers. It would be a net loss for cruise tourism arrival numbers, coral reefs, diving and snorkeling jewels, and land-based tourism. Worse, we would still have to pay off the heavy infrastructure debt with constraints on loan capacity for decades. The global media would enjoy seeing the Cayman Islands tax free model succumb to direct taxation, at its own folly. With this project, they are rubbing their palms with excited anticipation.

    • Jerry Huddleston says:

      It’s a loser for everyone but the feather merchants and politicians. Maybe the time will come when we get more intelligent “leaders”. The future doesn’t look very good.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Dont build the port!!!

  27. Anonymous says:

    Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

  28. Anonymous says:

    As they say blood is thicker than water. We should also realise that more tourists may generate more income but also more expenses in areas such as security, collection of garbage and general upkeep so it is not just profit.

    • SSM345 says:

      How about the infrastructure required outside of building a dock? Where the F are all these people going to go? All of our attractions are already at capacity i.e. SMB, the Sandbar etc. with the numbers that currently visit on a busy day.. Now they want to bring another 20k a shore? It will kill the stay-over numbers which is where the real money is. But of course the PPM are famous for projects they cannot finish and people want to back them on yet another venture. It ahs failure written all over it.

      • History Teacher says:

        Mismanagement of capital works projects is what Alden the Weak and his ppm cronies do best while burdening the country with significant debt. The decisions are driven by his inflated ego and delusions of grandeur.

        History is greatest teacher of one’s behavior and predictor future of actions.

        • Anonymous says:

          And there you have the problem of most politicians from all sides of the house in Cayman.

      • Anonymous says:

        Exactly, just what are all these visitors actually going to do whilst ashore? Lets answer this simple question first.

    • Anonymous says:

      And in other news today the deputy premier also failed to note any conflicts of interest of the minister for tourism with regard to family businesses, nor did he confirm that this would be a transparent transaction in the interests of the public. Stran Bodden seems to know more about the project and timelines than the premier and deputy premier.

      Time to come clean, get the fully priced proposal on the table and get public debate going. To do otherwise is pretty much proving the nay sayers right, that this is self serving as opposed to Cayman serving. Ironic that the only fake news as claimed by Moses K is the Kirkbots plugging their cause on CNS amongst other places using racism, false facts, non facts, blatant lies and downright cheating comments. A disgrace. He should be sacked. A walk into the Georgetown shops will show you how many Caymanians are employed there-precious few. It will benefit the few, not the many. Alden must owe Moses and family big time.

  29. Anonymous says:

    This is too funny! you cant make this stuff up. The Speaker ends up in a row with the opposition defending himself against accusations of what he did when he was premier. And so much so that the FS Chairman has to break up the row. Our Speaker can be a scrapper when he needs to be. LOL!!

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