Cruise port work could start in weeks

| 02/08/2018 | 127 Comments
Cayman cruise, Cayman News Service

Cayman cruise ship passengers visit George Town

(CNS): The controversial cruise port berthing project could be underway in a matter of weeks, even though the entire bidding process has remained under wraps. Government appears to be on track to award a contract shortly and for the project to break ground in September, with a locally led consortium in partnership with a leading cruise line already having been selected to build and finance the project. CNS understands that tenants at the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal seeking to renew their leases are being refused new agreements and have been informed by the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands that the tenancies expire this month. 

CNS has reached out to all of the relevant officials but the only response was from the acting port director, who referred us to the ministry, which has not responded to our questions.

The public has been kept completely in the dark about the process, despite the new procurement law requiring transparency. But that may be because the massive and costly development has been rapidly losing support in recent years, with concerns that only a small proportion of the tourism sector stands to benefit, while the bulk of the industry catering to overnight visitors could be negatively impacted.

Both CITA and the Chamber of Commerce, whose members have the most to lose or gain in the development of piers, have been reluctant to offer their full support. The original public consultation came down three to one against, and since then the opposition has grown, making this a particularly unpopular project.

There are several issues that have led to opposition to the project: the massive marine environment damage, concerns about the costs and the impact on the public purse, as well as the limited beneficiaries of the project. The failure of the government to justify the need has also caused concern, especially the impact on existing infrastructure, tourist attractions and local beaches. Another warning sign is the poor experiences of tourism stakeholders in other jurisdictions where cruise lines have led development projects for piers that have not delivered the promised benefits.

While the process has been mired in controversy for years, the recent increase in cruise port calls here, coupled with the growth in coastal development which is limiting public beach access has compounded concerns.

Many now believe that the numbers of cruise passengers required to finance the cruise berthing facilities is too great. The construction could cost as much as $300 million, which would need a guaranteed passenger count of well over two million people annually — considerably more than even the highest year on record for cruise numbers. George Town and Seven Mile Beach would simply be overwhelmed by the numbers of passengers arriving in peak season because, whether or not the piers are built, cruising remains seasonal, with numbers dropping in the summer months.

Regardless of the multiple concerns, the tourism ministry has pressed on with the project. However, progress has become increasingly secret and it does not appear to be following the rules set out in the new procurement law. The nine bidders that were supposedly pre-qualified were never revealed and how those were whittled down to three, four or possibly five has also remained a secret. The documents relating to the bid have never been published publicly and meetings between government officials and potential developers have continued behind closed doors.

There are now also concerns that China Harbour Engineering Company may be back in the pool of bidders under consideration. The firm, which caused a stir when it was in talks with the previous UDP administration, was one of the original nine bidders to be pre-qualified but it later emerged it was one of the four or five pre-qualified bidders that was out of the running. Nevertheless, sources close to the process have now suggested that the company may still be a viable contender.

But as the process becomes increasingly opaque, CNS has received other information to suggest that an entirely different consortium led by a local developer is the favoured bidder and has already been earmarked for the lucrative contract.

Whichever bidder eventually secures the increasingly unpopular bid, the recent news that tenants are now being informed that their leases will expire this month gives a clear indication that the government appears ready to move to a contract award and present a sceptical public with a fait accompli.

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Category: development, Local News

Comments (127)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This needs to go a referendum.

    Let’s see the confirmation from Cruise Lines that they’ll stop calling in Cayman unless we build a few piers (they won’t, the passengers demand Cayman)

    Let’s really see the average $ spend per passenger – its all made up. the only way to truly know is to ask Kirk/Dart/Tortuga/etc for their Gross Sales and extrapolate.

    Where is the infrastructure to cope with more passengers for longer? More importantly, where are they going? Already, with the Dart purchase of large swathes of Cayman and smaller developers locking up prime lands, we’re out of beach….the net result is cruise passengers (and ourselves) being forced to move infront of condo developments and hotel resorts where they systematically tell them/us to leave

    How about some transparency? How about someone in CIG having the cojones to stand up and say enough with the madness…let’s redirect the funds to education/training/jobs/maybe a new prison/old persons health care/…..the dump!

    the port is a WANT, not a NEED…….NEEDS must, WANTS bust.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Redirect what funds? Government isn’t paying for the cruise port. It will be paid for and built by the successful bidder. You oughta look into the facts.

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      • Anonymous says:

        9:04, U hope that it will be paid for and built by the successful bidder. What everyone needs to know is the total cost of the project, and who is going to finance this project. Does anyone know in the CIG? If yes, they owe it to the general public to let us know.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Do you really think they will be doing the work for free?This is business not charity somebody has to pay them back and it will be the cayman government with the taxes paid for by the public. You ought to get your head out of your a$$ and understand basic principles of doing business and how financing of projects work or just stay silent.

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  2. Hypatia says:

    Has the Government given any sort of justification as to why this port is a NECESSITY?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Because there handlers told them it is a necessity so that’s that.
      Get used to it – money talks and bullsh^% walks!

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