Opposition pushes for referendum on port

| 16/08/2018 | 195 Comments
Cayman News Service

Save Cayman march against the cruise port proposal

(CNS): Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller has filed a private member’s motion calling on government to put the question of whether or not it should go ahead with the cruise berthing project to the people. Calls for a referendum on the issue have been mounting as public support for the increasingly controversial proposal appears to have dwindled and the justification from government is losing traction. Now the opposition is challenging government to let the public decide with a vote. Speaking on behalf of the official opposition at a press conference on Thursday, Miller said he doesn’t believe there is enough support or justification and the project will not benefit most Caymanians.

Miller said the government was pursuing the costly development on the “false notion of wide-scale public support”, but he said there is “considerable evidence of a lack of public support” for this “ill-advised course of action.”

He pointed to the absence of support from major stakeholders, such as the Chamber of Commerce, the Watersports Association and even the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, along with the demonstration of opposition from the people in 2015 with the sizable demonstration, and the public consultation results in the environmental impact study, where 73% said they opposed the project.

The leader of the opposition was confident that this motion would take priority over the motions expected to be on the agenda for the next meeting of the Legislative Assembly, which is scheduled to be held in Cayman Brac next month. Seconded by the opposition member for East End, Arden McLean, the motion calls on government to put the proposal to the people as soon as possible and not to sign any contracts until after the referendum.

While the opposition does not have the numbers to force government to accept the motion, prior to the election at least one member of the government benches was opposed to the port. But the motion is calling for a vote by the people, and in theory those supporting the project should not oppose a national ballot if government’s position is truly supported by the majority, as it claims. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the front bench will embrace the idea.

But Miller explained that the motion provides an opportunity for the opposition to press the government to be more transparent and tell the people exactly what is happening in the closed-door discussions about the revised plans.

“We have asked more than four times for a presentation on this project, including in writing, and government has not responded,” Miller said. He pointed out that if nothing else, the motion should reveal more information than is currently in the public domain and force the government “to unveil the details”.

But he also said that if the motion for a national vote cannot persuade the government, through debate in parliament, to put a stop to the project, the opposition will join forces with local activists and environmental campaigners to purse a people-initiated referendum.

Miller listed a catalog of reasons why the opposition opposes the idea of building cruise berthing facilities, including the failure to justify it economically, the negative impact on the George Town infrastructure and wider tourist attractions, the risk to existing dive and watersports businesses, the threat to the marine environment, as well as the risk to Seven Mile Beach. which has not been ruled out by experts. He also noted the costs, which he insists will eventually be carried by the people, despite the government’s claims to the contrary.

“At some point in time the government is going to have to accept that we do not need this project and it does not have public support,” the opposition leader said. “For more than 20 years the government has been saying the cruise ships won’t come unless we build piers, but they still come because the good Lord put Cayman in the right place.”

He pointed out that passenger arrival numbers have gone up and the current minister of tourism has bragged of a 15% increase in numbers since he took over. Miller rejected claims put forward by the government and supporters that the piers would see ships stay longer. He said ships’ arrival and departure times are part of the schedule required to get from island to island, not piers, as well as the need to get into open waters to open the casinos.

“There can be no justification or urgency to build a cruise pier in the face of government reported sustained growth in cruise ship and passenger visits year-on-year for the last five years,” he said. “Cayman currently gets 90% of all cruise passengers on the western Caribbean itinerary and pre-disposing conditions are such that there is no likelihood that will change.”

He added, “To spend more than $200 million to secure a percentage of the remaining 10% is totally illogical and a waste of the country’s resources.”

Not just opposed to this plan but the idea of berthing facilities at all, Miller said he and the opposition members support the idea of a moratorium on tender licences to enable the existing businesses to invest in new modern fleets. He said that they also want to see immediate investment in new and appropriate facilities in the harbour to improve the disembarking and embarking process for passengers.

Surveys conducted by the cruise sector have consistently pointed to the cost of shopping in Cayman as the main complaints visitors have, not the tendering.

“Cayman has other far more pressing development and infrastructural needs, such as education and training for Caymanians, improved and expanded mental health services, and more comprehensive and efficient waste management systems and services,” Miller said.

The total cost is also cause for concern, as the government’s track record on major capital projects when it comes to costs and overruns may not fill the public with confidence, given that this project’s starting price could be as much as CI$300 million.

Government has constantly refuted this estimate but has never suggested what it believes is a realistic estimation, as the position of the current administration has been that the public purse will not pay for it as it will indirectly be paid for through the diversion of cruise passenger fees from the Port Authority to the cruise lines.

Meanwhile, local political pundit and former Chamber president, Johann Moxam, who has been unwavering in his opposition to the project, which he said has significant environmental, socio-economic and financial implications, welcomed the opposition’s call for a referendum. As someone who was instrumental in organizing the people-initiated referendum on ‘one man, one vote’ in 2012, Moxam said this was another issue that should be decided by the people.

“A referendum will clearly demonstrate the will of the people at a time when Cayman has record numbers in both cruise passenger arrivals and air arrivals,” he told CNS. “There are other more pressing priorities for the country at this time. The concerns of the masses must take precedence over the commercial interests of a handful of merchants who represent the pro-port lobby.”

Moxam added, “This will become another government white elephant project to placate a select few supporters, campaign financiers and the egos of politicians, which each tax payer, resident and corporate Cayman will subsidize.”

See the opposition leader’s motion and statement in the CNS Library

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Category: Local News

Comments (195)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    someone else brought this up on another thread on the topic I believe. Isn’t it funny that when this was first brought up by McKeeva a few years ago and it was decided that CHEC was going to be the ones doing this that it was squashed because it was a bad deal and corrupt and not good the island and it would take the candy from babies and kick your favorite puppy and destroy all the reefs and salt the crop fields.

    Y… E…T…

    Here we are, same proposal, basically same players (now that Mac is back in on it), same public outrage. The only difference? Government is keeping the people in the dark this time and ignoring us as they move forward and we are not protesting or marching.

    THIS is why we should limit the terms and number of times these morons can be elected in.

    We need to march, we need to set up a time and date and march. Ezzard, will you lead us in this? We will stand with you if you do.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The people that thumbs down the thought of holding a referendum, I ask you all. Are you actually okay with the fact that the government is spending $300,000,000 without telling you anything or being to find out anything about it?

    My own opinion of the dock aside, and I was for it at first, but the fact that there is so much secrecy about it makes me wonder what exactly is going on. I say before any decision is made, all information should be made public. All this hush hush has turned me against the dock simply because it is a LOT of money being spend and no-one except a select few know where it is going.

    That is not how the government is supposed to handle projects like this.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Remember folks, that $300 million is about 1 and a half times our supposed surplus.. Let that sink in.

  3. Anonymous says:

    If anyone takes the time to research China Harbour Engineering they would march on the MLA in an instant. They are and arm of the Chinese Government funded by the central bank in China for the sole purpose of expanding Chinese influence wherever they go. Case and example are the highways they built for Jamaica. Part of their deal was land concessions for Chinese businesses to set up shop.

    The workers, (almost 100% brought in from China) were the ones who started these businesses with permission from the government as part of the deal. China Harbour has the financial backing of the Chinese Government and are seeking a foot hold here. The fact that the MLA’s in charge of this project are keeping so damned secret worries me that they have already made deals with CHE and I am personally afraid of what these deals maybe. The FCO needs to be informed if they have not already that China Harbour is here in Cayman. They have a tendency to allow the payment for their services to be in the form of a loan financed by the China Int’l Bank. Look how many businesses in the Hotel industry are now Chinese owned. Wasn’t like that before China Harbour came to town.

    Every country Chian Harbour shows up in, Chinese influence grows at a stupid rate.

    HOW MUCH MORE THAN THE $300 MILLION WILL WE BE FORCED TO PAY? The detail of this project needs to be made public IMMEDIATELY, the FCO needs to be informed AND INVOLVED in this project to make sure Caymanian and ultimately UK interests (because they will foot the bill if a loan is done and we default then we are at the financial mercy of the UK government). This maybe becoming something more sinister than what it already is and Cayman we need to force this referendum and NOW! If the government is not willing then we need to MARCH ON THE LA AND DEMAND TO BE INFORMED!!! And these fools need to be removed from office either willingly or by the police.

    THEY ARE NO LONGER ACTING IN OUR INTEREST, THIS HAS GONE BEYOND SIMPLE GREED, THIS IS BOARDING TREASONOUS ACTIONS AND YES I WILL BE THE FIRST TO PUBLICLY SAY IT!

    WAKE THE HELL UP CAYMAN! WE ARE BEING SOLD BLOCK AND PARCEL TO FOREIGN MASTERS AND ONE OF THE WORST IS BIDDING AND MAY HAVE ALREADY WON MORE CHATTEL.

    And if you think I am full of crap about China Harbour Engineering? You have access to the internet, do some research then comment that I am full of crap. Everyone complains about Dart but he is a newborn lamb compared to the hungry wolf that has just set up a den in Cayman.

    THIS IS A MISTAKE, AN IRREPARABLE MISTAKE ON SO MANY LEVELS! ALL MLA’S AND BOARD CHAIRS INVOLVED IN THIS NEEDS TO BE INVESTIGATED!! THE STINK UNDERNEATH MAYBE WORSE THAN THE STINK ON TOP!

  4. Anonymous says:

    The government needs to think about this very carefully. Cruising is popular right now, but will it always be? Years ago hotels spent vast amounts equipping their rooms with wired ethernet connections, advances in wifi has all but eliminated them. While this was driven by technology, it was in turn driven by desire. The desire for cruising may diminish and we could just be in a popularity bubble that will burst. I myself had a desire to try a cruise, but when I see crowds of people being herded through GT and tacky signs to entice people into crowded shops where the wait for service is prolonged due to the inadequate number of sales staff to attend to them, that desire quickly faded. Few people realise that sales staff are trained only to target certain people. You will be assessed on your demeanour, ethnicity and even what you are wearing. I conducted my own social experiment once by wearing designer clothing and a Rolex watch on one occasion and beachware and no jewellery on another. The results of sales staff attendance were like chalk and cheese. Even the cruise ship line you choose can be a factor and hence while you will often be asked what ship you are on. Putting more bodies in GT does not proportionally result in increased revenue. An investor always looks for the return on investment. The cruise lines are likely to be the major benefactors of building bigger ships to increase their revenue. Destinations are secondary. Those big ships will be paid for and profit realised in the short term. We cannot say the same for Cayman. Cayman is a prime destination for tourists looking for a quiet relaxing vacation for families to enjoy nice beaches in a safe environment and we should be focusing on this sustainable growth.

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    • AlanP says:

      Speaking of Wi-Fi. More people are looking for “EMF free” vacations, which include WiFi proofed hotel rooms. There are none in the USA. But Radiation protected GEOVITAL HOTEL ROOMs are offered in Europe.

      Electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones on a cruise ship with 3,000+ passengers would probably blow any EMF meter to pieces.

      Besides, “Air quality on cruise ship deck ‘worse than world’s most polluted cities’, investigation finds” https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/pollution-cruise-ships-po-oceana-higher-piccadilly-circus-channel-4-dispatches-a7821911.html

      That is why I will never step on a cruise ship.

    • Arm & Hammer says:

      It is sad when we find ourselves in dejavú land over and over again. The present government certainly must recall its vociferous attack on previous attempts to have a cruiseport terminal built. Was it because of who was leading it and because of the feeling that there was something sinister going on with the negotiations which were not made public?. Or was it that they felt that the people who were going to benefit were not part of the elite class therefore it had to be stopped at all costs. It surely played out quite nicely didn’t it with the then leader of the country being told to stop the project and his minions eventually turning against him and well everybody knows the story.

      Now history repeats itself with the silence on the project. The present government apparently has placed a gag order like the previous and seems to have had conversations with an entity which was vilified as corrupt through leaking of news articles which portrayed not a very good picture of their past. Now they are clean respectable enough to be a part of the bidding process and who knows may even win the bid. How sad how low is this limbo dance.

      The Opposition now months before the winning bid announcement is now clamoring for a referendum; darn didn’t they also had problems with the previous devious process resulting in talk show rhetoric and leaking of documents and incessant hoopla! Is it that they know something is afoot but can’t just put their finger on it therefore resorts to riling up the natives at the midnight hour.

      People this is all shameful, there should not be any silence on this project if indeed there has been proper case studies and impact studies and workable mitigation measures to diminish a catastrophic change to our tourism environment within the proposed area and beyond. Added to this is it fair to say that the negotiations on financing of the project should remain private as it is a competitive bidding process.

      In summary it is wrong for governments to chastise another government and turn around and do the same thing they criticized. Secondly it is wrong for an opposition to sit and twiddle their thumbs until the last minute then start to make much ado about a referendum, just to make believe that they are working for a their money. This should have been called from so long ago and now it just seems as if it’s only backyard politics. Is

      Is it right for Governments to hide negotiations on critical projects from its people, is it right to be calling for Referendum at this stage when millions of dollars in cash and time have been spent.

      Are they all playing games with the citizenry or is it just another day in Lala land. You be the judge and jury people.

      • Anonymous says:

        @11:00 Yes it is right, especially when dealing with a company such as CHEC. If there were other bidders to consider then why has CHEC opened an office here? That is a pretty ballsy move if the bidding is still open, or maybe it isn’t as the winner has already been chosen and the CIG is waiting for it to be beyond too late to announce the obvious winner.

    • Anonymous says:

      Here is an interesting article on mega ships and the problems of accommodating them dockside. True, this is about container ships, but I really wonder if some if this does not apply to similar mega cruise liners on the horizon and in some cases already in action.

      https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.usatoday.com/amp/81196112

    • Anonymous says:

      Here is a story out of Curacao about the impact on maritime heritage and environment of a dock to accommodate cruise liners:

      http://curacaochronicle.com/local/the-development-of-a-new-mega-pier-on-curacao-threatens-one-of-the-caribbeans-most-popular-wrecks/

    • Anonymous says:

      In doing some research on the web on mega cruise liners, I came across the Symphony of the Sea that has a capacity of 6,780 passengers. It is already plying the waters somewhere up north but is moving to Miami in November 2018. In preparation for that move, Royal Caribbean is building a new 170,000 sq. ft. terminal in Miami.

      I just wondered whether we would have the capacity of accommodating Symphony of Sea or any cruise liner in this league on the proposed dock?

      I have read that accommodations are a problem for the type of mega containers that are now coming on stream — not that that would apply to us, but if the US is scrambling to come up to par for container shipping, would the proposed dock soon be overcome by the challenges of accommodating the huge cruise liners now appearing?

  5. Anonymous says:

    How can we have a referendum when we know nothing of the details?

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    • Ron Ebanks says:

      Anonymous 9:34 pm , sounds like you need to read Johann Moxam coment further down the page of the older comments, so that you can be better informed about everything.

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    • Anonymous says:

      @9:34 Hence the point, to get any info instead of being purposely kept in the dark.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Here is my question — how would weather affect docking and disembarking passenger comfort? Would not the docking arrangements experience the same impediments as the tendering process during a nor’wester?

      If so, and if we jettison the tenders, does this mean that the option to re-direct ships to Red Bay would no longer be available, as the tenders would have gone out of businesses?

      I would be interested in views on this.

  6. Anonymous says:

    My friend I agree with you 100%. Too bad our leaders don’t have any common sense, just puppets for the rich man. they don’t have any idea about getting the best value for the dollar or the just don’t care once they get there share under the table.
    $1,300,000 for a boardwalk 1500′ long 6′ wide. A perfect example of when you got more money than you got sense.
    The new police station at fair banks is another joke, when you wash your hands in the cell the water runs non stop for 2 minutes. I can see water authority laughing at the end of the month.

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  7. Ron Ebanks says:

    What I am reading in these comments , is that people are getting more informed about what is going on, and is waking up, and the politicians are ignoring it . I also think that in the near future there’s going to be a big uprising on the Islands, because of the way politicians are running the government.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    The port will be like any other project here. Just a grand monument to Caymanian ego.

    No business case will be made to justify the answers to legitimate needs.

    “We need a high school in Frank Sound” A business person, would have DEMANDED a more cost effective design and could have built three efficient schools for that amount of money.

    “We need to expand the airport” A business person would have DEMANDED a more cost effective design ( a flat roof!) and could have included jet ways for the money being spent.

    “We need a boardwalk in South Sound” Well i, don’t believe anyone ever asked that, but the construction companies again are the ones that benefit, But for that money, a side walk and a bike lane could have been built all the way to Grand Harbour.

    “We need a cruise port” If the people agree, they should DEMAND value for dollars. There must be a more cost effective solution than creating acres of new land with fill in the center of a beautiful natural harbour.

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