Law requires public scrutiny of final port design

| 23/01/2019 | 65 Comments
Cayman News Service

Cruise ship in George Town

(CNS): The Department of Environment has said that when a developer for the George Town cruise and cargo project is selected, the final design must go through another environmental impact assessment, which will require public consultation. DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said that the previous assessment was for a design that is no longer under consideration, so the revised plan will have a different dredging pocket and all parts of the changes will need another environmental review, which she has already communicated to the Major Projects Office. While government has kept the progress of this project largely out of the public eye, the law requires that the EIA undergoes open public consultation. 

The winning bid is now likely to be one of two consortium of bidders left in the running, after reports that a third group has already been ruled out.

While government has not issued any official comment on the details of the tendering process, all available information indicates that one of the two last bidders standing is the Verdant Isle group, understood to be led by local contractors McAlpine in partnership with two leading cruise lines, as well as an international marine engineering firm. The other bidder is a group that remains a mystery, led by the Chinese-based company China Harbour Engineering Company.

Complicating the process, however, is the revelation by government at the end of last year that the same two cruise lines partnering with the Verdent Isle group have agreed to invest in the project regardless of whether their group wins or not.

Government has stated that whichever group emerges as the winner will be responsible for completing the environmental impact assessment, which is a requirement of the National Conservation Law. Although government has indicated its desire to revise and review the law, it remains, for now, largely as it was following its historic passage in 2013.

And while the DoE has indicated that this EIA can be an addition to the existing assessment document that was carried out during the early stages of this projects consideration, the updated EIA will still need to be comprehensive and involve the wider public. In a letter sent to the organisers of this past weekend’s Vision 2020 event, the director set out the requirements in accordance with the National Conservation Law.

Ebanks-Petrie explained that the Environmental Assessment Board will scope the additional studies to be carried out on the revised design, consultants being selected to do the work and the agreement of the terms of reference based on public input, which will give the people a critical opportunity to shape the quality and extent of the EIA.

“We continue to believe the government should give very careful consideration to the impacts of such a significant development upon the remaining George Town Harbour reefs, the marine life those reefs support and the buildings and other structures in the general environs of the harbour as well as due consideration to the effects arising from these impacts on tourism enterprise operating across Grand Cayman,” Ebanks-Petrie wrote in her letter to Vision 2020.

She sent the letter because she had to turn down the invitation to attend due to the technical role her department plays in advising government on environmental issues.

However, Ebanks-Petrie offered the benefit of her department’s collected unbiased scientific assessment of policy decisions by government. The role of the department is to explain the consequences of proposed policies like the port, and any possible mitigation in the case of adverse consequences.

In her letter she explained the DoE’s regulatory responsibilities and that many of the issues that the event was examining were projects that her department is giving advice to government on, and it was important for the DoE to remain independent. However, the director has never shied away from outlining the facts regarding the impact of development on the environment to government, regardless of how palatable it is to elected officials.

She has spoken openly about the significant problems this project poses for the marine environment, the direct and indirect threats to the reefs and the technical challenges the engineers are going to face. In an appearance on the local radio station, CrossTalk, last year, the director pointed out that until the design is finalised and key geotechnical studies have been completed, it will be extremely difficult to understand the extent of the negative impacts from a host of issues, such as the dredging method the developers will eventually employ and how pilings will be drilled.

The role of the DoE remains one of technical expertise but government has given every indication that where the proposed controversial port project is concerned, it does not need its extensive expertise and has removed the DoE representatives from the project steering committee. The absence of the DoE at the stage before the tender documents were even drawn up has raised questions about how environmental issues are now being tackled during the bidding process.

The DoE has also confirmed that it was not consulted on the impact of a short period of rough weather over the Christmas weekend that generated very high waves in the George Town Harbour and extensive flooding in the waterfront area of the capital.

The Ministry of Tourism issued a statement that indicated it had been told by unidentified marine engineers that a repeat of this type of weather in future would cause no problem at all for the piers or George Town once this project is built.

Numerous experts have already questioned that assumption and this type of issue is only one of the multitude of things that will need to be considered by the EIA to offer some kind of surety for the community about the threats to the island.

Putting aside the inescapable massive environmental destruction, the undermining of the entire watersports sector in the capital, the challenges to the existing infrastructure and attractions across Grand Cayman, and in particular Seven Mile Beach, concerns about managing such a huge annual increase in cruise passengers and the huge financial costs, all of which government has dismissed as the price we must pay to retain the cruise industry, the public needs to know if this project will also increase the potential risk of a major natural disaster, especially with the predicted sea level rise.

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Category: development, Local News, Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (65)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Selfish islanders the worst in Caribbean… I hope it all come crashing down , to teach you greedy buggers a lesson.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The “Law” means nothing in the Cayman Islands.
    A famous person once said that the measure of the corruptness of a country is directly proportional to the number of its laws.
    Here, integrity is for sale at any price.
    This place has gone to the dogs.
    Truth, integrity and honesty have been sacrificed for greed.
    The Spirit weeps.

  3. Jotnar says:

    So the two remaining bidders are McAlpine, the same contractor involved in the airport who have harvested $10m over run on a $40m base, and CHEC, with their stellar reputation for honesty and Chinese governmental strategic policy. Anyone else still think this doesn’t need active and independent oversight on the procurement?

    • Captain Kirk says:

      I’m sure that the construction project will not effect the beautiful reefs and shoals. And surely docking one of those mega cruise ships in a northwester will no problem. Please don’t agree with this I’m being really facetious.

    • Chris Johnson says:

      I think you will find out stellar AG will have a say in this so relax folks. Also our fatherland knows all about CHEC and their West Bay Friend.

    • Anonymous says:

      We need gov Taylor and FCO to step in again to make sure CHEC is not given the contract for all the good reasons that saw them off last time.
      Mr Roper please keep an eye on this .

  4. Anonymous says:

    This selection process is a joke in that their # 1 choice is McAlpine and the Cruise lines neither have the experience to construct deep water offshore cruise berthing facilities at all and obviously CIG and CTC have not done any due diligence whatsoever when McAlpine’s partner Orion Marine (ex Misener Marine ) do not have the deep water expertise or experience, have made little money in over 5 years a a publicly listed company in the US and have announce to shareholders that they are scaling down their marine construction because they cannot make money and are going to concentrate on US land side infrastructural projects. Add to this the resignation of the McAlpine local Caymanian MD Mr. Ian Pairaudeau and the country is headed for a right royal mess with the largest infrastructural project in the history of the country because CIG, Public Works and the Central Tenders committee have not down their homework or due diligence and they have absolutely no one experienced and capable to understand and handle the complexities surrounding this project. Watch this space because CIG are no longer following standard Internationally accepted tendering practices and protocols and all tendering ethics were thrown out the window last June, to allow collusion, private closed door secret discussions with McAlpine, the Cruise Lines and CHEC, smack bang in the middle of the tendering process when the Cruise lines suddenly out of no where became one of the colluding bidders and at the same time were sitting on the stage with CIG at the Family Life Center in the middle of the tendering process. Such obvious “Disgraceful Ethics.”

    • Anonymous says:

      Sue Winspeare… Please?

      • Anonymous says:

        Sue Winspear our auditor general, please!!!!!! wake up and smell the coffee for the facts above are already on the table and it is an ethical disgrace. Do your own due diligence and investigate all the facts from all the parties involved and who showed interest in this project. There is enough evidence on CHEC and the World bank and what they have done in Jamaica and else where, Orion Marine as a US public company, McAlpine in Cay and in the UK and the cruise lines colluding in the middle of the process and all three parties, McAlpine, Carnival/Royal, and CHEC all having their own direct private talks with the CIG smack bang in the middle of the tendering process and prequalification process. Cayman has lost credibility again on the international stage making us a joke!!!!

        Central Tenders Committee is grossly incompetent and totally lacking in the expertise, experience and knowledge to assess a marine civil project of this scale, magnitude and complexity. Auditor General please get involved!!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m sorry that you are extremely misinformed and make comments with no understanding or accurate information.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wrong, CHEC and Decco have very capable managers & procurement plus our Public Works Department has Mr Max & his capable team. This will be a project we all can be proud of.

    • A Nonny Mouse says:

      Wait, what?! Ian Pairaudeau has resigned? CNS, this is more newsworthy than the main story, if true. Please confirm.

  5. Anonymous says:

    History will find that public scrutiny of port design, EIA, engineering and submarine geotech studies, should have come WELL BEFORE the start of an RFP charade to appoint a pre-determined “winning bidder”. It is difficult to watch our Voters so complicit in their own fraud.

  6. Arthur Rank says:

    Since it is clear that this project will not benefit most Islanders (see many past comments, particularly Candy Whicker), it is interesting to surmise WHO it does benefit. That question is particularly interesting if CHEC is selected given past performance in Jamaica among others.
    If ever there was a case for the Auditor being involved at every stage to ensure that the post event criticism evident in the airport report is not repeated, then this is it! Remember, proper tendering procedures not followed just to mention one? So, what chance of that then?
    And another thing, it seems that the assessment of environmental impact is to be done post contract award, by the contracting party, so what chance of a negative result from that?
    But there is one good thing in this, the Speaker of the House, being independent, cannot possibly be involved in the award of the contract. Can he?

    • Anonymous says:

      Speaker of the House cannot possibly be involved? I know you didn’t type that with a straight face. Of course is the Standards for Public Life was actually enacted we would be able to find that out but conveniently it isn’t.

      • Arthur Rank says:

        Oh My! How can you so accuse me, face straight as any die!
        But, the reason I am delighted he cannot be involved is the history behind this project that it seems WILL not go away.
        If you recall, the original plan for this facility was interrupted at a crucial moment by the sudden overturning of “due process” by the summary appointment of CHEC, and that despite the dreadful reputation they had obtained, for, if I recall, some form of corruption,right or wrong. In some eyes that tainted the reputation of any Government or individual involved with them, now we wouldn’t want that happening again would we?
        My concern is simply that it would be unfair to expose a person to such accusation for a second time.
        Straight up, honest!

        • Anonymous says:

          Your so wrong, CHEC & the Dart group will do a wonderful job and at a lower cost than anyone else. There is no need to review any plans as These companies are very experienced and professional; just look at all the wonderful projects Dart has already completed. Just let them get on with the job!

          • Anonymous says:

            1:09, You are a joker. CHEC very experienced and professional? You know nothing about what you are talking about.

          • Anonymous says:


          • Anonymous says:

            1:09, Are you aware that the Chinese state corporation CHEC has left a trail of corruption and fraud throughout Asia and Africa with their projects? Of course, if you are someone who thinks corruption and fraud is professional then I understand why you admire them so much.

    • Anonymous says:

      I want to know exactly how this port is going to be financed. When will we find out?

      • Anonymous says:

        How many times does it have to be repeated? the cruise lines are loaning the cash up front to build the piers and they get repaid from the fees they pay for each passenger that comes here. Got it now?

        • Anonymous says:

          Ah yes, the $2.46 head tax currently levied in addition to tender fee – but of course, those are irrelevant to a pier based operation). So 2.46 x 3 million passengers a year it was less than 2 million passengers in 2018 but whose counting) = $7.38 million a year. Does that even pay the interest on a $200 million in construction cost, let alone $300 million?

        • Anonymous says:

          Please site who and when did anybody from the cruise lines state they were loaning the cash up front? This is simply wishful thinking but I stand corrected if you can site your cruise line source. Believe you are simply talking out of your hat. Got that now?

      • Anonymous says:

        12:07 are you saying you will help with the finance!

        • Anonymous says:

          Would love to know what private financial institution or group would be so stupid as to finance this port as it is a no win proposition.

          • Anonymous says:

            Bank of China, who will then step in with help from our local “expert”, screw us by taking over ownership like they did in the Bahamas.

            • Anonymous says:

              Exactly the same as CHEC did in Sri Lanka. Financing based on unrealistic revenue forecasts leading to the Chinese government ownership of the port and Chinese navy access.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Build the piers

  8. Anonymous says:

    Sounds good, but when has a law EVER been enforced over greed? In many places, but especially in cayman.

  9. I ❤️ Kirkbots says:

    ROFLOL Kirkbots and Pro-Port bloggers are back to win the ?? ?? battle on CNS. I wonder how much they are paying the Chinese to troll and manipulate unscientific polls again?

  10. Anonymous says:

    What technical expertise does DoE have regarding cruise piers?

    • Anonymous says:

      Probably not much more than anyone else involved and that seems to be pretty close to zero. What DoE do have is the capability to determine just how much this project is going to f*** up the shoreline and the coral.

  11. Anonymous says:

    10 years later…still at square one…thank god.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The national conservation law Was ‘under review’ It can be changed again if it doesn’t suit them. See

  13. Anonymous says:

    and how do you know that? its up to you if you do not wish to post it but I thought that you were a medium of free expressions that we need badly

    CNS: How do we know what?

  14. Anonymous says:

    Unless someone is going to take action to stop them, using the democratic powers that exist, this Cabinet will do exactly what they want with impunity for as long as they want, and in complete darkness. They’ve already said that book-learner’s decision-making tools, like: EIAs, engineering and geotechnical surveys, and plausible business cases, don’t matter to them…

  15. Anonymous says:

    This is not news!!! The Ministry of Tourism talked about the public consultation process that was still to come in a press release issued in December 2018.

    Its a pity that media – especially this one that is obviously biased and blatantly anti-port – extract bits and pieces from news releases and therefore rarely allow the public to get the full picture from what is being communicated.

    For anyone that missed it, this is what was said back in December:

    ‘Key next steps will occur when the tender process is complete and the preferred bidder has been approved by the Public Procurement Committee.

    They will then be contractually obligated to undertake a number of activities, such as conducting a geotechnical survey and submitting a coral relocation plan; a dredge management plan and an environmental management plan.

    The Environmental Statement and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) will also be updated and submitted to the Environmental Assessment Board and will subsequently go out for public consultation as part of the EIA process. A public consultation period will be held, as was the case in June 2015 for the original EIA.

    ALL of this information was included in the same ‘revelation by government’ news release that CNS is referring to in this story. Evidently they do have it – just choose not to use it if I doesn’t suit their agenda.

    • Anonymous says:

      Kirkbots on troll patrol again

    • Anonymous says:

      Question: what are the RFP criteria that one relies upon to select a preferred bidder for a 9 figure infrastructure project, before there is a defined scope of work, an agreed engineering blueprint, consensus on standard of materials and appearance, or even more fundamentally: proven economic, structural, and environmental viability of a project – one which will be reliant upon using other people’s money, who are then kept completely in the dark?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Still no applicable business case, since the PwC “report” assumed there would be dozens of 6000 passenger ships “passing us by” forever. We’ve thoroughly debunked that false premise…why are we still even talking about this?!?

    • DeBunker says:

      Say what? Which of the 6,000+ passenger ships (and oh by the way, Carnival Corp’s largest ships will be 6,600 passengers) are you trying to imply are now going to be calling at our port and are NOT going to be passing us by?

      Are you STILL persisting in trying to fool the public into believing the MSC Meraviglia is a 6,000+ passenger ship? (A hint for anyone who may have been fooled by the Anti-Port hype: that ship the Anti-port advert is using to claim that the largest ships will tender here, is designed and classified as 4,500 passenger capacity! You can easily look that up for yourself.)

      So, which and whose false premise has really been “debunked”?

      • Anonymous says:

        Being “pro-transparency” is a threat to this gov’t because the facts don’t line up.

    • Anonymous says:

      To sell lovely watches to make rich influential political backers richer. At least the Minister of Tourism has no conflicts on that front….

      • Anonymous says:

        Our product offerings are fundamentally out of step with consumer demand. Few under 40 wear analog wrist-watches anymore (not a new thing either). Citing this fact, and rather than mark-down merchandise, in 2018 Richemont bought back >$500mln in watches and destroyed them. Gaudy jewelry buying post 2008 is just not in style.

        • Anonymous says:

          Yet the stores remain open and presumably profitable, unless you are suggesting they are a front for something else?

        • Anonymous says:

          But if your business model is based on selling them, getting a $400m dock paid by other people to boost flagging sales makes sense.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Yep which is why the CIG is currently working behind closed doors to castrate the Conservation law and the conservation council likely along with the Environmental Assessment Board
    Along with any other environmental or development laws that hinder the project
    or that inconvenience their developer donors

    I hope Ms Ebanks-Petrie isn’t too comfortable
    She might soon find herself suddenly out of a job if she keeps this up

  18. Anonymous says:

    “Thanks for your input, we have taken it in to consideration and decided to proceed as planned”. Public consultation dealt with.

  19. SMH says:

    Thanks Gina for having high standards and offering objective advice to a government that need the opposite to carry out its agenda. The Cruise dock will be Cayman’s biggest white elephant project. Everyone can see this considering the track record of the Moses Kirkconnell, Alden McLaughlin and the PPM. SMH

    • Anonymous says:

      Love it, everyone talking about a 200M cruise dock, what do you think four 737 Max is going to cost us?

      • Flying Squad says:

        Moses Kirkconnell and his proxies at CAL and the Ministry of Tourism whom are aided by Premier McLaughlin and Cabinet will bankrupt this country because of the egos and poor management of everything they touch. That will be their true legacy. All of these projects including CAL Max deals need to be investigated by the AG and Anti-Corruption Commission

      • Anonymous says:

        If you think that port is going to cost a mere 200M, you are DELUDED
        This will cost way more than that travesty of an airport. LOL

      • Anonymous says:

        We can’t lease the port or return it when we see the costs and consequences.

        • Anonymous says:

          If CHEC are the contractors then you won’t have to worry as they will take ownership after screwing you like they did the Bahamas.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Director Ebanks-Petrie exposed Minister Kirkonnell and his project management team with her comments. Her candid approach and openness as an expert will have them all pulling their hair out.

    The persistence by the government at all costs for the port is looking more like political suicide for any MLA who intends to be re-elected in 2021 with every passing day.

    • Anonymous says:

      @ 2.17pm. Any MLA that doesn’t support it will have mass unemployment and small business closures to worry about. Not re-election.

      • Cheese Face says:

        If the cruise lines own / operate the piers, there will be no small businesses to worry about anyway.

      • Anonymous says:

        MLAs are smart enough to know they need to find jobs for their people. Iguana culling jobs aren’t enough to support all those that will be out of work if we don’t build the piers.

        • Anonymous says:

          What new jobs do iguana cullers get with a Port that they currently don’t qualify for? Bag-snatchers?

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