Disney on board with cruise project

| 21/02/2019 | 57 Comments

Cayman News Service(CNS): Disney is now the third cruise line to agree to invest in the Cayman Islands Government’s proposed cruise berthing facility in George Town, Premier Alden McLaughlin said Thursday. No details were revealed about the specifics but the Unity government leader told an audience of business leaders that his government was still fully committed to the project, despite the controversies, and that the commitment now of three cruise lines to the project was part of the promise that he had made to ensure that the cruise lines “must have skin in the game” before the development went ahead.

Addressing what organisers said was the largest-ever audience at a Chamber of Commerce Legislative Lunch, an annual event where the business community rubs shoulders with all of the elected officials, the premier said that “no public money will be required to build the new cruise berths and enhanced cargo facility”.

In a long speech that covered a vast array of subjects and what he sees as his Government of National Unity’s achievements, the premier pressed a familiar message about the port project, that the trend was towards bigger ships. Cayman needed piers to retain the cruise business, he insisted, despite growing industry evidence to the contrary.

As the current tender process progresses with what is said to be three final bidders, concerns have been mounting that it has become conflicted by side deals with the cruise lines. Government has already signed deals with Carnival and Royal Caribbean, and McLaughlin has now revealed that Disney, which has no plans for any mega-ships, has been added to the list.

It is believed that the tourism ministry is continuing to talk with at least another three cruise companies, even though the tender process is supposed to be for a ‘design, build and finance’ model, where the winning bidder puts up all the money.

This confusion is compounded by one of the bidder groups already having Royal Caribbean and Carnival in its team. Representatives of those two cruise lines attended a public meeting to promote the facility, sitting on the platform with government, exacerbating the issue of conflict that has not yet been addressed.

In his speech Thursday, the premier did nothing to explain these growing conflicts nor did he detail how the financing will work, even though he insisted that the public purse was not paying for it and the money was not coming from the existing port fees.

On previous occasions Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell has said that the $7 per head tendering fee will be the source of financing for the project. But with the need to retain some tenders and the cost of the project expected to be well over $250 million, economic experts have questioned how that will add up.

Nevertheless, McLaughlin announced that “Disney has also given its commitment towards the financing”. He said the cruise line agreements along with the finance to be provided by the preferred bidder “effectively ensured that no public money will be required”. He said the cruise companies had also made a commitment to the volume of cruise passengers needed for the financing to be repaid.

The premier did not outline that number but the tourism ministry has previously stated that in the first instance it is expected that cruise arrivals would need to rise to more than 2.3 million annually to make the project viable.

Despite the challenges with the arithmetic on this issue, the premier added, “I want to assure the leader of the opposition that no current fees paid by the cruise companies to government will be used to repay the financing package.”

McLaughlin made it clear that the arguments coming from those opposed to the project had not convinced him that the project was not needed. Even in the face of the current successes in tourism, he said the cruise industry is changing.

He dismissed the arguments that have been made against the project by comparing the situation to the demise of the Kodak camera company, suggesting that the same fate could befall Cayman’s cruise tourism business without the piers.

“We will go into a gradual but sure decline and our cruise sector will eventually be diminished. This government will not allow that to happen,” he said. “The new cruise dock is vital to safeguard the future of Cayman’s tourism industry, whilst the new cargo facilities will receive larger cargo ships and help support the islands’ growing population and, by allowing greater economies of scale, help to mitigate some of the cost pressures impacting our cost of living.”

Claiming to respect the views of those who argue that no economic benefit can outweigh the environmental concerns, which is one of the main reasons why public opposition to the project remains high, he said that this “was not a position that a responsible government can take”.

“In my view this comes down to a question of judgement – do the benefits outweigh the costs? In my judgement and that of my government, $245 million of net economic benefit, hundreds of construction jobs and then decades of increasing employment and business opportunities for Caymanians in the tourism industry definitely outweigh the inevitable environmental costs in a part of Grand Cayman’s only working harbour,” he added, though the economic benefit figure remains disputed and the details of the jobs have never been outlined.

“What we can and will do is ensure that the final design of the new piers will avoid as much environmental impact as possible. Where we cannot avoid it, we will aim to mitigate the effects,” he said.

However, all of the geographical surveys and studies as well as the environmental impact reports will be the responsibility of, and paid for by, the winning bidders, calling into question how the public can be sure that the developers will take the least environmentally damaging approach of the costly engineering challenge.

The premier said that his government would continue to move forward carefully and deliberately on the project, with the procurement process winding down and a preferred bidder expected to be chosen by the summer.

“Once this is done, we will be in a position to speak more to the final designs and projected costs,” McLaughlin said, as he wound up his comments about the project, making no mention of the campaign for a people-initiated referendum.

Speaking with Chamber CEO Wil Pineau following the speech, the premier gave few details about the construction when asked how George Town business will be impacted. The premier said that there is flexibility, as the cruise ships will be anchored, and he took the position that the three-year construction period will not be a major concern.

McLaughlin’s speech also covered government finances, further expected declines in unemployment, revamping of immigration and the new border agency, Cayman’s healthy economy, a possible future world economic decline and the challenges of the rising cost of living.

He spoke about the threats to financial services, diversifying the economy and the government’s plans to revitalise George Town, as well as investment in education and many other issues, from the airport redevelopment to constitutional talks.

See the premier’s full speech in the CNS Library

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Comments (57)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Psshhh….why is this a surprise to anyone with DISNEY being all for the Cruise Project? Don’t let his naive laugh fool you, at the end of the day Mickey is a damn business man people!

  2. MM says:

    Yep, we are gonna need a fairy godmother to get us out of this $h!t.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Always a great lesson to watch CIG take on something in which they have no skill, experience, or training in and do it on faith that they are smarter than any professional (all evidence to the contrary) with the expected results. Train wreck to follow and subsequent save by all the companies that were foolish enough to get into any business deals with the Government here. And of course the public purse.

  4. Anonymous says:

    It’ll be a fantastic day the first time a cruise ship docks in town.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Its hard to believe that Caymanians can’t see the wanton and un-necessary destruction that building this dock will bring to our beautiful God given waterfront. Please, someone talk some sense into the brains of those who are advocating this before it is too late.

    • Anonymous says:

      What is pathetic is that this government believes the dock will improve downtown George Town, they do not possess the leadership or creativity to design a port free downtown that is beautiful and welcoming.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The dock will be a fantastic step forward for our country and our capital.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Something makes me want to believe Disney has been involved before and tried to be involved from a long time ago, just had the wrong people negating back then. I remember them looking to hire a Caribbean Representative to develop parks and attractions, that Turtle center looks too very well designed to be considered just dropped out of the sky, I just really feel sorry for all these anti port protesters not been aware they are doing the dirty work for the companies that wants the status quo to be kept.

  8. Anonymous says:

    We need to legalize cruise ship gambling within our territorial waters (like Bahamas, Bermuda and others), issue them liquor licenses, form a territorial gaming commission, that gets paid a predictable large annual fee (whether or not the ships show) – that’s the only catalyst to extending shore leave for the liners, attract shore residents/tourists to the ships, and the only way we’ll get the elusive 2nd tours booked or evening activity on the island. We don’t need a port for that, just more qualified people negotiating for our better mutual interest while protecting our environmental interest, like they matter (and they do).

  9. Anonymous says:

    Premier Alden McLaughlin like to drop these bits of news in his speeches but rarely offers details. That seems to be the rule for the dock is details are rarely given. The reasoning for the dock has also changed from we will be quickly lost without a dock to over time we will fall behind without a dock and it will revitalize George Town.
    The idea that we are getting something for nothing leaves me a bit uneasy. As a child I learned there is never something for nothing.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Ships docking at the new piers will no longer pay fees to the Tendering Company (fees not currently paid to Government) allowing those fees to be used to finance the new port. The whole idea of updating the business case and EIA after the preferred bidder is selected are to ensure that the financing model and environmental impact still makes the project viable before a final decision is made. As well as revealing the preferred bidder, Government has also committed to hold a further round of public consultation after publishing the updated business case and EIA.

    • Anonymous says:

      Those ships not docked still require tendering so the tender fees will not pay for the project.

  11. Toni says:

    What is a pity is that Mickey really just doesn’t understand.

  12. Anonymous says:

    It doesn’t seem that confusing to me. If I am a cruise line, I want to ensure that I am going to be able to reserve my space on the dock – so I make my reservation with a contribution to the financing. The cruise lines have to be involved in the financing model – this is on the only way to make sure that they keeping calling here.
    Build the port!

  13. Naya Boy says:

    Yes that’s exactly who is running this island Mickey Mouse and Goofy!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Mr premier and the unity governemnt for this great news

  15. Anonymous says:

    If this dock does not work out, can we publicly flog all members of this unity Government that can’t see past their noses? Guaranteed that not one of them take responsibility and just blame others. I tell you what, if this does not work out, the premier should consider having his afternoon beers as home instead of country and western.

  16. Anonymous says:


    Better reinforce the dock! These captains are crashing their ships on a weekly basis these days!

    • Anonymous says:

      Manoeuvering these hulking megaships is a very delicate operation. I hate to say it but with these ships navigating so close to each other we will have to pray every time we get one of these huge ships in port here.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Well excuse me, but that is so effing Goofy.

  18. Anonymous says:

    So Disney is involved now? Doesn’t surprise me one bit considering Mickey is running the show, Goofy wants the dock built to boost the family biz and Donald is in the background banging his gavel claiming credit for starting this mess to begin with.

  19. Anonymous says:

    3 cruise companies and a private partner all vying for their share of the payback and profits…. Three cruise companies all vying for priority on 2 piers (four docking stations). And everyone will come out happy in this situation… Me thinks it is yet another train wreck for this project…
    Or it could be smoke and mirrors where all parties set off together, saving Alden’s face with the “I will make them pay for my wall, sorry, port…” then half way through the build the private partner buys the cruise companies out leaving the (Chinese? Dart?) in control of the port…
    Well played CIG…

    • Anonymous says:

      We will be way better off with CHEC and Dart controlling everything because look how great Mr. Dart & his companies have made our country now. We can then get rid of the British and become a nation on our own being led by Dart. Having the Chinese hear will give us great military protection as well.
      Three cheers for our forward thinking government who are true leaders – bless you all!

  20. Anonymous says:

    Have no fear, the little rat will sort it out!

  21. Anonymous says:

    Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Disney, all competitors – so who is gonna have first order of docking? Sounds like mass confusion to me. It will work or it will not work. God help us if it doesn’.

  22. Anonymous says:

    It’s almost as if the the people voice’s have no say in the matter and alden just keeps pushing forward.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sadly, the minimum 25%, of those that count, still haven’t spoken up! Breathtaking apathy!

    • Anonymous says:

      MOUs and unspecified “financial commitments” don’t really mean anything if certain preconditions aren’t met. One of those being if this is allowed by the people to go ahead. “Yeah, if you build that thing, we’ll probably use it and pay our fees” is not a bankable commitment.

    • Anonymous says:

      Very similar to Mac and CHEC.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Ok, congrats…but how exactly will Disney’s involvement negate;

    – the inherent environmental destruction
    – overcrowding of our prime tourist attractions
    – pollution of our crystal clear water
    – rampant franchisement of Cayman as a destination
    – cluttering of our roads and infrastructure
    – the inevitable negative achievement of Cayman’s “over-tourism”?

    Oh, that’s right, it won’t.

    At the end of the day, the port impacts us all and is a decision that CANNOT be placed in the hands of the same old 10-11 individuals that make up our government, with a few undeniably biased.

    Let us have a REFERENDUM on the proposed port and settle the issue once and for all.

    – Whodatis

    #section70 #signthepetition #stoptalkingdosomething

  24. Anonymous says:

    This is the best news in the world for Cayman. Disney is a fantastic partner and family oriented exactly what Cayman needs

  25. Anonymous says:

    Alden you are the Devil and have sold your sole.
    The Cayman Islands you don’t care about but your bank is your concern.
    You are a complete disgrace I feel sick to be Caymanian this country is ruined thanks to you and Mac

    • Anonymous says:

      Wow. I had no idea 9:37, that Alden was in the fish marketing business. Where can I buy some of his sole? I love sole and it is hard to find on these islands.

  26. Anonymous says:

    “I want to assure the leader of the opposition that no current fees paid by the cruise companies to government will be used to repay the financing package.”

    Build the dock! Your head if you’re corrupted!

    • Anonymous says:

      We all know you never get something for nothing, especially when we are talking investment this large. Something is being hidden from us. I want to see the full financing figures and how the money all REALLY plays out.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Build the dock

  28. Anonymous says:

    To say that no public funds would be used is a lie by omission: the cruise lines are not doing anything out of the goodness of their heart. The country will simply be paying them back in waivered fees and forfeited taxes.

    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly. I am pretty sure they aren’t all just gifting the money to us. So what’s the catch and ultimately, at whose expense? It usually ends up being us who foot these very lavish bills.

    • Anonymous says:

      No public funds will be used to build the dock. We have been saying it for years. Anything else is fake news.

    • Anonymous says:

      Who will pay for all the other projects needed like John Gray? Why does the cost not scare you? Clifton Hunter 100 million plus!! Where are the petitions? Who are we building it for? A proper public bus system would save millions of dollars a year on maintenance of the roads. Crime would go down from tinted cars plus road rage. The deluded costs are stifling.

  29. Anonymous says:

    The story about the dock keeps changing every time Alden and Moses speak to the public. The RFP process is officially a joke.

  30. SMH says:

    The man is so arrogant and pig headed he lives in his own world surrounded by yes men that are disconnected from reality. His political career is defined by expensive projects like Clifton Hunter High School and now a cruise berthing dock to appease Moses K and a handful of duty free retailers. SMH

  31. Anonymous says:

    Friggin Mickey Mouse project from day 1.

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