Cost of cruise port more than cash

| 02/07/2019 | 37 Comments

Mario Rankin writes: Taking a strong look at our region and the evolution of the cruise industry going as far back as the 1950’s, it was amusing to see floating cities showing up to beautiful Caribbean islands that had much more to offer than the ships themselves. Blinded by the amusement and consumed by the idea that money makes everything better, we consistently allowed and went to great lengths to encourage them to keep coming, in the absence of any proper sustainable development strategy or carrying capacity and limitations in place to ensure we create the right balance in both sectors.

We grew our tourism product from a world class diving destination and a place of peace and tranquillity, “the place that time had forgotten”, to a multi-service tourism industry providing services to accommodate both sides of the tourism sector.

We have now morphed into a numbers game only strategy, where the machinery is being driven by those who control policy and legislation. This is why we see so much push to continue accommodating the cruise lines, with an absolute disregard for the Cayman Islands people and, more importantly, the environment, which is, ironically, the very thing that attracts millions of tourist to the Caribbean every year.

Here in the Cayman Islands it’s mind-boggling because the statistics produced every year by the Economics and Statistics Office do not favour the cruise industry. However, the government has taken the position to lead the charge on building a $300-400 million dollar cruise dock without the consent of the people, as opposed to redeveloping and extending the airport to accommodate more stay-over tourism, which brings in the most revenue with less strain on our infrastructure.

Our strong point has always been what we refer to today as “CaymanKind”, which is the hospitable and welcoming nature of the people.

But somewhere along the line we lost what we identify ourselves as and what we call our tourism product. My reason for saying that is because we are now fighting an uphill battle with our elected officials to respect the people’s right to referendum, which was ironically given to the people by those who are now fighting us: the PPM party with some broken pieces of the UDP.

Some facts to consider:

1. 90% of all islands in our region that have cruise piers/docks have very little stay-over tourism compared to Cayman. Third world countries whose economies are struggling and places like Roatan, Jamaica and the Bahamas will exchange anything to generate revenue, including their environment. But they are not our competition. Cruise ships don’t visit same destination twice on one voyage; their itinerary has multiple stops, which is why they can sell the cruise vacations.

2. We have had record-breaking numbers in both sectors of our tourism for three years running, yet there are no cruise piers. Last time the minister for tourism had a public meeting, he aggressively warned that we must build the piers now because of Cuba and said that we all knew how aggressive they are about cruise tourism. Well, thank goodness we didn’t rush and build the piers on that advice, as we heard a few weeks back that US President Donald Trump has banned all cruise lines from going to Cuba.

3. Numbers don’t lie or have an opinion. You can use a calculator in all languages and you will find the same result, which is as follows: 80% of all revenue generated by our tourism industry comes directly from stay-over tourism. 20% comes from cruise passengers but 80-90% of infrastructure strain and cost comes from that 20% of our tourism. The most important issue isn’t the infrastructure cost and strain; it’s the environment and the quality of our tourism product that are at the greatest risk if we continue on the path we’re on now.

If the reason why we so desperately need the cruise pier/dock is to maintain the quality of our tourism product, we need to ask ourselves some questions: Who are we building this cruise pier for? What benefits, if any, will this new cruise pier bring for Caymanians? Assessing the numbers, we know stay-over tourists spend more than cruise ship passengers, so why didn’t we create the necessary updates to accommodate our stay-over tourists with the new airport? Lastly, if we want our product to remain one of the best in the Caribbean, why haven’t we implemented any sustainable development plans to protect our environment and infrastructure?

The government is claiming that the piers will be financed by what they will save on the tenders. At present the government get US$5.25 or CI$4.20 per passenger. If it costs $400m to build, we will need 95 million passengers to pay for it. With two million passengers per year, that is close to 48 years.

I guess now we understand where the rumours of Dart getting the port for 99 years came from. When you factor in interest on those funds over such a long period, it will take a very long time to pay it back.

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Category: Viewpoint

Comments (37)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Mario you say that numbers don’t lie but it is also true that numbers can be used to support a lie. Let’s take a look at the numbers you are using as the cost of the CBF. The minister has consistently used an estimate of around $200 million but opponents increased that to $300 million, and now you have suddenly increased that to $400 million and used that new figure to give us an estimated payback time of 48 years. However if we use the $200 million figure, and the per passenger figure you provided , we will see the payback time is only 24 years.So we see that with numbers, input determines output; and if the numbers you input are a lie then the output (answer) you get is also a lie. Just food for thought .

  2. Cathy Church says:

    The tender drivers are Caymanians, just like taxi drivers and vendors. Why should we want to deny them their jobs in favor of someone elses jobs. The tendering is not an expense like paying interest to the Chinese where that money leaves Cayman with their foreign workers and interest on the loan. Tendering brings jobs to Caymanians and the money stays here. Isnt that what everyone wants—local jobs??

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Only one ship passing by every other Thursday and only during high season.

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    • Anonymous says:

      There are at least 4 mega ships by Royal that are circling through the Caribbean now. More on the way and they are worth easily 5 regular ships in one.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Five times a regular ship you say? Well that’ll be worth…why, a fraction of one family’s stayover, the same family who have enough money to shop in GT and won’t because of the fanny pack brigade.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Mario you forgot to tell people that the money coming in to Government is around $10 per person from Cruise ships. When we get a docking facility we will get back what we are losing now 2 of the largest ships in the world. They past by every week. Have you and Johann been watching how many cruise ships coming this summer? I would suppose not. Otherwise you could see that what you all have been spouting about is pure nonsense. Fake news. We get 3 days a week of ships that have more than 1 ship for the day. Do you honestly think it is fair for people who rely on this industry to only work 2-3 days a week?
    So if Government gets $10 per person and we have 2 million people coming in thats 20 million dollars per year and 5 days a week for our industry. NOW add what cruise lines have been paying tender operations another $5 dollars a person times 2 million passengers= 10 million more dollars per year. Come on Mario say it with me” $30 ,000,000 per year.” Now let’s multiply that by 10 years. Wow that makes $300,000,000.00. We have built the facility and put money in the bank in less than 10 years and created a new revenue stream for our country. The dock will cost somewhere around 200 or less million.
    Why are you still denying whats has been said since 2013???

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    • Anonymous says:

      But those fees are what will be used to finance the project…

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    • William Turner says:

      Mr. Rankin has been denying what’s been said since 2013 because it is false information given out by people who will make millions if this unnecessary white elephant dock gets built…… even if it puts us in debt for the rest of our life! It has been said that “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure”, and that is what we are seeing now!

      P.S. Why are you afraid to sign your name?

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      • Anonymous says:

        asks the pirate

      • Anonymous says:

        Why are you? Our industry during the summer has 3 days of work. Even after telling you that, your group still denies that it is real. Simple look at GT and you can see the truth and not the lies that your leader purports. Simplely go down to GT and look out to sea. Look at the same time and watch the crowd depending on the ship we have a bad or good day. Look at the ages of the people involved in the businesses. You think they getting rich? Really, are you all that smart? Well let me educate you, the majority of the Taxi and bus operators are somewhere between 50-83 years of age. We have no pension.

  5. Anonymous says:

    We should formally annex Mysterioso bank’s 5 mile wide 35-70’ deep tablemount and have the liners pay to develop that into one of their risk-controlled private islands. It can be our first casino license with gaming commission and all you can eat lobster and conch in the Tiger shark interaction zone!

  6. Anonymous says:

    The voice of wisdom is speaking. Is anyone listening?

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  7. Kathleen Bodden-Harris says:

    Points well taken.

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  8. Da-wa-u-get says:

    Looks to me like some people have to shoot the messenger because they cannot find a counter argument that has merit.
    What a disappointing state of affairs!

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  9. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Mario, great Viewpoint…I know so because people are more pre-occupied with how they can thwart the sensibility of the writer! Keep up the good fight.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    We have cruise lines willing to pay for a dock then hand it over to us. We will not pay out of our coffers for the dock.

    We do not have air lines willing to pay for an airport. Delta and JetBlue aren’t proposing to develop an airport in East End as far as I’m aware. We paid out of pocket for the airport ‘upgrade’.

    A clear distinction that needs to be made here.

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    • Anonymous says:

      These cruise lines are charitable benefactors, right? Happy to build us a cruise dock and give it to us – for nothing. Wow. Even the government is prepared to admit we will forego revenue we would otherwise get in terms of passenger head tax, but you think its free. Tell me, if you buy a house using a mortgage, do you think you are not paying out of your coffers simply because its future payments you are making, or do you think that the bank will hand you clean title for that as well free?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Nothing in life is free!

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    • Anonymous says:

      No we don’t, the cruise companies will pay for the build, then they will receive the passenger fees until the cost (and interest) is repaid. Cayman will lose that revenue. That is money out of our coffers.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Financing doesn’t mean free. The cruise ships will get their money back one way or another. Don’t be fooled, we are paying for this monstrosity with our money and environment.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Rubbish and fake news.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    Read it without knowing the name who penned it if you don’t like the man.
    Everything he says is true.
    The only thing further to add is that this has NOTHING to do with tender vs pier. Just stop that stupid argument.
    My only foot in the race is the environment. How can you see any other reason NOT to build this??

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    • Anonymous says:

      Not a matter of like buddy, if your neighborhood doctor suggest you take a certain tonic and provides a sample, one would more likely trust that sample and ingest it, way more-so than if the doctor recommending was named Dr. Kevorkian.

      I am just saying that the messenger represents a poisoned chalice and he will have difficulty convincing some people to drink what he is serving.

      In my opinion, Ms. Haylock would probably find more support if she would pen a balanced viewpoint outlining the pros and cons of the project.

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  12. Abyss says:

    Tender business isn’t government owned so how are we receiving any revenue from the fee? TenderBots make the money not we the people.

    Private tender owners gonna be salty that their stream of honey is being diverted to building a much needed port for our people.

    Mario you sure you don’t have a tender stake?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Oh will you people please shut up. What do you pro-porters have to gain? What is it?!

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      • Anonymous says:

        What do the pro-porters have to gain? Well, the ones pushing it so hard will pocket $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$!!! The average Caymanian will get the finger.!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Passenger head tax is government revenue, and even CIG admits that is being surrendered.

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    • Anonymous says:

      If you really believe the tenders are making the big bucks is the tourism industry, you are seriously delusional…

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  13. Anonymous says:

    Mario, you are very articulate, both on the airways and at times in your writings. However, until you start walking it back with some of the xenophobic rhetoric and hatred toward certain groups, it is difficult for your good points to get across.

    We are a small community, we need to build bridges (no pun intended) and step away from the divisiveness.

    You are passionate about the Port, I get that, and you have certainly volunteered significant time to collect the signatures, kudos; however, my advice is for you to let someone else carry the message as you will have a difficult time convincing people like me (and I am sure I am not unique in this area) to support any cause you promote simply because of your track record and views on certain issues.

    Food for thought

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    • Anonymous says:

      Always “US” Caymanians trying tear each other down boi. Let me ask this who doesn’t have a past? Who hasn’t done something in their lifetime? Last I checked only Jesus was perfect…. but then again we same humans crucified him. What does it matter who the messenger is? If u support you support it and if you don’t then that’s your choice.

      I honestly don’t have anything against Mr. Rankine and I’m glad he is standing for something he believes in, as most of us only have mouth behind closed doors. BUT it is DREADFUL to see how we so called Caymanians live in glass house and ALWAYS THROWING STONE! Look how the Pinos come to our shores and live. They even have a damn secret union with hourly rates and call out services.

      WAKE UP CAYMAN ITS TIME TO UNITE!

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Good view point makes sense

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