Cruise dock will cost public nearly $6M per year

| 26/09/2019 | 92 Comments
Cayman News Service
Cruise ship in George Town Harbour

(CNS): As information trickles into the public domain about government’s proposed cruise berthing facility, the financial picture emerging is increasingly troublesome. Activists behind the push for a people’s referendum have raised concerns about the financing issues surrounding the project in addition to the environmental ones. While the public purse is set to lose almost US$6 million per year, those working in the cruise sector will also remain below the poverty line.

In response to comments made by Michael Bayley, president of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, one of the partners in the consortium of bidders selected to develop the cruise project, Cruise Port Referendum activists said they were misleading on some points.

Speaking to the Cayman Compass this week, Bayley said that the Cayman Islands would not be paying for the cruise dock and that the liability was with the consortium, Verdant Isle.

But even by government’s own admission through the limited disclosure so far, the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands will lose $2.32 per head in tax concession that will go to the cruise lines.

Bayley revealed that, once the piers are built, the estimated passenger arrival number will increase from the current 1.9 million per year to 2.5 million. However, CPR said that amounts to a loss of around of US$5.8 million each year, or some $145 million over 25 years.

Calculating that the Verdant Isle Group will be re-paid in the region of $450 million over the 25 years for a facility that is valued around $200 million, the activists questioned the value-for-money.

They also queried the total indirect costs Cayman will have to bear, and whether or not the required feasibility studies on public infrastructure costs on roads, the planned George Town upgrade, the Spotts Dock improvement project and the additional waste-management needs had been completed, and if they were, when they would be released to the public.

Without this information, the public will be going to the polls without knowing how much taxpayers’ money will be diverted from other public services to prop up this project.

In addition to these additional indirect costs that will be born by the public purse, the country will also have to deal with the impact on the infrastructure and attractions across Grand Cayman with such a significant increase in cruise passengers over the year.

Bayley said that it was up to the Cayman community to decide how much growth in cruise tourism it wanted to see. He stated that the cruise company would accept the result of the referendum with no hard feelings if the vote goes against the project, and again confirmed that the cruise lines will still call on Cayman regardless.

But he said he believed that the project would be a win-win for Cayman, although he accepted that the increase in numbers will have an impact on local infrastructure. He said, however, that it was down to Caymanians to create the businesses to handle the growth.

“It is about planning and deciding as a community what kind of tourism growth do you want,” he said. Bayley added that the overall master-planning, infrastructure, upland development opportunities and the management of the inbound tourism from the cruise business was in the hands of Caymanians.

If Baley’s passenger projections, which he described as conservative, are accurate, this will exceed by some 400,000 the estimated carrying capacity set out in the government’s own Outline Business Case of around 2.1 million passengers.

Given these worrying numbers, the activists stated, “Rather than pushing Cayman beyond its natural limits, we would welcome discussions with Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines on how the cruise lines can work collaboratively with local stakeholders to ensure mutually beneficial sustainable development of the sector.”

They also raised another real concern about the limited benefit for most people currently working in the cruise sector, as the majority remain poorly paid. According to industry research, cruise industry jobs provide an average monthly income of just US$1,662 (BREA report), “which puts many people working in Cayman’s cruise tourism industry below the poverty line”, the CPR said.

Despite the cruise lines touting their support for the environment and making claims about responsible practices, this project will have a massive detrimental impact on the marine environment. More than a dozen acres of coral in the dredging footprint will be lost immediately, including world-famous dive sites Eden Rock, Devil’s Grotto and Soto’s South. Many more acres will be killed as a result of the sediment and silt from the construction and the sea will be permanently transformed from crystal-clear aquamarine waters to murky white.

“The very reefs that draw visitors to our shores and provide invaluable protection in storms have been valued at US$650 million over the next 25 years,” said the CPR activists. “Will the promised benefits truly outweigh this enormous economic, cultural and ecological loss of our natural capital?”

The campaigners also said they remain concerned that government has still not disclosed all the information about the project, despite announcing the preferred bidder and winning design over eight weeks ago.

“It is imperative that the Caymanian people have the opportunity to make a fully informed decision at the polls in our first people-initiated referendum, which will set a precedent not only for Cayman but for all of the Overseas Territories,” they said.

See the latest statement from CPR in the CNS Library (scroll down to ‘Statements/letters’)

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Category: development, Local News

Comments (92)

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  1. I miss those phony pro-port commenters says:

    I kind of miss those funny, phony pro-port commenters, don’t you? I miss the pseudo-Kim Jong-il type praises. Remember those?? “Our fearless leader Alden McLaughlin has seen the eternal vision in his regal headspace and has proclaimed to we the lowly everyday Caymanian, “A new port shall be constructed, from the purse of the people, for the benefit of the cruise lines and for the benefit of a few phony-baloney “public servant” politicians! All hail our fearless leader!!”
    Ever since a few astute CNS readers called out the obviously phony pro-port commenters (with their broken English and weird euphemisms), they have stopped commenting, and instead have turned to the ridiculously obvious down-vote game. Sigh. I miss those funny pro-port bot commenters (sheds a tiny tear).

  2. Anonymous says:

    If you lose $200 off your monthly pay for 10 months and get a motorcycle worth $2500 at the end of it, was it really a loss?

  3. Anonymous says:

    If you assume 2.5 M passengers as a result of the port being built then the Port Authority will actually collect $5 M per year in Additional Revenue (not a loss!). And for that we will get a new cruise and cargo port without any Government guarantee.
    Furthermore, we do not need a 40% increase in number of passengers to increase annual revenue even if the Port Authority will collect $2.32 less per passenger. A 40% increase in passengers would realistically take place over a number of years. However, since you used 2.5 M passengers per year to calculate a fictional loss in your headline, let’s use the same number to calculate the actual gain ($5 M) should the number of passengers reach that level. Do the maths:
    Estimated current annual revenue = 1. 9 M passengers x $ 18 = $34.2 M.
    If the port is built and using your figure of 2.5 M passengers per year then the annual revenue becomes 2.5 M x $ 15.68 = $39.2 M. That works back to the $ 5 M per year increase in revenue mentioned at start of this post.

  4. Anonymous says:

    How many years will the Government NOT have the freedom to raise fees from the cruise industry? This is an important factor when calculating the TRUE costs to Cayman.

  5. shrouded in secrecy says:

    The fact that the details of the proposed cruise dock have been shrouded in secrecy from the beginning tells you everything you need to know: It’s not difficult to figure out who gets stuck with the bills — and who runs off with the money.

  6. Moi says:

    Stay over visitors are few and far between. Would I pay to come Cayman again? No. So many other destinations with so much more to offer. And not as rude or expensive.

  7. Anonymous says:

    guys guys this port means more jobs, more money, better living conditions right? what the hell? this will mean rent will be affordable? our beautiful beloved seven mile (5.5 miles long) Beach?????? come on Cayman what in the world is going to happen to you? i live here i am from here i live and breathe this island, now what? whats in it for my very expensive rent and very low salary that i cant even make it or even plan to have a family.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Despite the cruise lines touting their support for the environment and making claims about responsible practices, this project will have a massive detrimental impact on the marine environment. More than a dozen acres of coral in the dredging footprint will be lost immediately, including world-famous dive sites Eden Rock, Devil’s Grotto and Soto’s South. Many more acres will be killed as a result of the sediment and silt from the construction and the sea will be permanently transformed from crystal-clear aquamarine waters to murky white.

  9. Anonymous says:

    600,000 more people taking shits in the margaritaville bathroom.. cool

    • Anonymous says:

      So, if we charge them say $2 a dump, we could add another million plus to the bottom line?

  10. Anonymous says:

    A delay is always better than a disaster.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hey, here’s a thought. How about telling the corrupt cruise industry no thanks and instead invest in making Grand Cayman more attractive to upscale overnight tourists? Figure out a way to stop population growth without derailing the economy and start reclaiming green spaces and open beaches. Our leaders are about to put the final nails in the coffin of a beautiful island. I suppose people don’t appreciate it because nature gave it to us free of charge.


  12. Anonymous says:

    He said, however, that it was down to Caymanians to create the businesses to handle the growth. So tell me again how we make another sand bar or seven mile beach after the existing ones will be overcrowded?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Disingenuous to say the least to say we won’t have to pay for the damn thing when it’s obviously going to cost us passenger tax revenue! Word games to fool the slack jawed. So much for open and honest debate.

  14. Anon says:

    The comments here that are for the dock get multiple thumbs up and those against the dock get multiple thumbs down…makes ya wonder

  15. Anonymous says:

    One can see the bots in full swing again; its crazy. Speak to anyone in person and not a single one is in favor of this port.

    Quality over quantity people.

    It doesn’t take much to realize that you would prefer to cater to the super rich than the super poor. We want people spending $10,000 during the week they’re here not $10 on a t-shirt and $!@^$(%^! up the environment while they’re at it !

    Spend $200 million on the airport and allow for direct flights from all over Europe and the US west coast. Fix the immigration setup – speed up the process. Just to go to the Dutch Antilles and see that it only takes 5 or 10 mins to get through both immigration and customs – we’re stuck in the stone age with corrupt political agendas.

    The real issue is that the political cronies sold their souls ages ago. Now they have to sing the tune of the pied piper as they have so much dirt on all of them. Going against the grain would mean political / social suicide as the piper will just release all of their little secrets.

    • Anonymous says:

      If by some miracle they get it built, in 25 years it will need major repair so that means when the Cayman Islands get it back they will need to spend the visitors tax to repair it. I won’t be around but my little grand children and great grands while not being able to find a lot of land to build a house will have to pay for the repairs. A real sad picture anyway you hang it!

      • Anonymous says:

        When I imagine what $6mil a year could really do to help the citizens of Grand Cayman I just can’t imagine anyone supporting the idea of this port.

        • Anonymous says:

          You realise the government already spends over $700m a year? An extra $6 is just going to get wasted exactly the same way – more trips to Monaco, another government ministry being created for buddies, another boardwalk or some other construction project for friends and supporters…. no end of things Alden can spend it on.

        • Anonymous says:

          What I absolutely love is how in the same breath that they claim “the port won’t cost the people a dime” they also say “but we definitely can’t stop now, we’ve already spent way too much on it.” Wait a minute…so what’s the exact $ you’ve already spent? How many flash business trips? how many pro-port adverts? Is it the environmental & economical reports? Where has this money gone exactly!?! Also, if you check the government job portal they are currently looking for bids on “pro port educators”…how much will that pay over the next 2 months? There are so many places that money would have been better spent over the last decade. I not only hope for a “no” vote on the port…But that this referendum lights a fire in the people & the government begins to be held accountable for its actions. No more 8000sqft per condo builds approved, an increase in crown land & protected areas, affordable housing schemes, stop allowing non-residents to buy properties from off island while we all fight for homes here, improved road works, the education system, mental health issues, family planning, school lunches… I could go on for days…6mil a year could also be put to literally building up the island; I can’t be the only one to already notice that sea levels have visibly risen in the last 1-2 years. We might not even have 10 years let alone 25. It’s not like they’ll give us a cruise ship to live once all the land is gone.

    • Anonymous says:

      not sure what you mean by “bots”? please explain?

      • Anonymous says:

        a bot is a program designed to automatically perform an online function. In this case you can hire people to sit on their computers and tell them “ok every comment directly in support of the dock hit thumbs up.” This is why you see posts supporting the dock with hundreds of thumbs up.

    • Anonymous says:

      Spend $200 million on the airport and allow for direct flights from all over Europe.
      I for one would use that service. It’s too expensive and too much hassle trying to get here from Europe. A whole new market would open up. Great idea but those tend to be ignored on this island.

  16. Anonymous says:

    The economic premise relies on expanding 25% over current booming period to 2.5mln cruise passengers – passengers that don’t exist, that we can’t physically accommodate or process, carried on ships that don’t exist and aren’t even in planning. We have to make up the obvious and glaring shortfall, already at 500k and that could rise, just as easily as decrease…plus forfeit passenger arrival fees.

  17. ANON says:

    Callint the investor group “Verdant Isle” is the biggest irony of all, more appropriate would be “Crapulous Isle”.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Build the dock already!

  19. Anonymous says:

    All for greed and none for all.

    Senseless moves by the largest “organized” group in cayman.

  20. Anonymous says:

    No investor in the world will put millions in to a project without a return. Not one business in Cayman has invested money because they thought they would make a return on it.
    But, this is the best cruise dock deal that has happened in the history of the Caribbean, AND we’re getting a cargo dock out of it as well that both pay for them selves.

  21. Anonymous says:

    just like dump deal will probably cost us to maintain etc…i would immagine….hey ya all…vote them back in come 2021!!!😢😢😢😡

    • Anonymous says:

      Bruh, it’s your shit you be dumping in there. Guessing you owe years worth of garbage fees….

      • Anonymous says:

        Well we have a south sound boardwalk to engulf in the trenches of sewage that foreigners flush into south sound so??

      • Anonymous says:

        8:08 am
        Unless 2.5 mil.visitors take their shit back to their countries, how much shit cruise passenger and overnight stayers leave every year? All of it goes to the Dump. And guess who is living around it 24×7?

  22. Cheese Face says:

    I can’t believe the CIG are still considering this disaster, oh wait, they aren’t considering the impact of the dock, just the impact on their wallets.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Old English saying, ‘You don’t get owt for nowt!’ Anyone who thought this was going to be a free ride clearly has no understanding of the way cruise lines work. They’re not charities and if they’re putting money into something it’s not for the good of the local community, it’s because their accountants can see a good return on that investment.

    Every time you read any comment from a cruise line spokesperson remember this – they represent an organisation that charges passengers $80-$90 for onshore activities but only pays the local operator doing the work $16-$18. Where I come from that’s known as being royally screwed and if it’s like this now imagine how much worse it could get once they get permanently established here.

  24. Handing Verdant a profit courtesy of the CIG and Caymanian workers.... Don't stop the Progress! says:

    Saying the Government would not be paying for this port was always a lie

    We aren’t paying for it in terms of a direct payment
    But we are giving up fees we would otherwise have collected for the duration of the contract, its payment by a different name
    The same principle exists when we say we don’t pay taxes here (sure there are no direct taxes but the government makes the exact same amount indirectly through fees and duties)

    Not sure how long it is going to take Caymanians to catch on
    but just because an MLA or civil servant says something, doesn’t mean its true

    These people are career liars
    The only way to make it as an MLA is to be a charming liar
    and the only way to make it as a senior civil servant is being able to follow the instructions of the formerly identified charming liars

    • Anonymous says:

      And that is why I am not able to be either along with many other successful young Caymanians who could otherwise do a much better job than the politicians and senior civil servants we have.

    • Anonymous says:

      Has anyone given any thought to the probability of the cruise line increasing the visitors fees and perhaps collecting twice the amount that is being used in the calculations? . Does anyone know whether there is a clause in the agreement prohibiting them from doing that? Oh just remember, none one except the Premier, his deputy and the cruise companies knows what is in the agreement.

      • New voter says:

        Why is CIG hiding the details of the deal from the public? If it’s a great deal they should be happy to share and show us all the facts. This is why they cannot be trusted

      • Anonymous says:

        “Oh just remember, none one except the Premier, his deputy and the cruise companies knows what is in the agreement.”

        Hilarious that you think this is a valid defense when in actuality it is a stunning indictment on this entire process
        The people are just being told to shut up and accept a deal they never asked for and never approved

        And the numbers people are using in terms of the fees that will be lost are the numbers that the government themselves publicized in their announcement of the preferred bidder

        So not only do you have no clue about what you are talking about but you are also just the type of Caymanian the CIG is relying on to vote for this port
        Too stupid to take an interest in reality and willing to sit back and make shit up while decrying the people who are actually paying attention

        Run on back to the your MLA for your appliance or your pat on the head like a loyal dog

  25. Anonymous says:

    Every lie incurs a debt to the truth.

  26. Anonymous says:

    If the dock isn’t built this time Cayman is going to have serious societal issues in a few years. The cruise lines won’t come back to build it again or at least not like this. It would cost so much more and we would have to give so many more concessions.

    • Anonymous says:

      Uneducated scaremonger. That is what we call you 8:27pm.
      You just keep drinking that Kool-Aid bruh

    • Anonymous says:

      What a bunch of hot air. The Cruise rep stated that cruise lines will continue to call on our harbour regardless if the dock is built or not. Your attempts to mislead folks is rude and disrespectful.

    • Anonymous says:

      Good riddance to the cruise liners – who wants them anyway.

      Spend money on the airport and have tourists that actually spend some money on the island for a change.

    • Anonymous says:

      What societal issues? Care to list them? What is it exactly that the new dock will offer to cure societal issues? Enquiring minds would like to know. Please do not mention the plethora of jobs unless you can list each and every one. If you can answer all of these questions then I will go to the polls and support the dock.

    • Anonymous says:

      Good. The cruise lines aren’t doing this for our benefit!

  27. Anonymous says:

    Although personally against the port on both environmental and economic grounds, the $425m versus $200m cost value for money argument is somewhat unfair. It’s more accurate to think of it as $225m interest on top of capital over 25 years, which works out at about 4.7% per annum. That’s hardly exciting.

    I think the more important arguments are whether we can ever get a return on $425m for a port over perhaps what we could get by strengthening stay over tourism by investing in the quality of the stay experience. Also, investing in strengthening education would lift a nation rather than preserve a few minimum wage jobs that almost certainly aren’t under threat anyway.

  28. Anonymous says:

    We would have to pay way more than that to do the cargo expansion on our own without the cruise so sounds like a wicked deal to me.

    • Anonymous says:

      BS. plain and simple.

    • Anonymous says:

      You actually think the Consortium is somehow going to be able to build the cargo port – whose plans we have yet to see – ‘under cost’? How?

      Building the Port is going to cost $X. The consortium is going to make X+Y of of the deal. Thats not a wicked deal, thats just normal business.

    • Anonymous says:

      6:54 ‘Wicked deal’ for the cruise lines and the big businesses here maybe but nothing in it for us locals.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure you understand the meaning of the word “cost”.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Here they go with the creative accounting again. Not only will government off set most of that due to increased tourists and more tax revenue, the increased spending in the tens to hundreds of millions will be far greater.

    • Anonymous says:

      t-shirts are $10 genius… tens of hundreds of millions?! LOL! Never going to happen

    • Anonymous says:

      There is no guarantee of numbers. We currently have the highest number of people that actually disembark the ship. There is nothing to say that people will continue to come off with the piers. There is nothing to say that the spending will increase. It is all just projections, but realistically people will prefer to eat their lunch on the ship. They may buy the cheap tshirt or keychain here or there, but that’s it. the tours will be oversold and eventually there will have to be a cap or people will stop going because what’s it worth to spend $50 plus on an excursion to hold a stingray or turtle for 0.25 seconds?

      I think you are not looking at the creative accounting again.

  31. Anonymous says:

    2.5 million visitors per year is reason enough to vote against the port expansion

  32. Anonymous says:

    No doubt Verdant Isle will be profiting.
    Has anyone done FOI to see if Moses Kirkconnell or a derivative thereof is a shareholder in said company?
    He is a public figure and as such, we have the right to conjecture without accusation.
    Can we have a statement?

    Moses Kirkconnell: I am in no way directly or indirectly involved in Verdant Isle, domiciled in Cayman Brac.


    Moses Kirkconnell: I stand to benefit directly from the operations of Verdant Isle in the Cayman Islands. I am a minister who believes in transparency and here is a statement of my interest……

    Here’s a great idea. How about we have a forum whereby people register with their voter ID cards and we start asking important questions?
    Sort of like “referendum-lite”, “diet referendum” or “I can’t believe it’s not a referendum”.

    Then perhaps we can gauge public opinion in a heartbeat……or two for those of you on beta blockers.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Excuse me they getting more than double their cost? They are screwing us over big time! Numbers alone make no sense. Too much profit, that’s highway robbery. Vote no on that alone!

  34. Anonymous says:

    The dock is a very expensive and bad idea for the Caymans. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it focus on other things to help Caymanians.

  35. Caveat Emptor says:

    The Verdant Isle Port Partners and Unity government are seeking to turn Cayman in the next Jamaica. A country that despite having 3 ports that can accommodate Oasis class ships is held hostage to the wants and needs of the cruise lines. Look at what they did with Falmouth port which they financed and built. There are no guarantees and Cayman should learn from the lessons of other countries not mortgage its future to companies like Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise lines that do not care about the environment, culture, native people and over tourism just look at their track records.

    Cayman must focus on quality over quantity cruise tourism. The cruise lines will always come to Cayman in record numbers because customers demand the jurisdiction is on the itinerary because it is the Cayman Islands is the safest and most first world country in Caribbean.

    • Anonymous says:

      Our immigration system and civil service is turning Cayman into the next Jamaica. They need no help from the Verdant Isle group.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Verdant Isle should be made transparent across the Cayman Islands.
    Who are the beneficiaries, what are the percentages held including the involved companies?
    Who is paying in the funds and what is the breakdown?
    Where will the bank account be held?
    Do they have a business license? What is their experience in this field?

    Are they standing to benefit because of their connection to the government?

    I just started a company myself and this is only a snippet of what I was asked to provide, so what is good for the goose has to be good for the gander.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Thank you CPR!

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