MoT gets to keep cruise letters secret

| 12/11/2019 | 48 Comments
Cayman News Service
Verdant Isle cruise port plan layout

(CNS): With just over five weeks to go before Cayman goes to the polls to decide whether or not the people want the controversial cruise berthing project to go ahead, the ombudsman has sided with government on keeping key correspondence with the cruise lines secret. Sandy Hermiston has come down in favour of the commercial interests of the cruise companies over the public interest in the deal the government wants to sign.

Last December CNS made a freedom of information request to the Ministry of Tourism for the letters of intent between the government and two cruise lines in relation to cruise project, as well as information about the passenger commitments made by the cruise companies, the timelines, the involvement of Cabinet and its approval of terms, as the procurement process was ongoing at the time, and the total financial commitment.

The request was refused a month later. However, since the chief officer was involved in the decision, we immediately appealed to the Office of the Ombudman.

After more than ten months the decision was released this week. Despite her acknowledgment of the “considerable importance of accountability and transparency in this case”, Hermiston backed the government’s position against the people that the process had to proceed in a confidential manner and it was not in the public interest for the letters to be released.

Even though the term “commercial interest” is not defined in the FOI law, the ombudsman went on to decide that these letters to be of a commercial nature and the commercial interests of the cruise lines and the government.

“The letters of intent were composed and agreed in the context of negotiations, and form an intrinsic part of the broader procurement exercise relating to the CBF. Consequently, I consider it is highly likely that their disclosure would prejudice the commercial interests represented in the records,” she wrote in her decision allowing the government to maintain a lid on critical elements of the process, regardless of the forthcoming vote.

See the full decision on the CNS Library

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Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (48)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    And your response should be “No problem, no skin off my back, take my NO vote”. There’s no reason to give your vote to someone bullying you or withholding information that would help you make clear judgement. This has all been one great underhanded scheme from the beginning, it’s time to put it behind us.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Ombudsman is completely correct. That information is commercially sensitive and any vendor doing business with the government should have the right to be able to operate within the procurement law to negotiate favourable terms.

    The long and short of this is that the deal that this government has negotiated is outstanding – no upland development, all paid for by passenger fees, cruiselines have skin in the game, so the longevity of arrivals long into the future is assured and a cargo port thrown into the mix. Countries all across the Caribbean and likely far further are looking in Cayman in amazement that we have been able to get this.

    And why are we getting such a good deal? Because right now, we are coming at this negotiation from a position of power. If we say no to this now, this excellent deal will not be available again.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Nothing new here, keep your secret documents, it only reinforces my NO VOTE on December 19th.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Ombudsperson. What is this, 1876?

    • Anonymous says:

      I asuppose this move now makes most of her past rambling assumptions null and void. It’s scary how one stroke of the pen can make you or break you.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This debacle is like brexit. Everyone knows that england is better off without the rest or europe. But they have convinced enough stupids to go against it. I swear voting should be IQ based. Opps, you didn’t get 110 when you wrote for your voters card, so sorry. Have to wait to write for another 4 years.
    And for those who can’t figure it out. A dock will also serve smaller ships. Makes getting off and on the ships easier. Means more time for passengers to spend in Cayman. Means more spending dollars into the economy.

    1 percent of the islands corals will have to either destroyed or moved. There is still 99% of the island left. which at present the anchors are doing the same job destroying the very same corals the hippies are complaining will be destroyed, and that will continue forever.
    Or put an end to coral destruction by building the dock, it will create jobs, and allow all ships to dock there.


    I feel like I am taking crazy pills, by the hand full.

    • Max says:

      Maybe that’s what you are doing. You should see a doctor about that, cause you sound crazy.

      • anon says:

        England is NOT better without Europe. Cayman is NOT better with a cruise berthing facility and the destruction of corals. Vote NO.

    • Anonymous says:

      A) The dock “Means more time for passengers to spend in Cayman. Means more spending dollars into the economy.” – Really? Care to post the projected numbers on those two claims? (Compared to the projected cost of the dock, and associated tourism and other infrastructure upgrades.)

      B) “at present the anchors are doing the same job destroying the very same corals the hippies are complaining will be destroyed” – No. That is categorically not true. The present anchors have destroyed the coral in the deeper water in GT Harbour. No one disagrees. The dock will destroy the coral in the shallower areas where ships currently do not anchor. Coral that the Government’s own reports show is healthy and vibrant. It will also ‘negatively impact’ (kill) the corals adjacent to the dredge area, corals which currently support thriving tourism businesses attracted to the easy access to surviving coral reefs.

      We may agree that voting should be IQ based, we will just have to disagree on our relative IQs.

      • Anonymous says:

        common sense says, it is easier to get on and off a ship with a dock. Than wait for a boat, get on said boat. And then ferry over to said boat, and then one at a time get off boat, into new boat.


    • FollowtheFox says:

      The only problem is it seems you have it wrong.

      Everyone was convinced Brexit is the right idea, without the public having the proper understanding of what it actually meant. This sounds more familiar to the decision being made about our future port, we simply aren’t informed about the impacts.

      I am opposed to the port because I haven’t been provided the information sufficient for me to make a decision, I am opposed to the port because we shouldn’t be destroying even 1% of our limited natural resources.

      I am willing to vote on an informed decision not based on what I’ve been told or years old EIA studies. I hope since I will assume your IQ is above 110 you will be looking for an informed decision and not one just based on a short term gain for a long term loss.

    • Anonymous says:

      Clearly you’ve been taking crazy pills, by the hand full.

    • Anonymous says:

      Seriously. You ARE taking crazy pills. AND you are not paying attention.
      Smoke and mirrors. They got you good.

    • Anonymous says:

      Unlikely the commenter above would get to vote under the proposed IQ test system ….

    • Anonymous says:

      TL;DR: The coral in the George Town Harbour is slowly being destroyed so let’s just destroy it all in one go and get it over with.

      Yup, that makes sense

  6. Anonymous says:

    More like Hermistan is protecting the commercial interest of Moses, Alden, both Roys, Dwayne, Julie, Barbara, Joey, David, Austin and Tara.

  7. Anonymous says:

    It seems like everyone has forgotten that the government is still in a negotiation with the bidders and cruise lines. That got put on hold because of the referendum but if it goes through they don’t want communication that could hurt the gov stance.

    • Anonymous says:

      It seems like the Government (including the Ombuudsman) has forgotten that the government is accountable to the people.

  8. Anonymous says:

    If this isn’t a good reason to vote no I don’t know what is. I wonder if the ombudsman asked Verdant Isles whether they cared about disclosure. It seems only the government objected.

  9. Anonymous says:

    You have got to be kidding! “ Sandy Hermiston has come down in favour of the commercial interests of the cruise companies over the public interest”.

    Since when did the commercial interests of a US based cruise company supersede the Cayman Islands public interest? You know, the people who’s lives will be impacted by the port project.

    • Anonymous says:

      Because if you start giving away vendors confidential information in a competitive bid process, you run the risk no one will bid in the future. It’s a point of principle. Your remedy is simple – if you don’t trust the process, vote no – you don’t need to see. a thousand e mails to make that decision. And if you think that any corrupt inducements or sensitive stuff would in in open correspondence with government officials you are being a little naive.

      • Anonymous says:

        Funny how it works perfectly well in real countries.

        • Anonymous says:

          Rubbish. Show me one instance of contract correspondence being released in any country while negotiations are ongoing.

          • Anonymous says:

            Where I live, bidding on public projects is entirely public. The competing bidders insist on it so they don’t get screwed by skulduggery.

          • Anonymous says:

            If there was a public consensus for the project then the public would trust the government to do a good job negotiating for it. There is no trust, the government has no mandate for the project, so saying they can’t release anything because it’s commercial confidential’ just illustrates how far ahead of the people they got. The procurement law and regulations are based on agreed purchases and projects going forward in confidence. For example, the government decides it needs a trash compactor, and puts out a tender for the supply, install and maintenance of the compactor. Of course, that process works best in confidence. But there should be something to stop the government from deciding it needs a whole friggin’ cruise pier and applying the same secret process. Big decisions need more input. They need consent from the governed. Everyone wants their trash handled properly but not everyone wants piers. The next big procurement reform needs to be a category of major projects subject to additional requirements. Stops the government abusing its financial and legal power as it has done here.

        • Anonymous says:

          8:39 You’re wrong there. In the UK FOIA has a whole range of get out clauses that protect private sector contractors. One of the classic examples of this was in 2006 when a list of documents relating to arms sales to Saudi Arabia was released under FOIA but the actual documents were exempt from disclosure. We ending up knowing what we wanted to see but not being able to access it. This was part of the unraveling story (and I’m not making any comparisons here) that broke in 2010 about kickbacks paid by BAE to secure the contracts. Basically, the UK government (most likely the FCO) knew it was going on but didn’t want anyone caught doing it.

          I’ve had a lot of experience with FOIA and you will never, ever get details of government contracts released unless both parties involved will benefit from the disclosure, which I would suggest is not the case here.

          What’s interesting is that CIG could have asked permission from Verdant to release the details (in the interests of openness and transparency?) or possibly Verdant could have released them on their own initiative. I wonder why that never happened?

      • Anonymous says:

        You seem confused. A no vote is for people opposed to the building of the port. Questioning the transparency of the process is an entirely separate matter. Try to keep up would you.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Ombudsman!! Remember these people can’t read and interpret a memo. So why should they have commercial information.

    • Anonymous says:

      Can the CIG say that they have given the cruise lines no financial guarantees? Strongly suspect that they have given guarantees as this is the reason for the secrecy.

    • Anonymous says:

      Of course they cant read and that is why they don’t deserve to be a part of the decision making process and it should all be left up to you who can read the comics page and count dollar bills right?

  11. Ambassador of Absurdistan says:

    Just Another Day in Absurdistan

  12. Anonymous says:

    If Verdant Isle have not signed a final contract with government what exactly are they doing presenting to the public without a new completed Environmental Impact Assessment report to share with the public?

  13. Anonymous says:

    The media should ask if anybody in the CIG camp have bothered to estimate the total project lifetime costs assessment to the Cayman Islands of going ahead?

    Where is that report and why wouldn’t that one matter?!? Not just the limited-scope projections for the construction phase costs, but the entire laundry list of other accompanying “no column” truths that come with a go ahead.

    Billions in other costs, almost all of it unilaterally borne by the people of the Cayman Islands, for the benefit of foreign-owned liners and/or their disposable shell company our reps have awarded this “winning” bid to.

    • Anonymous says:

      The media should also be asking CIG what will happen during the construction phase of this project. This is one of the big unanswered questions. While the dock is being built GT will be just one a huge construction site. In addition to the road and sea traffic involved in simply moving materials you’ve got the timescale – will it be 12 months, 18 months, two years?

      Listening to CIG you get the impression they think someone’s going to snap their fingers and the dock will appear overnight.

  14. VOTE NO says:

    Read the open letter from Guy Harvey.

    What the hell is this government really thinking about?

    Everyone can see this port is a terrible idea that is not needed except for Alden McLaughlin, Moses Kirkconnell and those elected in government that are either blind, deaf or robots programmed to ignore the will of the people.

    Stop this madness and vote no against this Port and the government.

    • Anonymous says:

      Now ask yourself this. If Norwegian was part of the consortium, would this letter have been written? Didn’t think so.

  15. Anonymous says:

    And why even have an ombudsmen if they clearly are covering up something too.

  16. Anonymous says:

    What exactly do they have to hide if they are working for the people and using public funds?

  17. Port User says:


  18. Anonymous says:

    Very reassuring….

  19. Anonymous says:


  20. Anonymous says:

    From how long I been telling you all this?

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