Cruise line’s ‘ghost ship’ raises new concerns

| 15/01/2020 | 84 Comments
Cayman News Service
Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas

(CNS): Royal Caribbean appears to have linked the lack of cruise berthing facilities in the Cayman Islands to problems with its Western Caribbean itinerary. But more questions have been raised about this justification for the Cayman government’s cruise port project after news reports in Jamaica revealed that the cruise line is paying fees to that country’s tourism ministry for ‘ghost’ Oasis-class ships that are no longer visiting Jamaica.

In a bizarre turn of events, Royal Caribbean is paying head taxes to Jamaica for ships that have stopped calling on Falmouth, the country’s newest and most controversial cruise port, based on a contractual agreement when the facility was built. The revelations emerged during a spat between Jamaica’s government and opposition over a serious decline in cruise passenger numbers, even though the island has several cruise berthing facilities.

Jamaica’s tourism minister, Edmund Bartlett, told the media there that after the previous government made an agreement with Royal Caribbean in 2015, visits by the mega vessels were reduced. However, he said this had not impacted government revenue because the Port Authority of Jamaica was still collecting the head tax as though the ships had arrived. Nevertheless, he accepted that it had greatly reduced the opportunity for Jamaicans to benefit from the port.

It is understood that Royal Caribbean is struggling to sell Western Caribbean cruises on Oasis-class ships without Grand Cayman on the itinerary, and has therefore diverted them to the Eastern Caribbean. While the situation is of the cruise company’s own making, given its decision not to tender the larger ships, it seems to be a major reason for the cruise line to pressure the Cayman government to build the cruise dock.

This is now raising further concerns about the real reason Cayman is entering into a deal with the cruise lines to build the piers. It now appears a distinct possibility that the Cayman Islands is giving up acres of pristine coral reef, putting our marine environment at risk, creating a potential infrastructure nightmare and undermining the lucrative overnight tourism business primarily to accommodate rare visits by mega ships.

Mario Rankin, one of the founding members of the Cruise Port Referendum campaign, told CNS that, having seen the deal that Jamaica and the cruise lines signed, he believes that Royal Caribbean is paying the head tax to avoid a potential breach of contract over the passenger guarantee. But that contract is coming to an end soon and that free head tax for the ‘ghost ship’ will stop, he noted.

“Are they compensating other jurisdictions?” he asked, pointing out that this deal appears to be a one-off to keep the cruise line out of court. He also raised questions about what this means for Cayman

Rankin said this fuels more concerns that the cruise lines cannot be trusted. He believes that the cruise ships are doing business with ports in the region by making false promises and manipulating regional port authorities to get what they want, not what the destinations in the Caribbean need.

Johann Moxam, a leading campaigner against the project, has challenged government over this revelation, which he said suggested that either the Cayman government has been manipulated by the cruise companies or it is misleading its people over this project even more than was originally suspected.

Appearing on Rooster’s breakfast phone-in show, Crosstalk, on Monday, Moxam made it clear he believed it was the latter. Speaking to CNS yesterday, he said he stood by his comments about the government’s duplicitous approach to this project. However, he said the people of Cayman had woken up, having realised that government had not been straight with them about the real justifications for this project, which is not in the wider public interest.

While the cruise lines’ goals have aligned with those of a small number of George Town merchants and some tour operators, it is increasingly apparent that the interests of Caymanians will never be served by this project.

Moxam said government continues to be less than transparent and has continued to mislead people, as they refuse to face the fact that their decision to press ahead with the port project is not a popular one. He said he was very concerned that the people are still learning more from Jamaica’s tourism minister than our own.

It is understood that Bartlett is in talks with the Cayman government about the port here, as he appears to believe that Jamaica needs Cayman’s port to save its own industry. But Moxam said Cayman should not buy the false narrative that without a dock the cruise ships will not come because what has happened in Falmouth shows that even with a dock and a passenger guarantee, the ships might still not come.

Moxam said the promotion of the project “is based on a big lie” and while Royal Caribbean obviously has the power to pull all of their ships, it is apparent that Grand Cayman is the most important port of call for the Western Caribbean itinerary. But instead of using that leverage, the government has gone down an illogical road and is trying to blackmail the people into supporting the piers and basing it on a misleading position.

“It is clear that promises have been made by our government,” Moxam told CNS. “There are already a lot of questions and concerns about the outline business case for the project. However, the revelations from Mr Bartlett suggest that even if the business case was right, wrong or something in between, the people never had a choice as the government, led by the tourism minister, Moses Kirkconnell, was going to make this deal.”

Moxan said the Cayman government was now complicit in this “ghost ship” scheme, where Royal Caribbean and the Jamaican government made a deliberate decision to not use the Falmouth port but still pay the fees, creating an example for the people of the Cayman Islands to encourage them that building the facility is in their interest.

But Moxam completely disagrees.

“The lack of passengers visiting has impacted private business in the Falmouth area but taxes were paid to the Jamaican government. How do the Caymanian businesses and people avoid a similar fate? How does CIG explain the campaign messages and the political strategies deployed as they are tantamount to scaremongering tactics and coercion,” Moxam alleged.

“It feels like our government has taken instructions from a neighboring government and Royal Caribbean as to what should be our national priorities, that will benefit Jamaica’s interests,” he added.

But Moxam said the people now have a better understanding of what is driving the government to proceed, no matter the environmental, financial and socio-economic costs to the people of the Cayman Islands.

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Category: Business, development, Local News, Tourism

Comments (84)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    You know, I read this, and I think, “at least Jamaica seems to have contracted with Royal Caribbean directly, smart of them”. Whereas, our government deal is FAR FAR WORSE. They have contracted with a “winning” bidder, Verdant Isle: a hastily incorporated, disposable, limited liability, unfunded, Cayman Islands shell company, with no previous operating history, that has had to post no performance bonds. We don’t have a copy of the deal. We don’t have transparency on who the controlling principals are. We don’t know who has signed. We don’t even know the identity and interests of main stake holding shareholders! We, the public, just presume that RCL and CCL have some principal interest. For a territory that purports to actually be professionals in this corporate offshore arena for a living, we seem to have forgotten all we know. This financial risk of this entire public arrangement amounts to a mere $2500 annual fee. All of them can walk away at the first sign of trouble, the first DoJ FCPA complaint, or whiff of Cayman FCU/ACC investigation.

  2. Anonymous says:

    So the Cayman Government gets CI$10 for each passenger who comes ashore. Let’s talk about the stayovers who spend hundreds/thousands in a week’s stay on Grand Cayman. They truly support local businesses. Why doesn’t the government encourage more stayover traffic than these cruise passengers who are on special fares that include everything they need for a cruise?

    • Anonymous says:

      À@6.39 Try to keep up. Ask someone if you are not sure whats happening. Visitor numbers are up.. both stay over and cruise. Look at tje amount of tourist accomodations being built or approved for building. If you don’t believe me then ask CPR. ( They know everything)

  3. Make a bet says:

    Well, just heard they appointed new head personnel at the Port. Bet a million to one they are Lodge Members.

    Lets see……

    • Anonymous says:

      are people in this country just not allowed to be corrupt? Honestly, not everything is some grand conspiracy between the illumination and the aliens….

      This whole thing is messed up enough without people trying to point so some weird religious conspiracy as the source for all our woes. Most of our problems are caused by our own apathy and refusal to stand up to the elected representatives that bribe there way into office each year.

      • Anonymous says:

        It doesn’t sound like you understand what corruption is, or how it corrodes rule of law, order, and justice, or even how the deplorable behavior of elites is measurably bad for society. It’s not a hypothecated conspiracy when local corruption compromises part of the CFATF recommendation highlights on the report card for the Territory. From 2012-14 there were 67 SARs, only 4 prosecutions and 3 convictions recorded. There’s quantifiable data!

        • Anonymous says:

          And anything in the CFATF report about the Lodge? No? Then you miss the point of the earlier post. (That not everything is a conspiracy.)

          • Anonymous says:

            Label it whatever you want, there is a (non-imaginary) level of society, comprised of immune, back-scratching elites, that are involved in local corruption, drug trafficking, and money laundering, and yes, the CFATF report mentions these problems specifically, as well as the number unactioned SARs by our so-called justice gatekeepers. The report lists 6 specific Recommended Actions, and local corruption is number 5. It’s not a conspiracy or fantasy. References to corruption are made on pages 8, 9, 22, 24, 25, 27, 29, 38, 39, 51, 53, 55, 65, 68, 79, 80, 82, 83, 150, 152, 161, 16, 165, 166, 167, 168, 169, 173, 178, 184, 213, 245, 246, 255, 260, 265, 269, 270. How do we enact section 5 of the SIPL Law, which expands investigative powers to the ACC, without enacting the Law?

      • Anonymous says:

        “Are people..just not allowed to be corrupt”…like that’s a normal statement.

        • Anonymous says:

          Poster is not condoning corruption – just suggesting that simple corruption is a more likely explanation than complex conspiracy theories.

  4. Anonymous says:

    There is no comparison of visitors to Jamaica bs Cayman. Jamaica has a high crime rate and hence lack of ships and number of port calls. The compensation clearly is not to breach contract.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I would not recommend destroying Cayman’s reef system to build a port.

    But the ships are getting larger. Tender process is becoming unique to Cayman. If there is another option I hope the Cayman Government will explore it.

    Also one cannot compare Falmouth Jamaica to Cayman as Cayman offers a far better, safer tourism product.

    Cayman is a main attraction in the western cruise market the Cayman Government needs to appreciate that fact.

    • Anonymous says:

      Tendering is still carried out at ports all over the world. I know. I am a seasoned cruise ship traveller who lives here. I don’t want the port either. I would rather see us catering for the exclusive smaller cruise ships, yachts and ecotourism. I have seen first hand the negative consequences of building ports and accommodating these huge cruise ships. We are too small to either risk or cope with the irreversible damage.

    • Mac says:

      If bigger ships are the future why are all
      The ships on order with all cruise lines much smaller and more high class , do som research instead of parroting incorrect information

  6. Anon says:

    Our first “National Hero” was famous for bulldozing our historic fort in George Town. Might I suggest the next “National Hero” award be given to the man who can bulldoze the Piers Project.

  7. Eager Beaver says:

    Please tell me if the Speaker is a member of this infamous “Lodge”, or does he have his own lodge in West Bay?.

  8. Take A Stand says:

    Time to take a stand Cayman. Time to bring to light those who craft in darkness.

    I propose, that in order to break the cycle of corruption, greed and incompetence so blatantly active, that a demonstration is held at the gathering halls of the Masonic Lodges both here in Grand Cayman (Prospect) and the one in the Brac.

    Shine the light on those who wish to control and exploit us and these Islands for their own and fellow brothers own benefits. Illuminate them and the membership. Shut them down.

    This will also send a loud and clear message to their Masters in Jamaica that we, The Cayman Islands, will no longer sit idle while being exploited. They are no longer in control or welcomed.

    Let’s do this on the 25th of January. Time to take a stand Cayman.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Seriously though do you think Moxam, Shirley, Rankin, Winston can do any worse than the useless bunch we currently have in office? Guys please run for the love of your country!

    • Anonymous says:

      We should all run away from anyone that ignores the SIPL Elephant in the room, and towards anyone that acknowledges the systemic and deep-seated governance issues we have.

    • Anonymous says:

      Rankin not eligible to run

  10. Anonymous says:

    I am sure the cruise ship learnt from this and removed this clause from the Cayman contract. I.e. No ships, no payment of head taxes.

  11. Anonymous says:

    put politicians on ghost ship ..destination horror house!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Lodgetastic! Pants, down, their, caught, with.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I’m overwhelmed with joy to see the public fully against this stupid idea. Jamiaca MP trying to guilt trip Cayman into building the port is the best bs i’ve read this year. Ya tink say we fool awa?

  14. Anonymous says:

    I do not believe thst cruise passengers really like the oasis class ships, to many people herding like cattle. I know I wouldn’t enjoy it.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Kurt where are you? I hope the government hasn’t gotten to you? VOTE NO!

    • Anon says:

      8.26pm I always voted for Kurt as integrity was and still is my prime concern. Bring back Kurt and I will vote again.

      • Anonymous says:

        If any of you think that Kurt Tibbetts is not 100% in favour of the Cruise Piers you obviously do not know him and you had better think again.

      • Anonymous says:

        Do you seriously think he is not behind closed doors running/endorsing everything that this Unity govt is doing ?? Bring him back? Hes already there!!! There will be no difference if he comes back. Its this stupidity or maybe ignorance why Caymanians keep voting the same people back and yet expect things to change.

    • Anonymous says:

      VOTE YES

  16. Anonymous says:

    Build the port.

  17. Kurt Christian says:

    Vote No

  18. Anonymous says:

    boom and bust

  19. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t this a good thing?

    This shows that government will not be left holding any bills regardless of traffic. As good a showing of a guarantee as you can get.

    • Anonymous says:

      Except.CIG argument has been ‘if they pay for the dock their ships will follow so they can make their money back on the passenger fees they will get and our industry get the passengers’. Except this shows that just having money in the dock (passenger fees owed in Jam, passenger fees to collect in CI) does NOT guarantee they will bring the tourists.

      I dont expect a passenger guarantee. That’s silly (business). But this Jam situation just underscores that there are mo guarantees in this business.

    • Anonymous says:

      AlMacDartBot, you are on the ball earning your salary, unsuccessfully trying to defend the indefensible.

      • Anonymous says:

        What a hot mess! Big Old Cruise Company pretending they are docking in Jamaica while paying the government docking fees for make believe passengers!! I have never heard anything so silly? Have they all lost their minds? How long before the cruise company finds something in the fine print to stop this without being sued? Also is jamaica sharing up these fees with the taxi drivers, restaurants, bars, etc, who would benefit it they were bringing in real people? We certainly do not need that kind of shenanigans going on here; especially if they are going to destroy acres of prestine reefs to do so. If the cruise company want to help us that much they can just pretend that we have built the piers, pretend that all the passengers come weekly and take the pretend tours etc., etc. and send us a real cheque each month. That would be a huge win for Jamaica and for us. I am sure we could cancel the referendum vote for that!

    • Anon says:

      5.31pm Exactly where is our guarantee?.

  20. Anonymous says:

    And now, more and more as each revelation comes to light… now we know why they was in such a rush to have the referendum vote.
    I do not think this is the end of the revelations.
    Cheers to the Lodge!

  21. Anonymous says:

    Cruise lines are a business and just like any business will do whats bests for them, and if that means paying fines to Cayman to stop coming here before the 25 years contract is up they will just stop coming.

    • Anonymous says:

      No fines. Just Verdant Isle wouldn’t get their passenger fee payback.

      (Unless you believe the conspiracy theory that CIG is gaurav thei g numbers despite denials.)

  22. Anonymous says:

    It’s so sad to see this island turn against a proven industry since 1937 and how much it has done for this island. It was the first industry that took off in the late 70’s when hotels were suffering. I know cause I worked in most of them from Casa Bertmar through Galleon Beach hotel. It was local people who kept the bars and Restaurants going. No one came cause there was nothing to do here. Beach? All of the Caribbean have beaches and for a lot cheaper. Food and drink is cheaper, the only true thing we have here then they have there is friendly educated people. We see today that Margaritaville Hotel is going all inclusive will that make a difference? You know that Bars and Restaurants will lose business it doesn’t take a BS degree to figure that one.
    Prices in Cayman is the problem here. We need to make a price control on this island.

    • Anonymous says:

      What’s your point?

    • Anonymous says:

      I feel your sadness. I do. However it is not that simple anymore. Unfortunately.

    • Anon says:

      4.58pm I agree about prices, that why most of our cruisesheep visit only for the three “P’s”, a postcard, a pepsi and a pee. We get overcrowding, degradation of the environment and very little profit to show for it.

    • Anonymous says:

      How much of the reef did they destroy in the 70’s to accommodate those ships?

  23. Stop Them says:

    Like I said earlier in another segment.

    Stop allowing people to be members of the Masonic Lodge and work in Government, on Authorities and Boards.

    These people are only looking out for the interests of the Lodge and its members. That ONLY.

    If you were allowed to take a head count of all those persons in senior positions in Government, on Authorities and Boards you will see that they are Lodge Members.

    The persons supporting this Dock, the private business owners (the REAL owners, not the sham ones) are Lodge members.

    Jamaica Grand Lodge controls Cayman’s Lodge members. If you were allowed to do a head count of Lodge members in the Jamaican Gov’t, its Authorities and Boards you would see that the senior posts are all Lodge members. Thats why we getting the blame from Jamaica, and why persons are pushing SO HARD TO BUILD THE PORT.

    How many Cayman MLA’s are Lodge members? I am willing to guarantee at least 12 are. Bet they will never reveal the true number either. Thats why the Standards in Public Life Law will never be passed.

    People need to wake up and see that the majority of issues we have here are caused by people who are Lodge members. Why you ask.

    Because the oath they are REQUIRED to take. They WILL look out for one another and better each other. NO MATTER WHAT.

    How can a person serve Two Masters. How can a person swear two oaths. One in servitude to the Cayman Islands and another to look out for fellow brothers of the Lodge.

    The lodge here is about making each other rich. All about MONEY…


  24. Anonymous says:

    We don’t want their polluting garbage here.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Moxam this country needs more persons like you engaged in frontline politics. You are a natural leader, intelligent, honest and have the respect of many people who are tired of the old guard career politicians. You can win in any seat in GT.

    Time for you and other professional intelligent and like minded Caymanians to step up in 2021.

    • Anonymous says:

      He Can’t beat Kenneth, he can’t beat Joey. Might be close with Alden but I don’t think he can win there either. There’s no way he could take out David or Roy, only place he might have a shot is against Barbara but again she held of Mike Adams and Mike is way more personable than Johann. I don’t think it would be as easy as you say.

      • Anonymous says:

        MOXAM would embarrass #JOEYWHO in GTN.

        MOXAM would beat the lame duck Premier in Red Bay. Alden McLaughlin should just retire.

        MOXAM will embarrass Austin Harris in Propspect

        MOXAM would beat spineless Roy McTaggart in GTE

        MOXAM would destroy David Wight in GTW

        MOXAM would have support of environmentalists and common man against nice lady but useless Barbara Connolly in GTS

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s that sort of thinking why your politicians are a joke.

        Cayman and George Town needs qualified people like Marco Archer, Winston Connolly and Johann Moxam in Parliament instead of the yes men assembled by Alden McLaughlin throughout the capital.

    • Anonymous says:

      Mr. Moxam can do more for these Islands on the side line, not bound by collective responsibility.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yohan would never allow the bs to get that far. He would stop it at the source and expose it all. He’s unique because he does need the mla job and his motivations are clear.

  26. Anonymous says:

    The Cayman Islands government has always been taking instructions from wealthy high powered Jamaican nationals for decades.

    With Alden McKeeva Moses Joey and the others now in cabinet it has only gotten worse. It is clear to see who controls who. Look at the official trips taken and all the private meetings by ministers.

    Follow the money and you will see how decisions are made in this country.

    • Anonymous says:

      To 4.05 It is also clear who controls CPR and it is not the average Caymanians. The average Joe is being used to support the cause of the Johnny come latelys who now want to keep the harbour for their diving pleasure and don’t care if we have to kill cruise tourism or move the cargo dock to get it done.I feel sorry for the Caymanians who are supporting CPR leaders believing that they are really interested in our environment.Where is their petition to close the dump or calling for a national sewerage works and stop the damage to the environment from septic overflows? The last time that we had such interest from the expats was on the proposed expat tax; after that ..nothing.

      • Anonymous says:

        One disaster at a time mate. You could start the petition for those worthwhile issues yourself and not wait for others to do the hard work for you.

      • Anonymous says:

        And guess what bobo? I now have status. 🙂

  27. Anonymous says:

    …and there you have it. There should no longer be any doubt at all, to anyone, as to what is really at play here.

  28. Anonymous says:

    CIG will get burnt in the cruise berthing deal and it’ll destroy Caymans overall tourism product

  29. Anonymous says:

    The truth is starting to come out now.
    Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruise lines are the modern day pirates of the Caribbean.

  30. Ambassador of Absurdistan says:

    Just Another Day in Absurdistan

  31. Anonymous says:

    Where is the Anti-Corruption Commission and Auditor General to look into the port deal?

    • Anonymous says:

      The SIPL Law not being enacted, means the entire Law, including section 5. They don’t have the whistleblowers or power to look into the gatling gun of multi-million dollar infrastructure contracts the PPM (and associates) thrive on! This Cabinet likes it that way! I wonder why?

  32. Anonymous says:

    The Premier and Minister of Tourism must now explain their role in the Ghost ship deal plus tell us what they promised the cruise lines.

  33. Anonymous says:

    You were so far in weren’t you Mo$e$ & Aldart, so far in that the creation for new synonym for shameless needs to be called for. Thank goodness for CPR, CNS, National Trust, Johann, Mario, the 5,000 plus signatories and of course all the many others. It’s reassuring knowing there remains an underlying integrity out there keeping it all on the straight & narrow – thank you & VOTE NO

  34. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Johan for your courage and willingness to stand up and lead the people against a govt that has lied to us from the beginning. The have no shame

  35. VOTE NO says:

    Mr. Moxam was dynamic on rooster and really exposed the lies and propaganda used by the premier, deputy premier and unity government who are hellbent to drive the port project down our throats. We do not need it and they owe us all answers after Mr. Bartlett’s revelation in the Jamaican press. Thank you Mr. Moxam and CPR.
    Cayman VOTE NO

  36. Anonymous says:

    Royal Caribbean is struggling to fill the Oasis class full stop. They seem to have fallen victim to the old myth (and mis-quote) that, ‘If we build it, they will come,’ and it’s not paying off. Whether or not we build the dock, the cruise industry is facing serious issues over the mega-liner concept. It seems to be becoming a flawed business plan on the lines of the A380 Super-Jumbo. When it’s actually cheaper to pay the contractual docking fees than visit Falmouth there’s something seriously going wrong.

  37. Anonymous says:


    And yet are we to expect anything more from a leadership that has shown their ego far eclipses the well being of the Cayman Islands as a whole.

    They are hell bent on leaving what they think will be their own legendary mark on the Cayman political and physical landscape without realising this will only be a negative recollection for generations in the future…

    My guess is the new statue stands in Heroes Square will be to place busts of all these egotistical blowhards on display…

    At least they can be used for target practice…

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