Could court ruling see port project dropped?

| 21/02/2020 | 42 Comments
Cayman News Service

(CNS): Opposition leader Arden McLean has said it is time for government to drop the cruise port project and get on with more important things. Citing widespread opposition, the destruction of our natural resources and the government’s failure to justify the business case, he questioned the motivation for even taking the process this far. It might be hard to imagine Premier Alden McLaughlin indulging such a request but Wednesday’s court ruling and a number of other factors now at play have certainly called the project’s future into more doubt.

In his short sharp statement in the wake of the damning ruling against the government, McLaughlin barely took time to consider the full judgment before he was confirming the decision to appeal, though so far we have no idea what those the grounds could be.

Regardless of the result of such an appeal, the project is facing a significant delay, and government is not the only party involved in this proposal.

Verdant Isle Port Partners, the consortium selected to construct the controversial facility issued a brief statement on Friday, stating that the group its suppliers and consultants, “fully respect the Cayman Islands judicial process and legal system, and Justice Tim Owen’s ruling yesterday with regards to the cruise port referendum and Cayman Islands Referendum Law. As the Preferred Bidder for the proposed Cayman port project we will continue to communicate with the Cayman Islands Government as we wait for the Court’s final order.”

And while there was no sign of a crack in the commitment the private companies and their cruise partners are not doing this for fun; it is a profit making venture for which they expect to get paid. The potentially dramatic change to the project’s time line and the increased probability that the referendum will succeed, despite the high bar, could make all the difference during a period when the cruise sector is experiencing additional pressure.

Roulstone’s victorious challenge is already getting traction in the international press, adding to a growing number of media stories reporting on this new challenge to the cruise industry. The support of the public in the destinations where cruise ships want to build and control facilities is presenting a new wrench in the engines for cruise lines that are also facing increasing public relations backlashes on a number of fronts.

Tony Peisley, an independent cruise industry analyst and editor of Cruise Insight, told the travel media that the implications of the decision here in Cayman is far reaching. He believes opposition to the cruise port by locals is the biggest threat going forward. “The cruise lines know it is as well. Because what you get in the end is you can’t go to the places that your passengers want to go,” he said.

A number of factors were already undermining the sector’s reputation, including endless stories about the appalling environmental records of some cruise lines and the massive fines that have been imposed, especially on Carnival Cruises, as well as the exploitation of workers, the secretive approach to onboard criminal activity, and the drive towards ever bigger ships that keep passengers on board and ensure profits remain with the cruise lines rather than the destinations.

But the way the cruise lines have handled the coronovirus has created a public relations nightmare that will be hard to recover from. While these companies are massive and profits are still rolling in, this virus has seen the industry take a multi-billion dollar hit. Cruise pundits also predict that the companies are going to have a hard time pulling in new cruisers.

Mike Driscoll, editor in chief of the trade publication Cruise Week, told the US media this week that the industry is known for its resiliency, “but this one’s just so different.”

Given the competing challenges, a delay in any possible start to the project here in Cayman could see this consortium begin to collapse. While the premier may find it hard to see the writing on the wall, Verdant Isle might not be so blind.

McLean’s call to government “to abandon this mission to nowhere” may not be as far fetched as it appears at first glance.

Setting aside the pros and cons of this proposed project, the way government has handled the entire process, compounded by yesterday’s immediate response to, once again, challenge the people rather than take stock about what this all really means, may drive many more into the opposition camp who may have been indifferent to the port before this ruling emerged.

“The people have spoken,” McLean stated. “The courts have found the government’s attempts to manipulate the referendum process unconstitutional. This is serious and the government needs to reflect on what message they are sending to the people they claim to represent.” He said any attempt to go to the polls in the face of all that has occurred will result in a resounding defeat for the Unity Government. (See full statement in the CNS Library.)

While the premier will very likely remain publicly defiant and completely committed to the project, even he can’t control the consortium partners. Whether he likes it or not, this project may well be dead in the water long before Cayman goes to the polls.


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Category: Analysis, development, Local News, Viewpoint

Comments (42)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Shame on them for “They know NOT what they have done” to this country. No one objected to the UDP plan to build the port further to the north in the harbour which would have destroyed most of the coral in the harbour. This has been on the table for 40 years and it will eventually be built and delays now will only cost the country dearly after the cruise lines pull out their US$100m investment contribution to the project and the new tendering process in the future will cost a further US$50m in added costs and then add CPI costs and rising prices of labour materials and equipment adding an amount > $50m and the resulting additional costs will solely be on the country and the tax payer at some time in the future. Both Moxam and Rankin were all behind the UDP efforts to build the new port ask yourself what has changed?????? We the wealthiest and most affluent country in the Caribbean will continue living in the dark ages with the third worst port facilities in the entire Caribbean Basin region next to Monserrat and Turks & Caicos even when Turks has a cruise pier. Stay in the past with your heads in the sand and do not build any infrastructure whatsoever !!!!!!!

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  2. Anonymous says:

    The case made against the port proposal would be a lot more convincing if not for the constant bleating of the same crowd that opposes most anything that may change their nostalgic image of Cayman. Other than a simplistic “save the environment” slogan, they don’t offer any viable ideas to secure the prosperity of Cayman for its posterity because they really don’t care about future generations. They selfishly and greedily cling to the status quo. They’re already set and comfortable, to hell with everyone else.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Some possible sustainable solutions.
      – Fix the dump.
      – transport improvements such as bike lanes, public transport.
      – additional “landing tax” per cruise ship passenger dedicated to either environmental protection for public use areas (parks like barkers) or education.
      – Improve the airport to handle additional stay over tourists.

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      • Anonymous says:

        All of your so called sustainable solutions require money. Money comes from the business being done in Cayman- including from cruise tourism. Some paltry additional landing tax on cruise won’t cut it. Especially as the cruise numbers start to decline.
        Poster 10:39 is right. Those opposing the project are responsible if it dies and they should explain to the country their viable solution to get the revenue and provide the employment that will also be lost.

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    • Anonymous says:

      There is no economic case for the port! If you think turning Cayman into a trashy, crowded, polluted, low end cruise destination at the expense of high end stay over tourism will bring prosperity to anyone you’re deluded!

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      • Anonymous says:

        Apart from the shop owners you mean….

      • Anonymous says:

        Sure there is, it’s your own fault if you don’t want to look at it. You may disagree but there is a case. On the flip side, the case seems to be to stop or go backwards. Not very convincing.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Could court ruling see the damn dump get fixed?

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  4. Anonymous says:

    The referendum has not happened yet. We still got to have the vote. As far as the environment is concerned any new project anywhere in the world will have an impact. We just got to look at the evidence that the coral came back. We had two ships in the area where we are building the port. Both were blown up with dynamite, is that not true? Both at different times in the Twenty-first century, is that not true? Then if its true what proof can you show that it will not come back again? All of the piers in the Caribbean have fish and coral growing on them. We now have to have a vote. Some of you rascals seem to want to change development in this country, but you can’t. One hundred thousand people is not a lot of people. People who are qualified and experienced can solve traffic congestion. They also can create proper town planning in this country like in other countries with far higher amounts of populations. Our problem should have been solved thirty years ago by building in the middle of this island infrastructure to alleviate everyone going into the (west) tourism sector simple. Office and schools should had gone next to Clifton Hunter high school. We should also build the Industrial District in the middle of the island too.
    We should give up the ‘Ft 6’ beach ACCESS and sell the those spaces to the hotels and condos. We could buy property on the South by Frank Sound probably a mile of it at today values. Then we would have enough beach for the future.
    It seems you don’t want to lose the appeal but that is the legal process. We should be able to have the same rights you have, it’s only fair.
    People keep talking about the Landfill but let all know that wherever they put that, will be a brand new Huge environmental issue. So let’s see if we can solve it where its at!!
    I guess the question about the Jamaican connection should be asked to Red Sails previous owners?? Will it include Websters transportation?

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  5. Anonymous says:

    I just don’t get this Governments obsession with the Port project as it stands.
    I was going to give a long detailed intelligent argument against the Port, but why bother, even my one eyed, 3 legged, half deaf toothless dog can sense that this is a bad idea.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Really now. Why is it a bad idea exactly. What would you do instead to provide revenue and employment for decades to come? What? Do you have a long detailed argument for an alternative and viable alternative? If not ask your half dead dog his thoughts

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Where is Jean-Michel Cousteau when you need him?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Taking more money from Carnival? Having met him when he was on Grand Cayman some years ago I’m very disappointed with his silence on this.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    So… May I suggest that we build efficient terminals in GT for the tenders? Right now we are dropping 2500 passengers a day into. An airport, yet we are dropping about 6000 passengers in 2 hours onto the main road through North and South docks in GT, with no terminal…. Piers not needed… Terminals are….

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Here’s the problem with putting erudite headlines on political articles like this one, they fail to live up to the hype.

    What happens if the CIG drops the port project? There still has to be a referendum because the referendum process is separate from the port process. – Imagine it this way. If Government had initially said ‘no port’ after getting the Outline Business Case someone could have started a referendum petition that we build the Port anyway. Technically, a vote on the question ‘should CIG abandon the Port proposal’. Only one word different from ‘should CIG pursue the Port proposal’.

    The referendum petition is neutral of CIG’s policy, or anyone else’s opinion, on the Port. Remember, the petition was not against the Port, technically, it was to have a referendum on the Port. Whether the CIG wants a Port, or not, is irrelevant to the requirement now to have a referendum on building the Port or not.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Whether its dropped or not – at this time – having a referendum would serve to finally allow the voting public to have their say – just in case its brought up AGAIN under the guise of being “within the mandate” of any current or future political party/coalition or otherwise. Lets just get this put on record once and for all. And while we’re at it, Mr Bryants idea of throwing a number of other current “questions” should be voted on – same sex marriage, decriminilization of cannabis, legalized gambling etc. Lets put it all out there.

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  9. George Towner says:

    We shouldn’t blindly follow the dollars $$$$$$. We should be looking at how to deal with an overcrowding island – too much people here, too much traffic, too much garbage, too big names buying up properties for $$$$$$, too much blocking of our beaches, lesser space, more congestion. Less nature, not enough trees in town to keep the place cool. The island is losing it beauty and becoming stressful because of “TOO MUCH OF EVERYTHING !” And all for the LOVE OF MONEY! It is time for the government to not be distracted by hopes and dreams $$$$$$ whilst things around us urgently need to get done. Put money and politics aside, and think more about the people!

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  10. Anonymous says:

    No one can deny that improvements to the present facility are necessary and need to be done with some expediency.

    This is therefore the perfect timing when Government should bring the current proposal to a screeching halt, tell the people who elected them that their messages have been heard and instruct the technocrats to go back to the drawing board and put forward a proposal for improvements that are more environmentally friendly and less stress on an already overcrowded George Town.

    They could come away from this smelling like roses and restore the confidence of those who put them in power in the first place.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Do not go back to the drawing board for redesigned cruise piers!! We don’t want cruise piers period!! Upgrade the cargo facilities and done!

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      • Anonymous says:

        2.12pm The referendum has to be held to determine if a majority of Caymanians are for or against the port going ahead. I know CPR has caused confusion by saying the referendum was to find out if the people wanted the CPR while at the same time they campaigned against it by telling us to vote no. Let’s understand one thing, CPR leadership is against the port project even though they say they don’t have enough info. The actual referendum is to decide if the majority of voters want it to go ahead.. If the No voters fail to reach a majority of the registered voters ( somewhere in the vicinity of 11.000 votes) then Government can go ahead with the project.

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    • Anonymous says:

      There is no way the dock can be built without causing environmental impacts. We don’t want it built at all. End of discussion.

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  11. Maria Clarke says:

    Where does this leave us with the validity of past referenda? (Or Referendums)? Eg single member constituencies?

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Keep on pushing CPR and do not let the PPM and Alden turn this country into a dictatorship!

    Long live democracy!!

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    • L says:

      Say wha? “Long live democracy?” You call it democracy when you postpone, delay, pontificate, sue, whatever – doing any any everything to avoiding us being able to vote on this matter? Call it what you may, but denying the electorate the ability to vote certainly doesn’t look, smell, or feel like democracy!

      LET – US – VOTE!

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      • Anonymous says:

        You mean like when Mac called the government initiated referendum to keep control when he saw the petition for smc’s was going to gather enough signatures to trigger a people initiated referendum?

        Pot meet kettle.

  13. Anonymous says:

    We would like to assume we know the composition of Verdant Isle (a disposable Cayman Islands shell co, with no performance bond, or operating history), but we don’t have that shareholder info do we? Given this regime’s ambient reluctance to offer more than a full redaction or unfulfilled FOI helpline for transparency, we can only speculate.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Arden Mclean, That do nothing for almost 20 years for us in our district. He is a blow hard. I glad Mr. Johann call him out on the radio yesterday. He only now jumping on the band wagon for political expediency

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    • Anonymous says:

      Well, I wonder what he doing all now for his district. He nah the same one that help divert monies from education to building roads when he was minister for roads???

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  15. MI6 in Paradise says:

    Alden McLaughlin is proving that he is a stubborn mule. Moses Kirkconnell and this Unity govt have been exposed as being controlled by special interests groups e.g. Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise lines.

    Being controlled by the JLP Jamaican government and working secretly to forward their interests is an indictment on Alden McLaughlin’s government and leadership.

    This project was doomed to failure from the beginning because of the half truths that were proven to be lies. Fighting your citizens to advance the agenda of a handful of duty free merchants, Dart and the cruise lines was always a risk. The management of the PR strategy was an expensive mess.

    The credibility of the the Premier, Deputy Premier, Cabinet members is now openly questioned by the masses. Due to their collective mismanagement of this project and lies that have now been disclosed. It would be political suicide for any incumbent to continue to support the Premier, Deputy Premier and support appealing the court’s ruling and the continuation of the port project.

    These are interesting times in the political landscape for the Caymans. The winds of change are blowing and the members that control the status quo are ill prepared for the shift in influence, control and people power.

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    • Concerned Diver says:

      So well put MI6 in Paradise! Agreed on every point!

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    • The PPM aren says:

      They are hoping to get this plan through before it sullies the next PPM leader’s reputation
      Alden can take all the blame now because it doesn’t matter if he ignores voters or is seen as stubborn and authoritative, either way if the project goes forward or not he is done being Premier for at least one term, and will probably not run in 2021 ( who wants to go from the Premier to just normal MLA or minister)

      If Alden takes all the hits for this plan now the next Premier can simply say ‘well it wasn’t me” and even distance themselves from the project if need be

      The plan has always been to ram it through the process and sign the deal this term then let a fresh face take over so the PPM isn’t wiped out electorally in a 2021 anti port backlash

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  16. Anonymous says:

    Don’t know about dropped but the longer it’s delayed the more likely it is that RCCL and Carnival will decide it’s not worth the hassle and pull out. The cruise lines are already facing a multi-million dollar hit in the Far East over the COVID-19 outbreak, they’re not going to waste time and money on something here that most likely isn’t going to pay off.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t think they are going to drop the potential to wield that much power over a jurisdiction like Cayman
      They’ll wait if they have to, they want this project done because it means the government of the day and future governments are more likely to focus in on their needs and concerns

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      • Anonymous says:

        3:36 If you believe that you don’t understand the dynamics of a large shareholder-driven corporation like RCCL or Carnival. If the delays mount up this is dead.

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    • Anonymous says:

      We’d be a lot better off if more people would pull out around here.

  17. Anonymous says:

    One can only hope, though I have to admit I have been looking forward to the potential schadenfreude from the government’s eventual loss when the vote is held

    Nothing would bring me greater joy than watching the voters publicly put Alden and his cohorts in their place
    Almost makes me want us to finally have that vote

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    • LET - US - VOTE says:

      If you’re so sure about “the government’s eventual loss when the vote is held”, then why won’t you LET – US – VOTE?

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