Grand Cayman’s cargo dock will be moved out of Central George Town, partially to facilitate the construction of a cruise ship berthing dock there.
In a statement read in the Legislative Assembly Friday, Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford also revealed that the original negotiations to build the berthing facility had recently broken down and a second round of negotiations had started with ‘at least two highly viable stakeholder investors’.
‘As a result of this second round of negotiations, a more strategic approach is being pursued, which will facilitate the establishment of separate facilities for berthing and cargo handling,’ he said.
Mr. Clifford said there were severe limitations to the current configuration of the port.
‘At present, our cargo facilities are essentially constrained on both sides by cruise operations at the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal and the North Terminal,’ he said. ‘The port’s capacity to grow and meet increasing demand for cargo and aggregate will be exhausted within a few years if we do not act.
Mr. Clifford said he had felt for some time that the issue of moving the cargo dock and building the berthing facility had to be considered in tandem.
‘Otherwise… the movement of increasing cargo volumes would continue to be limited to night operations; night-time trucking would continue to hinder the ability for the downtown area to come alive with commerce at night; and beautification options will be hampered due to having to continue to facilitate heavy trucking over what would otherwise be a mainly pedestrian thoroughfare,’ he said.
Although he would not reveal the identity of the new proposed investors for the cruise ship berthing and cargo handling dock, Mr. Clifford did say ‘one interested party already owns substantial landholdings near the George Town port which could be developed for cargo operations and which would allow for easier and quicker access to the cargo distribution centre without the need to utilize the road network in the central downtown area.’
The original negotiations for a joint venture to build the berthing facility included two major cruise lines.
Last May, Opposition MLA Cline Glidden suggested in Legislative Assembly that one of the parties of the joint venture had pulled out of negotiations.
Mr. Clifford responded by saying there was no truth to the statement.
A statement sent to the Caymanian Compass from Carnival Cruise Lines at the time acknowledged that Carnival Corporation and Carnival plc had been in discussions relating to ‘enhancing the cruise facilities in George Town’ with the Port Authority and the Cayman Islands Government for a year and that those discussion were ongoing.
Mr. Glidden suggested the other party to the joint venture was Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, but that it was Carnival that had pulled out of the negotiations because they had been asked to pay for the relocation of the cargo dock.
Although he did not mention the name of any of the parties involved in the failed negotiations in his statement Friday, Mr. Clifford said the ‘negotiations faltered on the important issue of maintaining an adequate revenue stream for this country’.
Mr. Clifford explained that revenues from cruise passengers funded many government expenses, both in and outside of the tourism sector.
‘The interests of these islands must be preserved in any negotiations,’ he said. ‘There will always be tradeoffs with any business transaction; give and take is necessary.
‘However, agreements must also be mutually beneficial. No agreement which erodes the economic interests of the country would be acceptable to this government.’
Mr. Clifford said that sometimes partners will disagree and that sometimes they must disagree.
‘I believe that the breakdown in the initial negotiations for berthing was such a time.’
Mr. Clifford said the improved management of cruise tourism continues to be a major policy objective.
‘I wish to underscore that this government has taken the strategic decision to separate cargo and cruise operations, as it is not feasible for them to continue to exist at the same location in the medium to long term.’
Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush asked Mr. Clifford to clarify whether the new cruise berthing facility was to be built at the current cargo dock and Mr. Clifford said yes, but he did not reveal the possible location of the new cargo handling dock.