Marine base delayed

Construction of the Cayman Islands’ marine base in Newlands has not started as scheduled largely because of delays in planning and environmental permit approval processes, according to officials involved in the project.

A $1.86 million bid to build the first section of the marine base was approved by the Central Tenders Committee back in November, and officials said at the time that a contract would be finalised by December or January.

However, a coastal works permit required to begin building at the site on Hirst Road was only recently approved, and the Cayman Islands Planning Board has not yet given the go ahead for the project. The issue is expected to be considered at a board meeting on 19 March.

‘It took a lot longer than we estimated to get the necessary approvals,’ said Public Works Department Senior Project Manager Mark Urizar, adding that the planning board couldn’t act until environmental approvals were granted.

The coastal works licence is needed to ensure that steps will be taken to prevent soil erosion due to construction of a dock and boat ramp for the marine base, and that mangroves growing along the water line in the area will be protected.

Another issue that has been discussed among project planners is site security for the marine base, which will be used as a joint operations centre for the Royal Cayman Islands Police, the Customs Service, and the Immigration Department.

Mr. Urizar said the property will be fully fenced and gated, and that the general public will not be allowed access to the base once it’s built.

However, the property it’s being built on is recreational use land. Mr. Urizar said another boat ramp had been built close by along Leeward Drive, and that a dock and a parking ramp were being planned there.

‘It’s recreational use land, so we’re providing an alternate (boat launch facility) nearby,’ he said.

The tenders committee also approved more than $2.4 million in November for two patrol boats, which will be docked at the base once it’s built. A police spokesperson recently said that those vessels have not arrived on island.

The entire cost of the marine base, including the patrol boats, was estimated at $9 million last year.

The first section of the marine base contract includes the construction of a boat launch ramp, a boat storage area, a paved driveway and a parking lot. That construction was slated to be finished sometime this year.

Authorities believe the new ramp on the southern end of the North Sound will speed responses to medical emergencies and water rescues. The marine base and additional boats are also expected to improve Cayman’s response to coastal threats such as illegal immigration or drug trafficking.

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