When it comes to the proposed project to build new cruise berthing piers and to move the cargo dock facility elsewhere, it seems the government has made a number of assumptions.
The proposal seems to assume, for instance, a positive outcome of an environmental impact study on the project. Certainly the proposal would not have reached the point where Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a developer if this assumption were not true.
Considering the two projects involve building several large land masses in the waters of George Town Harbour that could not only damage the marine eco-system in the immediate area, but could also affect the current flows along Seven Mile Beach, we have to believe this was a large assumption.
But even if the company – which has not even been selected yet – that does the environmental impact study comes to the conclusion Cayman’s marine environment can sustain the development at an acceptable level, and even if the Department of Environment agrees with that study, there are some other basic assumptions that seem to have been made with the proposal.
It assumes that the cargo facility needs to be separated from the cruise facility right now and not sometime down the road.
It assumes there is a need to build two berthing piers to accommodate four cruise ships rather than one pier for two ships.
It assumes the Caribbean cruise product market cycle is still in a period of growth, and not in one of maturity or decline.
It assumes that more cruisers will disembark ships once it is made easier for them to do so, despite all the amenities being built on cruise ships these days designed to keep them from wanting to disembark.
It assumes the spending-per-passenger trend of disembarking cruise passengers isn’t going to continue to decline as it did last year.
It assumes the best place for a new cargo facility is in George Town Harbour solely, it seems, on the fact that old-time Caymanian seamen recognised it as the safest place to have a port.
It assumes that the new location of the cargo dock won’t cause major traffic problems that might require millions of dollars of road improvements.
It could be that all of these assumptions are true. The problem is, we just don’t know. No proper feasibility study was done on this extraordinarily complex project proposal, at least not one that has been made public.
When combined, the new cruise and cargo dock facilities will become the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in the Cayman Islands. It will undoubtedly have far-reaching ramifications on this country, even if it is financed by a third party.
The decision to go ahead with this project seems to have been made by a fiat based on many assumptions. We should be sure all of those assumptions are true through a comprehensive feasibility study before moving forward.