Two private sector tourism groups support the overall concept of a cruise berthing facility for George Town and the related Environmental Impact Assessment process.
The Cayman Islands Tourism Association and the Association for the Advancement of Cruise Tourism do not want to see the EIA process delayed.
Both ACT and CITA have stated their support for the project and EIA in a press release following the recent public and private sector town hall meetings on the topic of the upcoming EIA for the proposed port redevelopment project.
The proposed project would separate cruise and cargo facilities with the container port being moved to the north area of George Town in the vicinity of Bodden Road and berthing for four cruise ships being built at the port in George Town.
In July the Government, Port Authority and property developer Atlantic Star Ltd. entered into an agreement to set out a framework for negotiations on the project.
Members of ACT and CITA met last week to discuss the current state of the cruise industry in Grand Cayman and reached an overwhelming consensus on the following three points, the press release noted:
Grand Cayman must have a berthing facility for cruise ships;
The berthing facility must be in the George Town harbour area;
Completing the Environmental Impact Assessment must be a top priority for Government and nothing must delay or derail this process.
CITA President Steve Broadbelt said, ‘CITA recognises and supports the proposal that the best and only practical location for cruise berthing facilities are in the George Town harbour area. Our support is exclusively contingent on the outcome of the Environmental Impact Assessment.
‘The EIA must be commenced without further delay in order to allow sufficient time for a comprehensive study. The completion of this study should not be delayed by the elections or by negotiations with any potential developers.’
Speaking over the phone on Tuesday, Mr. Broadbelt said a concern would be the potential impacts on Seven Mile Beach, but provided the EIA comes back saying it would not be impacted and that other potential impacts are addressed, they believe George Town to be the most practical location.
‘The coral reefs there have been largely destroyed by years of anchoring of cruise ships . . . To go to a virgin site, we believe, would increase the environmental impact.’
Mr. Broadbelt also believes George Town harbour would be a more financially viable option because much of the shops and infrastructure are already in place in George Town and therefore to build a completely new site would probably be more expensive.
‘Private businesses have invested a life’s work around George Town and to pull the rug out from beneath them would be damaging to businesses, jobs and the local economy,’ he said.
On behalf of ACT, spokesperson Emma Graham-Taylor said, ‘Without question, our diverse cruise industry-focused membership recognises that the cruise tourism industry in Grand Cayman is facing very serious challenges without berthing.
‘ACT fully supports cruise ship berthing, the location of George Town harbour for this berthing and the current Environmental Impact Assessment now taking place.’
For the past two years cruise tourism has declined in the Cayman Islands. In 2007 they were down 11 per cent on 2006; in 2008 cruise arrivals were down 9.5 per cent on 2007.
Many members of organisations are concerned about the continuing decrease in cruise ship arrivals and the severe impact it is having on their businesses, the release noted.
‘Let’s get all the facts and then all decide,’ said businessman and ACT member Ronnie Anglin. ‘Fact one: We are currently discharging cargo and approximately 1.5 million cruise passengers from a port built for half our population and very little thought of cruise tourism.
‘Fact two: Tourism is one of two pillars of our economy and the cruise sector has been ignored for far too long. We are now playing catch-up with our competitors and we are way too far behind already. Fact three: We have been discussing this for eight years now. We cannot waste another day and still expect to retain our place as a preferred destination.’
Both Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford and Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts have said the government will not proceed with the projects if it is scientifically determined that serious and unavoidable harm would be caused, for instance to the Seven Mile Beach area.
But if the EIA points to responsible ways to avoid or minimise negative impacts and to create net benefits then the necessary infrastructure should be built to support economic survival and success, they said.
The Port Authority has outlined that existing port facilities will be incapable of dealing with cargo demand some time between 2012 and 2014.