The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman developer Michael Ryan will create US$6 million public marina with first-class facilities at the SafeHaven dock.
The plan follows an agreement between the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands and Mr. Ryan’s development company.
Minister with responsibility for the Port Authority Charles Clifford said last week that boat operators, tourists and the public would benefit from the upgraded facility.
‘The enhanced facilities will provide for a larger volume of passengers, better parking and other facilities for local operators and the general public,’ he said. ‘Landscaped to Ritz-Carlton standards, the new facility will offer a more aesthetic and relaxing atmosphere, as well as provide significant shelter from the environment allowing greater all weather use.’
The SafeHaven dock, owned and operated by the Port Authority, has become the primary gateway for tens of thousands of visitors each year who visit Stingray City, Cayman’s world famous natural attraction.
Mr. Ryan’s company will build the new marina facility for the Port Authority just west of the existing Safehaven dock, adjacent to the Ritz-Carlton property.
The agreement, which comes about after lengthy negotiations, also involves a swap of land between the Port Authority and Mr. Ryan’s company.
As part of the negotiated settlement, the parcel for the new facility will belong to the Port Authority. That parcel will be traded for the parcel from which the SafeHaven dock now operates. All works for the new public marina must be completed before the land transfer takes place.
Port Authority Chairman Wayne Panton said the square footage of the land being swapped is the same.
‘The value of the completed marina will be equivalent to the value of the existing land so that the Port Authority’s assets are not being diminished in any way,’ he said. ‘The new facility land title will be owned entirely by the Port Authority.’.
Mr. Panton said the marina will probably be named Safehaven Marina.
Mr. Ryan said the existing site was almost exactly in the same location, but the new facility would be state-of-the-art.
Features of the upgraded facility will include boat slips, car and trailer parking spaces, bus drop-off area, public boat launch ramp, picnic area, shade structures, bathroom facilities, vending area, a Port Authority administration building and a pump-out facility.
Mr. Ryan elaborated on how the agreement will work.
‘Our arrangement is that we build this facility and we give it to the Port Authority and it belongs to the Government and people of the Cayman Islands. I have no ownership; no operating [role]; no control over it whatsoever. I build it and give it to them at a high level and… they commit to running it properly like they do and that’s the end of the arrangement. We build it and hand it to them.’
Mr. Panton said there was a lot of consultation between the Port Authority and the North Sound tour operators on this project for the past couple of years.
He noted that it will be a public marina but the users of the current SafeHaven dock facility will have priority to use the marina once completed.
Currently the commercial boat operators do not pay to use the SafeHaven area. All costs associated with maintaining SafeHaven is now borne solely by the Port Authority, said Director Paul Hurlston.
However, he noted that the new marina will be a better facility and will cost more to maintain then the present facility.
‘The Port Authority will expect those who use this facility to contribute to defraying the operational costs of this new facility,’ he said.
He said they had not yet established any possible user fees.
Mr. Ryan said construction on the new marina would take place without interrupting the business of the North Sound tour operators.
‘We can begin work on this facility and leave everybody in place and we can give them a brand new facility without interrupting their operations at all, so really it’s a large upgrade for them.’
Excavation permits for the work have been applied for as part of the overall Dragon Bay project and the plans are to commence work as soon as permits are granted.
Once Planning approval is obtained and construction starts, it is estimated it would take about 12 months to complete, said Mr. Ryan.
After completing the marina and receiving the swapped land from the Port Authority, Mr. Ryan said he would excavate out the existing land to create a grand entrance for the Dragon Bay project.
‘We’re going to take that out,’ he said. ‘Our plan is that we reshape the whole entrance here to do two things: one, we’re going to curve it so you don’t get the weather coming in, and two, we’re going to create a new entrance here because we like to see more and more people arriving by boat which has been the plan from the very beginning so our guests and our owners’ arrival and departure experience in Grand Cayman is by boat.’
Quoted in a press release, North Sound tour operator and user of SafeHaven Dock Captain Bryan Ebanks said the new public marina project was a good plan.
‘[The plan is] one that can help us better serve the needs of our customers,’ he said. ‘There are a few tweaks that need to be made to perfect the plan and we will make those as promised by Mr. Panton and Mr. Ryan. The most important thing, however, is that this marina remains fully owned and operated by the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands.’