Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush said he knows of two proposed sites in the eastern districts for a new cargo dock facility.
One of the sites, in the Half Moon Bay area near East End, was proposed as a possible site for a new cargo dock/cruise ship home port by the United Democratic Party government during its 2001-2005 administration.
Mr. Bush said the other site was just outside of Breakers, in the area near several old quarries.
Both sites would require the digging of a channel into the interior from the southern coast and the moving of the main road inland. In addition, Mr. Bush said the proposed site near Breakers, if accepted, would require cutting a channel through the Frank Sound reef as well as ‘massive dredging’ through Frank Sound to create the necessary depth of water.
‘Obviously, huge environmental impact studies would have to be done first,’ Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush announced earlier this month that he, like the previous People’s Progressive Movement government, supported creating a cruise berthing facility in central George Town and separating the cargo facility from the cruise passenger facility. However, Mr. Bush said he did not support the PPM’s proposal to move the cargo facility just north of central George Town to waterfront land owned by Atlantic Star on North Church Street.
‘I support moving the dock outside of George Town,’ Mr. Bush said. ‘I’m not supporting it in town.’
Moving the cargo dock to a location away from George Town would help increase port revenues, opening up potential new avenues of port operation such as transhipment and a container facility, Mr. Bush said.
The eastern cargo dock would also allow the movement of the fuel storage tanks in the residential areas of South Sound to the new facility.
‘We could also look at establishing an oil refinery here,’ Mr. Bush said.
Backbench MLA Cline Glidden Jr., who is part of the elected government’s team looking into the redevelopment of the cargo port, said the realignment of the road would take it along the path of the East-West Arterial extension, which has already been gazetted.
‘We were expecting to do that road anyway. The new road would make the port only 15 minutes away from George Town,’ he said, adding that the travel time for trucking would therefore not be much of an issue.
Mr. Glidden said moving the cargo port to the eastern districts would allow the government to pursue other sources of revenue, and possibly create a much needed third-tier of the economy to go with tourism and financial services industries.
Possibilities include using the Cayman Islands as a transhipment place, and possibly even a free zone, similar to Panama. Because of Cayman’s strategic position in relation to certain shipping routes, some shipping companies have urged Cayman to consider establishing transhipment facilities, Mr. Glidden said.
Another possibility is establishing a safe harbour home port for one of the cruise lines, something that was talked about during the previous United Democratic Party administration.
‘That idea is still on board,’ Mr. Glidden said, adding that if it were to come to pass, it would be a great boost to Cayman’s economy and would help Cayman Airways as well.
In addition, the new cargo port could serve as an alternative to the cruise port in times of rough weather in George Town Harbour.
‘Right now when the weather is too rough in town, the cruise ships simply bypass Cayman,’ Mr. Glidden said, noting that many cruise visits are missed each year as a result.
Discussing the two possible sites for the cargo port mentioned so far, Mr. Glidden said the one near Half Moon Bay probably looks better from an environmental standpoint because the shoreline there is already exposed to waves. On the other hand, the shoreline near the Breakers site is sheltered by a reef, so the effects of putting a channel there are less certain, he said.
‘Anything you do is going to have an environmental impact, but you know more of what to expect with the site that is already exposed to waves.’
‘Obviously, huge environmental impact studies would have to be done first.’ McKeeva Bush