The Cayman Islands Government confirmed Monday that negotiations between the Port Authority and the Dart-owned construction company DECCO to build a cruise berthing facility in George Town had collapsed and that a contract to build the project would be pursued with the company that ranked second in the original matrix scoring process of four short-listed development teams.
That development team consists of the local company Royal Construction Ltd, working in conjunction with the international firm GLF Construction Company, which is based in Italy but has a subsidiary in Miami, and the international marine dredging and construction company Jan de Nul Group.
The choice of DECCO as developer of the cruise berthing facility was approved by Cabinet in November 2009 and led to the signing of a non-binding memorandum of understanding in April 2010. In August, amid rumours that negotiations with DECCO had fallen through, the government confirmed that the scope of the proposed project had expanded beyond just building cruise ship berthing piers, and that the projected cost had risen from $150 million to $200 million.
In September, it was estimated the project would push $300 million when taking into consideration the cost of reclaiming eight acres of land.
One key sticking point in the negotiations with DECCO was the length of a lease of the reclaimed land that would be given to the developer to recoup its investment was to be between 21 and 99 years. The government believed the lease term should be toward the lower end of the range. Royal Construction Managing Director Howard Finlason said the scope of upland works for the project would have to be negotiated, but that the length of any lease would not be as long as was possible with the DECCO arrangement.
“Anything we are going to do is not going to take more than 30 years… and it could even be less, once we fine tune the figures,” he said. In a press release issued to the Caymanian Compass on Monday, the government said it was moving forward with a framework agreement – rather than a memorandum of understanding – with the GLF/Royal team. “By moving forward from the framework agreement stage it means that none of the time spent negotiating with DECCO has been wasted and the project can still be started and completed in the same time frame as originally proposed,” the press release stated.
“It is our intention to complete the main agreement within 60 to 90 days, which will allow us to start the project in the first quarter of 2011.”
The government stated that the decision to end negotiations with DECCO was difficult, but that all parties involved agreed it was the best option, adding that DECCO had agreed to assist in the cruise berthing facility development by making the work packages it had completed on the project available to the Port Authority.
“This will allow the Port Authority to progress with the project without losing time to replicate this effort; and it was acknowledged graciously by the Government and the Port Authority,” the press statement said. Port Authority Chairman Stefan Baraud expressed the importance of getting the completed work packages handed over.
“DECCO’s commitment to the country, and willingness to make completed work available to us as we go forward will go a long way to making this much needed infrastructure improvement a reality sooner, rather than later.”
The government called the GLF/Royal Construction “a credible team with many years of combined experience and expertise in developing marine related projects throughout the world”.
GLF Construction in the United States has built or improved numerous major bridges and seawalls. It has also built a new port in Trinidad. GLF SpA in Italy is a 105-year-old company that has completed major infrastructure projects all over the world and is now working on the project for the protection of Venice, Italy, from rising tides.
“It’s the largest marine project of all time,” said Mr. Finlason. The Jan de Nul Group does more than $2.5 billion worth of work each year and has completed such dredging projects as the Palm Islands in Dubai and the Chek Lap Kok Airport in Hong Kong. Royal Construction has worked on many local construction projects, including Morritt’s Tortuga Club and Morritt’s Grand; the new George Town Library building; Ocean Point condominiums; and phase two of the Mirco Centre.
One vital aspect of the project is the ability to secure its financing. Mr. Finlason said that would be no problem.
“The team has the capability to find the financing,” he said. “That’s in place.”
Mr. Finlason, who is secretary of the Cayman Contractors’ Association, said many jobs would be created by the upland works of the project.
“Royal is a Cayman company and we have a Cayman first policy,” he said. “We’re going to involve every Caymanian contractor and individual that we can. That’s our plan.”
The government has previously stated it wanted the cruise berthing facility completed by November 2012 to correspond with the hosting of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association conference.Mr. Finlason said the time line depended on when the main agreement was signed.
“We’re certainly going to try our best to achieve the time line that has been established,” he said. “If anyone can achieve it, it is a team like ours.”