Independent MLA Ezzard Miller said Tuesday that he is not convinced any aspects of the proposed East End seaport development project were real, except for the developer’s determination to quarry the site and sell the fill for profit.
The North Side representative’s comments were made at a meeting held at the Craddock Ebanks Civic Centre to discuss the planned seaport,
Mr. Miller told the audience of about 80 people that he had refrained from commenting until he met with the developer, listened and asked questions. Through that process he concluded the seaport was not a project he could support or allow to happen.
He said he had asked if the developer, Joseph Imparato, would be prepared to put up a bond for $350 million in case something happened halfway through the project and it was not completed.
“He made it manifestly clear he was not prepared to do that because he could assure me it would be successful,” Mr. Miller said.
He encouraged people to go onto the project’s website and study it. After the developer digs the hole and sells the rock he then expects to invite investors, Mr. Miller said.
He referred to ads in the Caymanian Compass explaining the port proposal. What was missing, he said, were any statistics about the usage of present port facilities. The information he had was that the port is now being used at 30 per cent of its capacity and the average growth of use was one per cent per year, so the country had at least 40 to 50 years of usage of the George town port.
The North Side representative said he asked if Mr. Imparato had partners in the shipping business or any commitment from a cruise line.
Mr. Miller said he was told: “Once you build it they will come.”
The MLA said he was also concerned that the developer did not have a business plan to show how the port wold be successfully operated. He did not see any likelihood of the port being used as a cruise ship home port, partly because the cost of passengers’ airfare to get here would be almost as much as the cruise. He did not accept a cruise ship’s presence as a job opportunity for Caymanians, since cleaning the ship was a job for the ship’s crew. There were also issues with security, waste disposal and transporting supplies for the ship.
Use of the port as a transhipment centre was not realistic either, Mr. Miller said, because the area was too small.
Hydrocarbon storage as another feature of the project was just another name for storing gasoline and diesel, he said. Getting fuel to CUC would mean building a pipeline from East End to George Town with the inherent dangers of leakage.
The North Side MLA also referred to physical danger. He asserted that the threat of salt water intrusion into the middle of Grand Cayman is greater than the developer said. Once a storm surge comes over the ridge in East End, it’s coming to North Side, Mr. Miller predicted. That would affect the Botanic Park and the land where the blue iguanas are being released, he said.
Mr. Miller and East End MLA Arden McLean said they could not stop the proposed port project by themselves. But both indicated that if government has publicly committed itself to the project and they could not get the governor to stop it, they were prepared to go to London.
“We have to put up a human barrier to stop this project,” Mr. Miller said, adding that the day government brings the legislation for the port local representatives will need everyone on the steps of the Legislative Assembly Building:.
Mr. McLean spoke briefly about the environmental impact assessment process. He said people had a right to object to the project as much as they had a right to support it, once they knew the facts, but there were too many things not known. He said he was not in North Side to drum up any civil disobedience: “But if that is what it takes, that is what we will have to do.”
The biggest round of applause went to North Sider Ashton Smith, 89, who is a veteran of World War II.
“I stand firm that this thing shall not go through,” Mr. Smith said. He said people had to take care of the farmland in East End and North Side. He pointed to the height of the land in Savannah and how storm water washes over the Island from the south into North Sound.
“Don’t let those people with those dollars blind your eyes,” he said.
Bo Miller endorsed the comments about transhipment ports and said Cayman was now beholden to this type of project because past governments had not saved any money during the prosperous years.
Other members of the audience expressed concerns, with one man fearing that Caymanians were losing their country and this was just the beginning. Copies of a petition to the Governor, Premier and Cabinet asking that the project not be supported are being circulated throughout Grand Cayman, the MLAs said. Mr. Miller explained the petition forms will be labelled so that residents who are not registered voters can sign as well as registered voters.