Simulation success pushes project forward
The cruise berthing project has taken a major step forward after a successful series of 3D simulations at a world-class facility.
Premier McKeeva Bush joined developers GLF, Royal Construction, and representatives of the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands at Fort Lauderdale’s Simulation, Training, Assessment and Research Center on Thursday, 18 February.
The simulation, which was paid for by the developers, took place on the STAR center’s state-of the art mock-up of a cruise ship’s bridge.
It includes the same equipment as a commercial vessel and is set up to control the ship’s relative position to 3D images of real-life surroundings of the approach to George Town projected onto several surrounding screens, allowing the testing of a cruise port in as close to real-world conditions as possible.
The Premier said that the experience had “put it into real life”.
“It made me see exactly how it’s going to work; [we have been] sitting there with a plan in hand, trying to envision how it is going to work – this has shown the reality of what will take place,” said Mr. Bush.
The proposed design by GLF Construction showed two finger piers at the north and south sides of the Royal Watler and cargo port area, pointing to the northwest at around 121 degrees of compass orientation.
The simulation showed reclaimed land extending to the north and west, dredging to 36 feet protected by a breakwater and an extension of the current cargo pier to provide a southern breakwater to dissipate wave energy and protect the shoreline.
The simulation ran for two days on 12 and 13 February by experienced cruise ship captains from Royal Caribbean and Carnival under various weather and sea conditions and with different classes of cruise ships.
They made suggestions and were pleased with the results, said GLF. The STAR center will provide a detailed report to the developers once all data has been collated.
MLA Cline Glidden, chairman of the Ministerial Council for Tourism and Development, was pleased with the process.
“The users and the customers of that facility are the cruise lines, but they are not going to bring in their ships or invest their money if they are not satisfied… [this shows that] the facility will work and it will work for their ships in the various weather conditions that you can simulate.
“And so now you can have buy-in from the [cruise] lines, who have always expressed an interest but from a technical standpoint it had to be acceptable to them.
This was the only way of ensuring that. We have seen plans before, but what we haven’t done is seen something functioning that has been tried and tested… so this is a major step.”
Stefan Baraud of the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands called it a significant moment and said he was “elated”. Serious discussions with cruise lines would be the next stage, he said.
“It also underlines the seriousness and intent on our part in wanting to move this project forward. We are all re-energised and fully committed to the project and it was good to see the Premier there and to see his enthusiasm for it,” said Mr. Baraud.
Mr. Bush explained that talks were under way between the government and the developers geared toward signing a main agreement that would enable work to begin.
“We have a deadline of the end of March to provide certain information and certain parameters that the contractors and developer must reach. That’s the time frame they have to prove to us that they can actually do the job.”
Should all be acceptable, construction work could begin in June, he added.
Mr. Glidden acknowledged that there have been numerous questions regarding Environmental Impact Assessments since the announcement of the cruise berthing project, but that up until now there had not been sufficient data to embark on the process.
“Doing an EIA and not having a design is pretty useless because [you need] the direction of the pier, the exact location of the pier, the distance of the pier and the width of the pier… [but after the simulation of GLF’s design] now you know how far out it’s coming, how wide it is, the dredging – [the developers must] satisfy us now that it’s not going to be detrimental.
“Government would have to be satisfied with the studies, but it is up to the developer to come up with a reputable plan and a company that has done it [previously],” said Mr. Glidden.
Mr. Bush added that the government’s main concern was with the dredging aspect and how any construction might affect the movement of sand, currents and Seven Mile Beach.
He said that the new berthing would inevitably impact diving in the immediate development area.
“The port is the port and though we have to minimise damage as much as possible, if we are going to be a port and plan for the future we cannot be a dive site also.
“We have coexisted for many years, but the port is the port of the Cayman Islands and for more reasons than one there would be security [and safety] concerns now more than ever.
That’s something even the foreign office is concerned about – maritime security. So having a dive site in the middle of the port will not be feasible.”