Ex-port builder hires lawyers
The Italian construction firm that signed a negotiating agreement with the Cayman Islands late last year for the proposed building of a port berthing facility in George Town has now accused government officials of breaching the terms of that agreement.
In a statement released to the Caymanian Compass on Saturday, the Florida, USA offices of GLF indicated the company had retained a United Kingdom law firm to assist in “defending and protecting their rights and interests”.
GLF-USA Chief Executive Officer Francesco Senis said in a statement that his company “fully complied with all requirements” of a framework agreement signed with government in December.
In mid-April, Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush wrote to GLF terminating the negotiating agreement, stating concerns that the Italian company did not appear to have the financing available to complete the port berthing facility and related upland developments.
“Statements and interviews recently released by government officials relating to GLF’s failure to comply with any part of the framework agreement are not only inaccurate and misleading, but constitute a serious breach of the contractual relationship and [cause] damage to GLF’s reputation,” Mr. Senis wrote.
He indicated the UK firm of Browne Jacobson LLP had been retained for any further action the company might take.
The berthing facility would allow a certain number of cruise ships direct access to an expanded dock so their passengers would not have to use smaller tender boats to ferry from the cruise ship to the harbour.
According to GLF’s local partner, Howard Finlason of Royal Construction, the company had not sued the Cayman Islands government over the alleged breach of contract by press time. However, Mr. Finlason said he expected a lawsuit would be filed.
“GLF … has surprised us with the patience they have exhibited under very difficult circumstances,” Mr. Finlason said. “This world-class firm … spent millions on our behalf only to be thrown to the curb in a most disrespectful and unceremonious manner.”
In previous statements on the matter, Premier Bush denied that GLF would have to come off the project altogether.
Mr. Bush wrote in a 14 April letter to Mr. Senis that government appreciated the time and effort spent on the project by GLF and that it was still willing to work with the company, whose USA offices are subsidiary of Rome-based Grandi Lavori Incosit SpA.
“But you will no longer have exclusivity on the project,” Mr. Bush’s letter stated. “Should another company come through with the required design and financing, we will naturally be obliged in the interests of the public, to work with them.”
Since then, Mr. Bush has signed what he referred to as a “ministerial memorandum of understanding” with China Harbour Engineering – a Chinese government-owned company – to build not only the George Town cruise berthing facility, but another cruise facility in West Bay and improve the Spotts Jetty – where cruise ships are currently taken to anchor if seas are too rough in town.
Mr. Finlason’s company issued a news release after Mr. Bush terminated the negotiating agreement stating that GLF would be happy to construct similar facilities in West Bay and Spotts, if given the opportunity.
In April, Mr. Bush said he simply didn’t believe GLF could fund the George Town project.
“You stated that GLF Construction Corporation ‘has secured the commitment letter for the full project financing from Citibank as well as from the private equity firms’. However, in our view, this does not present proof of access to the necessary financing sufficient to warrant that the definitive agreement may be executed,” Mr. Bush wrote.
During a 25 June political rally on Public Beach the Premier was a bit more blunt while speaking to supporters.
“They said ‘we can go and get bonds, but you give us the contract first’,” Mr. Bush said. “Am I a fool-fool? We give you the contract then you go and get it? No! It don’t work that way.”
Mr. Senis wrote in Saturday’s statement that requirements for project funding, maximum utilisation of local resources, and the proposed creation of a commercial retail area to be owned and maintain by the Cayman Islands Port Authority had all been complied with according to the framework agreement signed with government.
“We can only express our disappointment that this matter has reached this point,” Mr. Finlason said.