After months of delays, the government hopes construction on the cruise berthing facility in George Town starts by the end of the year.
Speaking Wednesday from Puerto Rico where he was attending the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association Conference, Premier McKeeva Bush said he has seen the draft definitive agreement between the government and China Harbour Engineering Company and he hoped the final agreement can get signed sometime in November, after the matter is approved by Cabinet.
“Hopefully they will be able to start construction in December,” he said.
Mr. Bush said China Harbour didn’t have to start from scratch in its efforts to build the cruise berthing facility because it had purchased various preliminary work documents from DECCO Ltd, the Dart Group company that was at one time in line to build the project.
Improvements to the Spotts dock, which is used as an alternative landing for cruise ship passengers during inclement weather, will also start after the definitive agreement is signed. Mr. Bush said China Harbour had engaged Danny Owens of OA+D Architects with respect to improvements to the Spotts Jetty and that he would soon make an application to the Planning Department for the construction work.
Initially, Mr. Bush announced $3 million worth of improvements to the Spots Jetty would begin by 15 July this year, in advance of a definitive agreement being signed. However, after the Auditor General’s Office announced plans to look into that arrangement, Mr. Bush said he instructed China Harbour to hold off on doing anything until the definitive agreement was finalised.
“They’re not going to do one without the other,” he said Wednesday.
Little is known locally about the China Harbour Engineering Company, other than it is owned by the Chinese government. Efforts to make contact with the principals of its Cayman operations have so far been unsuccessful. Although its corporate website lists contacts for 30 of its overseas offices, the Cayman Islands is not listed.
Mr. Bush said China Harbour was now in the process of establishing offices in Cayman and had purposely not sought a lot of publicity, partially because of the “hostile environment” here.
“They are reading the hostility in the media playing it with a low profile right now,” he said.
Mr. Bush said he had been in Puerto Rico since Sunday and had already met with officials from the FCCA, and was meeting with them again on Wednesday. He said the FCCA officials had asked about the situation with the cruise berthing facility.
“They’re disappointed,” he said, adding that several initiatives dating back to 2003 to build the cruise berthing facility have all been stopped for one reason or another. “They’re concerned that we still don’t have a cruise ship dock.”
Without a cruise berthing facility, Cayman’s cruise passenger arrivals have dropped of significantly this year. Arrival numbers in June, July and August were all the lowest in 10 years. The drop off is largely due to Royal Caribbean International replacing some of its Caribbean fleet with two Oasis Class ships, These ships – Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas – carry more than 6,000 passengers and crew, too many, the cruise line says, to disembark by tender.
In an analysis provided to the Cayman Compass, Grand Cayman loses nearly US$1 million in spending for every missed call of a Oasis Class ship. This calculation is based on 85 per cent of the passengers disembarking and spending and average $193.22 each, the US Virgin Islands average for passengers from these ships. Over the course of a 30-week calling season, this would amount to US$59 million of spending lost for both Oasis class ships bypassing Grand Cayman.