China Harbour Engineering Company has said that as part of the planned berthing project it would look at leasing the upland aspect of the project for a period of ‘49 or 51 years’.
“There is no guaranteed payback,” said China Harbour Business Adviser Bindley Sangster, “We have to make it work … the risk [we are taking] is that people still want to come to Cayman.”
Mr. Sangster was speaking to a nine-member delegation of private and public sector individuals from the Cayman Islands who were on a site visit to projects in Jamaica undertaken by the company.
“The Chinese government has changed the way it views projects now … the China Harbour Engineering Company can now do loan arrangements as well as investment-type projects. [We] are exploring possibilities of concessions from the Cayman Islands to operate the upland aspect of the project.” He added some of the return would come from rent paid by properties operating on the upland side and some may come from head tax to be negotiated with the government.
During a special presentation at the company’s Kingston headquarters, Mr. Sangster also revealed that the latest iteration of the planned Cayman cruise berthing project would include extending the cargo pier by about 200 feet. He said they did not want to impact Eden Rock by extending too far out and constricting that channel.
He added the company had been presenting plans to government, the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands and the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association on a regular basis and that it was waiting for feedback.
Marina and tenders
He revealed the plan – which has space for four Genesis-class ships at berth – would incorporate a marina plus room for several tender boats, which would still be necessary for times when there were more than four ships in port.
Part of the latest iteration of the port concept, said Mr. Sangster, is a double-layer transportation area. Passengers would disembark at the 22 foot upper level and then move downstairs to be marshalled to transportation. The level would slope down to street level externally. This would address a concern of the cruise association that the space available for transportation would not be adequate, he said.
Mr. Sangster said the company would be happy to discuss traffic plans in George Town as part of any planned port development.
“We would be happy to put up the money if a repayment plan could be arranged,” he said.
He said the company had suggested the North Terminal no longer be used for passenger traffic but cargo be brought there rather than through town. But he warned there needed to be real planning done in order to alleviate any traffic issues.
“You have a road authority there and we will work with them. We have made some proposals in terms of rerouting in order to reduce congestion. We are anticipating that they may related to suggestions for development of handling traffic and a long term plan. But it would be counterproductive to only focus on the road just in front of the new port – this has to be done in a larger context.
“There is a Jamaican saying – you don’t dig a hole to fill a hole. The planning of down town George Town has to be done to take now into account and development plans over the next 20 to 25 years. We are not trying to come with a concept which will be perceived as a solution to the road problem. [Cayman] has to deal with that and integrate this development into that, [rather than vice versa],” Mr. Sangster said.
The Cayman delegation, which included members of the Chamber of Commerce and government, visited the Palisadoes Shoreline Projection and Rehabilitation Works Site, the Christiana Development Road site and Rio Grande Bridge project, all of which had technology mirroring that which may be used in the planned Cayman port project.
Ellio Solomon was already in Jamaica on business and joined the delegation for the Rio Grande element of the visit. Mr. Solomon told the Compass he had been impressed with the work and the company.
“I thought the meeting between Chamber of Commerce and China Harbour went very well and some good questions were being raised; some of the concerns are shared by the government. For example, when China Harbour potentially come here to do work will they be utilising local workforce and trying to help to boost the local economy. I think they were adequately addressed.”
China Harbour said two thirds of the workforce was local plus they utilised local subcontractors. Chinese workers made up the other third and included specialists and project managers.
Mr. Solomon said he was impressed with the quality of the work.
“Without a doubt China Harbour has the ability to do the work. We were impressed because this technology is the same as will be used in Cayman as well, irrespective of who is actually doing the work.
“We want to be in a position by the end of the year we have something signed and are ready to get some cement and steel in there.”
Mr. Sangster said that the visit had been fruitful for the China Harbour Company.
“We were delighted that the Cayman Islands accepted our invitation and happy they had the opportunity to get to know China Harbour. We wanted [the delegation] to see what was going on with our projects on an independent level … the whole exercise has been a very positive one.”
He said that as countries developed, infrastructure became more critical and that the port project could potentially be the first step in a wider relationship.
“If we can show [Cayman] at the start of the development curve that we are the partner that it wants to work with, then when you do the billion dollar projects we hope you will not look anywhere else.”