Our tourism competitors must be laughing at Cayman’s inability to
create a cruise ship berthing facility.
Despite a stated desire that dates back more than eight years and the
proclamations of successive governments of the importance of a berthing
facility, not only does the Cayman Islands still not have one, but construction
hasn’t even started.
Now we learn that the government has extended the term of the
memorandum of understanding it has with China Harbour Engineering Company until
next March, meaning that even if – and that’s a big if the way things have gone
– a definitive agreement can be reached by that time, the Cayman Islands will
be lucky to see a functional cruise berthing facility much before the end of
It’s true that the berthing facility will become the most expensive
capital project ever undertaken in the Cayman Islands and that careful planning
is required. It is also true that the Cayman Islands is not negotiating from a
position of strength, not having the money or borrowing capability to finance
the project, thus it needs to choose an investment partner wisely.
Since investors require returns, the Cayman Islands is faced with
having to give up control of at least part of the port for a certain period of
time. Keeping that length of time to a minimum is what we expect our government
Negotiations with DECCO to build the berthing facility fell apart
because that company wanted to control the port for a period of up to 99 years,
something the current elected government felt was too long. Then the government
engaged GLF Construction Corporation and in just four months, it produced a
tangible construction and financing plan that ceding control of the port for
only 25 years.
Then Premier McKeeva Bush unceremoniously dumped GLF for China Harbour,
which expanded the scope and expense of the project significantly and says it
needs to control the port for 49 to 51 years.
The country deserves explanations as to why China Harbour was chosen
over GLF when one of the key negotiating points isn’t nearly as good as what
GLF was offering.