Dredging on a massive scale would be required to bring about a cruise ship docking facility in Red Bay, architect Burns Conolly said. However, the amount of dredging needed to create cruise berthing in George Town Harbour has been thus far understated, Mr. Conolly said Wednesday during an informational session at the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce headquarters.
South Sound dredge
Using a drawing of the facility plans as a guide, Mr. Conolly estimated that the area in South Sound to be dredged to 40 feet would be about 5,000 feet by 2,000 feet. That works out to 10 million square feet, or nearly 230 acres. Additionally, the Red Bay facility would require a 600-foot wide channel cut through the reef.
Mr. Conolly said the dredging would create about 12.5 million cubic yards of fill, netting some $50 million to $60 million for the project – assuming developers could find buyers for all of the fill.
That is a tremendous amount of fill and far more than is used in Grand Cayman during a period of several years. If every one of the major national infrastructure projects on the table (including the Owen Roberts International Airport expansion) used fill generated by the South Sound dredging, that would account for some 60 to 70 per cent of the fill created, Mr. Conolly said.
Nevertheless, even without being able to sell the fill, the Red Bay project is potentially less costly than the George Town berthing project being discussed with China Harbour Engineering Company, Mr. Conolly said.
Estimates of the cost of constructing the George Town cruise port in various iterations have ranged from US$141 million (for GLF’s proposal) to US$300 million (for DECCO’s proposal).
“Even if we take it and dump it off the drop off, all 12.5 million yards, except what we’re using for here and the roads – this is likely to be cheaper than $300 million,” Mr. Conolly said.
George Town dredge
Mr. Conolly said plans he has seen of the George Town facility call for dredging to a depth of 35 feet – inadequate for Oasis-class cruise ships, which have a draft of 32 feet.
“We are positive they won’t put here in three feet of water. The dredging of downtown will be greater than is currently shown,” he said.
Mr. Conolly said the environmental impact of either the Red Bay or George Town plan would be significant, but on balance he said the Red Bay plan is better for the environment.
Diving entrepreneur Bob Soto warned against dredging George Town Harbour and bringing deep water closer to shore.
“If you dredge 40 feet of water to the shoreline, the sea is going to go down to the Legislative Assembly, and it’s going to have a word with the politicians when they’re going to their meetings,” he said.
“Red Bay’s a safe place. It’s a contained area, and I am in favour of Red Bay. I would rather not see any ships come here at all if you were going to build two piers in George Town and dredge it and destroy that reef,” Mr. Soto said.
Fair shake for Red Bay
Mr. Conolly repeatedly said Red Bay proponents’ contention is that government conduct equivalent studies of both proposals before embarking upon the biggest capital project in Cayman’s history.
Red Bay cruise plans have been sent to Governor Duncan Taylor, all the members of the Legislative Assembly and to China Harbour, Mr. Conolly said. He said the Red Bay alliance of local sea captains has also sent a request to the ruling United Democratic Party caucus to show the Red Bay proposal, to which the UDP has not replied.
Chamber of Commerce President David Kirkaldy said Wednesday was the first opportunity for the Chamber and the infrastructure subcommittee of its Future of Cayman initiative to view the Red Bay proposal. Before the presentation, Mr. Kirkaldy said that, regardless of people’s positions on cruise berthing, “We all can agree that we need something to get Cayman’s economic wheels turning.”
In the week since the first public presentation of the Red Bay proposal at Seafarers’ Hall 6 December, proponents have received word that there is the potential for a local consortium to come together to design, fund and build the Red Bay facility, rather than bringing in China Harbour, Mr. Conolly said.
He said Red Bay supporters have sent the proposal to individual cruise companies, as well as the individual captains of the cruise ships.
“Basically it doesn’t matter where management wants to put one of these ships. If the chief captain doesn’t want it there, it doesn’t go there,” Mr. Conolly said. “And we have started getting feedback from the captains here, and they actually like Red Bay.”