Dredging major factor for docks

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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.” 

red bay cruise berthing cayman islands

Rendering of the proposed Red Bay cruise berthing facility, looking west. – Image: Submitted


  1. there is no doubt this island needs this facility but as a resident of south sound I love driving along and seeing nothing but blue ocean thru the trees… it is hard to imagine a little city of monster ships obstructing that view… then add on top of that the vehicle and foot traffic.

    Wasn’t there once a proposal to have a cruiseship facility in WB (where WB road meets NW point road – where the dock and boat ramp is??

  2. They should make it in south sound. Period.

    The problem is. The certain individual who is proposing the red bay area, would make no money. You see, sound sound area, where the government wants it. Is government owned.

    Red pay is privately owned.

    The real problem is, one person benefits, over everyone benefitting.

    Red bay area, one or a few persons benefit. Eventually, jobs will be created, and many more benefit. But ultimately, it’s only a few who benefit.

    If it’s done on government land, everyone benefits. Forever. Because the money going into the government coffers, will be used to develop the island, across the entire island, and help it’s people. Things like healthcare, welfare, and much more things.

  3. If cruise berthing has to come then Red Bay might be the best place for cruise. It would be a safe harbour, the reefs in this area are not that great after Ivan, still close to Georgetown and dredging in Georgetown is to risky as Bobby Soto pointed out, plus the issue about sand shift from Seven Mile Beach into this dredged area.

  4. Putting a dock in Redbay is utter nonsense. This is a residential area. The dock needs to stay and town and move to eye sore of a cargo dock else were like hhmmm. east end may be?

    People were up in arms about dredging a little residential canal but somehow the whole restructuring of the sound is now not so important since Ivan??

    This is crazyness

  5. I’m sorry, but am I the only one that thinks this is retarded?
    If you want to turn Cayman’s economic wheels, why don’t you try to enhance the island’s natural beauty instead of building more structurally man-made obscurities? Sorry to say folks but besides our beaches (and tax laws), we look like every other island (say it slowly for me) and if we go through with this, it’ll be adding to our non-uniqueness. What’s so bad with not having what every other island has? Why can’t we just build/recycle on what we have? Town looks like a sand trap, and the tours have to drive away from town in order for tourists to see Cayman. You know besides all of the artery clogging jewelry shops, and empty condos that block the sea view. What’s the 1st thing ppl think of when you think island? (Not the locals plz, I hear how we all obliviously think that it’s lacking something like the outside world, like versatile educational/career options for instance).
    You may think that I’m overreacting, but it only takes a pebble to make a ripple. We’ve managed to develop this country faster that any other that I know. The cowboy days we are over, but it gave way to a new breath. Please ppl take mint and savour what we have.

  6. Your attitude Mariposa, is what got Cayman into financial difficulty in the first place.

    More and more cruise ships are not docking in cayman. Due to the fact, that a new dock isn’t being built. And the ships are becoming too big to unload passengers the old way. Or did you not read last week how 7 out of 10 cruise ships passed on Cayman.

    You either keep up with the times, or get passed by. It’s as simple as that. If everyone wants to accept not having new cars, living in new homes, and homes with no air conditioning and having to using electricity sparingly. Because the jobs will go away too. Due to the fact of the money drain, because we don’t want to change with the times. Then yes, don’t change a thing. Because what is going to happen if we don’t keep up with changes.

    We will be living right under the coconut tree again. When the mosquito’s were so bad. You kept your windows shut at night. With no air conditioning. When livestock died, due to mosquito infestations. Ect ect. I could go back to wearing wampa’s….. Could you? Or the majority of others?

  7. I agree with Mariposa. So if we get the people here, but we have destroyed our reefs and beaches in the process in order to do so, what’s left? The cruise ship passengers can wander around Georgetown buying their trinkets. So they get their refrigerator magnets and shot glasses and postcards depicting beautiful scenes of Cayman beaches and coral reefs, but then they get to tell their envious friends that they did not really see the sandy beaches because they all shifted due to developers dredging the sea. They did not see the beautiful coral reefs because they were all silted up, the corals died and the fish left. Sure, the entire island won’t be affected as much as the immediate area where the powers that be decide to dredge and build a berthing facility, but what gives us the right to kill the reefs and ruin the beaches even in slightly more localized areas? We’ve got to think about the impact our actions have and their long term effects! Maybe getting a little closer to living under the coconut tree is not such a bad thing!

  8. Forget about the new dock. Why not use the money to subsidize the cost of an airline ticket to Cayman. Take 300 off a 1 week round trip ticket to Cayman. Imagine how many real tourist will come to the island spending real money on the economy. Everyone benefits resturants, supermarkets, divce shops, rentals.
    How much moeny does a cruise ship passenger spend here in one day. Must be a fraction of the amount a person staying overnight spends.

  9. A docking facility proposed to bring economic growth to the island with minimum possible effect to the environment.

    Placed in an area which would minimize obstruction to traditional natural views of the sea and island for the motoring public.

    Emphasis should be in maintaining the look and feel of
    a small developing island as opposed to overdeveloped:

    I believe, that since the North Sound is our industrial basin it would be the logical place for this heavy industry. Take the cargo docks there also..

    But’ All three locations should be assessed with the pros and cons highlighted and drilled down to one that is logical and acceptable.

    This is one project we need to get right.

    Measure twice cut once.

  10. I don’t think Cayman is ever really going to get this dilemma figured out…and if Cayman does ever get on board, it will be too late for everyone involved/effected…The cruise industry is big business as we all know, BUT if Cayman can’t get it together, those big old cruise ships are going to keep on cruising right by you…

  11. Isn’t it possible to perhaps put yourselves to good work and provide us, your readers, with information based on investigation. Allow us to form educated opinions.

    It’s an injustice to know there’s more to this project and not have the means to find out what, myself.

    As the media leader of these precious islands, shouldn’t you be concerned for the public rather than how the Government will react to publication of simple facts?

  12. You know the one thing I don’t understand is what is the big difference between this and that East End Port Idea, it seems to me that in any case there will be high potential for the environment to be impacted negatively….But it seems to me that quarrying inland in a area were the water is already deep would have less of an impact on the marine environment than dredging the seafloor.

    This may sound crazy but has anyone thought about bringing the dock out to the ships instead of trying so hard to bring the ship closer to land, I would think there are ways to build a dock farther out to where the water is deeper. If people can build a bridge from Florida to the Keys on pylons or Oil rig in the middle of the ocean surely they should be build a dock out to where the water is deep enough unless selling the fill is an imperative part of the deal.

    I think everyone is on the same page that this is something Cayman needs, maybe the answer lays with thinking outside of the box..

    These are just opinions and food for thought and not at all meant to be a blow to Caymanian Innovation or ability.

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