This week marked one year since a memorandum of
understanding was signed with China Harbour Engineering Company to develop a
cruise berthing facility in George Town.
In the entire year, not a spoonful of dirt has been moved on
site and as far as the public knows, little of real substance has been done
behind the scenes to move the project ahead.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been a lot of news concerning
the project, but unfortunately the news has all centred around things like the
Foreign and Commonwealth Office stating that the procurement process that chose
China Harbour was unacceptable, various nongovernmental entities like George
Town’s merchants and the Cayman Contractors Association opposing the choice of
China Harbour, and several international press releases that call into question
China Harbour’s business practices.
We have to wonder why China Harbour has been given so much
leeway when the previous company that had been tapped to develop the port
project – GLF Construction – was given a scant four months before it was
terminated. What makes this question even more pertinent is that in those short
four months, GLF took elements of the project farther than any of the other
four entities that had been chosen to develop the port at some time since 2004.
It is true that what China Harbour is proposing far exceeds
what GLF or any of the other entities were going to do, but since the expansion
of scope wasn’t discussed with the others, it’s impossible to say whether they
would have agreed to wider scope. We do know that after China Harbour was
engaged and the wider scope was announced, GLF said it was open to taking on a
In addition, since China Harbour has become involved, the
goalposts have been moved forward; stipulations that applied to GLF and, before
it, DECCO no longer apply with regard to China Harbour.
No matter how one looks at all of this, given the dire need
to move this vital project ahead, the choice of China Harbour has been nothing
short of a debacle for the current government and the Cayman Islands. We wonder
how much longer it must continue.