Developer Mike Ryan has issued a notice to water sports operators and boat captains to vacate SafeHaven dock to make way for construction of a Port Authority marina at the site.
A notice in Tuesday’s Caymanian Compass stated that earthworks for the construction of the marina would begin on 13 August. The $3 million construction project is estimated to take about a year to complete.
“All existing users and water sports operators must discontinue berthing and vacate this site on or before that date and all fixtures and fittings situated on the land belonging to any user or water sports operator must be removed from this site by that date, failing which the same may be removed and disposed of by the contractor,” the notice reads.
It continued: “In the event of any person refusing to vacate the site as of the above indicated date, the landowner fully reserves its rights regarding trespass and unlawful occupation of the site, and will be constrained to take the necessary legal action to enforce the vacation of this site, in order to avoid liability for injury to such persons or their property.”
The notice said that the order was being made “in accordance with contractual arrangements with the Cayman Islands government and the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands”.
Boat captains who operate tours to Stingray City and the Sandbar from SafeHaven reacted with fury to the announcement.
No place to go
Captain Bryan Ebanks of Captain Bryan Tours said he and his fellow boat operators knew nothing about the deadline to vacate SafeHaven until they were contacted by the Caymanian Compass last week.
“We’ve been trying to meet with them (Mike Ryan and the Port Authority). We were supposed to have a meeting with them a few weeks ago to discuss this and Mike Ryan cancelled the meeting 45 minutes beforehand,” Captain Bryan said.
“They’ve been trying to get us out of there for a long time … Our concern is, if we move from the location, they will dig it up and displace us and we’ll have no place to go,” said Captain Bryan, who added that he was seeking legal advice on the matter.
Mr. Ryan said interim sites located within the SafeHaven project had been made available to the existing water sports service operations that occupy the site. Those sites are available from 28 July.
However, Captain Bryan said of the alternative berthing sites: “We have no legal right to be on someone else’s land. We have a legal right to be where we are.”
The boat captains contend that they have a right to dock at SafeHaven because it is land that was vested to the Port Authority to be held for the people of the Cayman Islands.
Currently the commercial boat operators do not pay to use the SafeHaven area, which is located on the North Sound waterfront. Boat operators have used the site for years and it has become a gateway for tourists to visit Stingray City and the Sandbar.
Silverfin Development Company, which is controlled by Mr. Ryan, released a statement Sunday, 29 July, announcing the commencement of marina construction work, which the company said was a result of 12 years of effort.
According to the statement, the developer will pay for the project, at no cost to the Port Authority, the Cayman Islands Government or the Cayman public, and the marina would be turned over to the Port Authority upon completion.
“The new marina is the result of an agreement that was negotiated between the Port Authority board, led by the then board chairman Wayne Panton and Mike Ryan, developer of The Ritz-Carlton resort [and] signed by Mr. Panton on 7 January, 2009. Since that time the project has been going through the necessary steps to comply with all government requirements, including registry and planning,” the press release continued.
“The goal is to create a first-class facility that will benefit the Port Authority, water sport operators, tourists visiting our Island and the Cayman public and enhance the experience for tourists visiting Cayman. We are excited to have overcome the challenges put in our way, and to finally be getting started on a project that will benefit all of Cayman,” Mr. Ryan said.
Mr. Panton, the former Port Authority board chairman, described the order to vacate SafeHaven as “heavy-handed”.
He said the current proposal appeared to involve the excavation and removal of the peninsula from where the operators carry out their businesses and “once that is done there is absolutely no guarantee or safeguard that the marina will in fact be built. The operators are concerned that once the peninsula is removed neither government nor the Port Authority will have any leverage to ensure that Mr. Ryan’s obligation to complete the marina will be met”.
He called on Premier McKeeva Bush to “act in the best interests of this group of his constituents and to address their valid and reasonable concerns to their satisfaction instead of ignoring them and letting them be subjected to strong-arm tactics”.
Mr. Ryan said the new marina would be a “badly needed boost” to the Cayman Islands tourism product and image, and would provide a public boat ramp and car/trailer parking, day mooring access to the North Sound, free sewer pump out facility, picnic areas, restroom facilities and landscaped gathering space for public events. The site would also include bus drop off/pick up areas and shade/rain shelters for customers as well as a new Port Authority satellite office to help manage the facility and service associated public needs.
Once the marina is completed, the Port Authority would designate the usage of the 20-slip dock facility to water sports operators, according to the developer.
Mr. Ryan said local labour and companies would work on the project and that locally owned company Equipment Ltd. had already been awarded the site excavation work, which would take approximately six months.
“Our goal is to maximise the use of local companies and manpower,” said Mr. Ryan. He said other locally owned companies, including Associated Industries Limited and M.W. Construction have been engaged in the initial pre-construction work.
Mr. Ryan’s Dragon Bay development agreement included an undertaking by the developer to construct a new marina and associated facilities for the Port Authority to replace the existing marina as part of a land swap.
John Henry Ebanks, chairman of the board of the Port Authority, said he had no comment to make on the order to vacate the site issued by the developer.