Captains who moor their boats in SafeHaven said they intend to fight an eviction order to remove them from the land and said they will not move out by the 13 August deadline.
On Tuesday, developer Michael Ryan issued a notice for the boat operators to vacate the SafeHaven dock to make way for construction of a Port Authority marina where the boat owners could relocate once the new facility is built.
Captain Bryan Ebanks said he and other boat captains were planning to continue to occupy the site on and after 13 August, when work on the construction of the marina is expected to begin.
The captains fear that if they move from the site, without any written agreements that will guarantee they can remain at the interim sites at which Mr. Ryan has said they can dock while the new marina is being built, they will find themselves without a home for their boating operations.
“If we move without any paper in our hand that guarantees that the land owner is responsible to have us remain there until the marina is finished, we have nothing. The land owner can evict us as soon as he wants,” said Captain Bryan.
The boat captains said they understood that the land they would be moving to for the interim was land owned by Dart.
“How long will we be able to stay [there] if Mr. Ryan fails to complete this long-awaited marina?” asked Captain Bryan.
He said he and the other captains were concerned that if they move off the land, it will be excavated and that fill will not ultimately be used for the marina, leaving their businesses homeless and with no new Port Authority marina into which to move.
The captains met Wednesday with North Side MLA Ezzard Miller and East End MLA Arden McLean at the SafeHaven site.
Mr. Miller advised the boat owners not to move and remain on the land, regardless of the eviction order that had been erected at the entrance of the site.
“They have to understand that when it comes time when us Caymanians will stand up for our rights,” said Mr. Miller. ““My recommendation is you don’t move. You stay here.”
The group said they only learned on Wednesday that the land on which they have been mooring their boats for years is no longer Crown or Port Authority land, but has been transferred to Mr. Ryan’s Dragon Bay development, in exchange for land the developer gave to the government on which to build the new marina.
According to Mr. McLean, who said he received information from Lands and Survey, the land was transferred to Dragon Bay in September, 2010.
The small group of boat captains at the meeting expressed surprise that the transfer had already been completed, saying they had thought they had been occupying Crown Land vested to the Port Authority for the use of the people of Cayman.
Mr. McLean and Mr. Miller said that as far as they were aware no report on the transfer of the land to the private developer had come before the Legislative Assembly since the transfer in 2010. Under the Governor (Vesting of Lands) Law, a report on any Crown Land which is sold or conveyed must be submitted to the Legislative Assembly.
Captain Bryan said the captains had received no information from the Port Authority about the transfer of the land.
“We were given permission to be here by the Port Authority. We were told that we take our instructions from the Port Authority. The Port Authority has not instructed us to do anything,” said Captain Bryan.
While the captains were still querying how Mr. Ryan could issue a notice ordering them to vacate the land, which they believed belonged to the Port Authority, Mr. McLean returned to the meeting with the information that the land actually now belonged to Mr. Ryan’s Dragon Bay company.
Mr. Ryan told the Caymanian Compass Friday that he was “simply following the letter of the contract signed with the Port Authority and the Governor of the Cayman Islands back in January of 2009”.
He explained that the land had been reparcelled so that the parcels of land in question – east and west of the Red Sail site at SafeHaven – had been completed under the Registered Land Law. “In essence, this process allows for the reconfiguration and reshaping of the adjoining parcels into newly shaped parcels,” said Mr. Ryan.
“The agreement… was negotiated between, agreed to, and signed by the Government, the Port Authority with the full involvement of the then Chairman of the Board, Mr. Wayne Panton and the proprietors of the head lease of the Ritz and Dragon Bay developments.”
Land previously belonging to Dragon Bay was transferred to the Port Authority, creating the new port parcel where the new marina will be built and the land on which the boat captains’ vessels currently dock was swapped for that parcel, becoming part of the Dragon Bay property.
“Therefore, by operation of the reparcellation process, the current berthing site is now owned by Dragon Bay Ltd., which was always agreed and understood by all of the persons who took part in the negotiations on behalf of the government and the Port Authority,” said Mr. Ryan.
He added: “It was always known to everyone involved, as it was an integral part of the agreed plan for the new marina, that the current site would have to be excavated to create the necessary fill to complete the new port marina, as part of the new port parcel has to be reclaimed from the existing waterway. Therefore it is surprising to see that many people, including those that know better, are seeking to make this sound like some sinister plot to oust the existing users of the existing site, when in fact what we are trying to do is to provide them with suitable interim berthing in order for us to do the necessary work to create the new port marina, as we are obligated to do by the agreement.”
Mr. Ryan added: “No doubt some will want to try to use this situation for their petty political purposes and agendas, but we will not be distracted from meeting our contractual obligations, and we truly believe that ultimately, despite all of the political posturing and the media hype, this project will come to fruition and will bring nothing but positive benefits for all stakeholders.”