Firm ‘deeply disappointed’ over port talks ending
The Chinese government-owned company that has been in negotiations with the Cayman Islands over a proposed cruise berthing facility in George Town said Wednesday that it is “deeply disappointed” at a turn of events that caused the Cayman government to abandon those talks.
Premier McKeeva Bush said Tuesday that “no reasonable person” could say that the port selection process, which seeks to install a cruise ship berthing facility for larger cruise liners to direct dock in George Town harbour, has not been fair and open. The government has been in exclusive negotiations with China Harbour on the deal for a number of months following the termination of previous talks on port development with an Italian firm.
“However, we are told by the UK that it is the specific type of [bidding] process that matters, not the outcome,” Mr. Bush said. “We have been stymied unless we follow their prescribed approach to the letter.”
Mr. Bush apologised to the China Harbour Engineering Company, with which the Cayman government had been negotiating for a number of months on the cruise port deal.
Regional Director of China Harbour Engineering Tang Zhongdong said the company “is respectful of the authority of the UK” to require a specific type of process be pursued for development of the George Town cruise terminal project. However, Mr. Tang said China Harbour feels “the history of its involvement and cost have not been fully considered”.
Mr. Tang said China Harbour, which had expressed interest in the port project as early as 2009, was not given an opportunity to participate in a tender negotiation process and that it only became involved in the talks after negotiations under the earlier bidding process were ended.
“It is not unusual, under procurement processes, for direct negotiations to follow with an entity where a tender process does not produce a satisfactory result,” a statement issued on behalf of China Harbour read.
A framework agreement for the port project was executed in March between China Harbour and the Cayman Islands government, Mr. Tang said.
“In preparation for, and arising from, the framework agreement [China Harbour] has spent a vast sum of money to pursue site visits, design works, geotechnical evaluation, financing options and other preliminary matters associated with the port project,” the statement read. “[China Harbour] also incurred significant expenses developing a detailed design for marine and other upgrade works at Spotts Dock.”
China Harbour officials did not state any specific amounts in referring to a “vast sum of money” being spent.
The firm also pointed out that some proprietary commercial data related to the project was shared with the Cayman Islands which the firm would oppose the use of by any other company that might be hired in the future for port development.
“[China Harbour] is… requesting that the Cayman Islands government takes all such steps as may be required to prevent the use of the data by any person, entity or official without CHEC’s consent,” the company’s statement read.
The company also expressed concerns that further delays in the port development project will increase costs and potentially harm Cayman’s cruise ship business and the “general economic prospects” of the Cayman Islands.
“[China Harbour] is of the view that the most equitable way to move forward in this matter is for discussions to be held among the Cayman Islands government, [China Harbour] and all relevant authorities who share concerns to remove any doubt that [China Harbour’s] proposal would deliver value for money to the people of the Cayman Islands,” the statement read.