While finger-pointing and confusion continue to dominate public conversation about failed attempts to bring a cruise berthing facility to George Town, behind the scenes a team of civil servants and consultants have been laying the groundwork for proper procurement of the cruise port.
On Friday, the Cayman Islands Government released the Cruise Berthing Steering Committee’s Strategic Outline Case for a Cruise Berthing Facility. The publication of the document, which Tourism and Development Minister Cline Glidden alluded to in a press briefing Thursday, 2 May, coincides with the government’s request for proposals to create a business plan for the cruise port project.
Following the business plan, the project would then be put out to bid to contractors to actually build the port.
Dated 30 April, the strategic outline case was created in response to a policy directive issued by government 5 March.
As its name implies, the strategic outline case sets out basic parameters for the cruise berthing project and is the first step in the “pre-procurement stage” in the project’s timeline.
The strategic outline case, signed by chief officer Stran Bodden, does not dictate project specifics such as the number of cruise piers, what to do with the cargo port, timeframes for development, the cost of the project, or compensation amounts for the developer.
The strategic outline case does state the project will be located in George Town harbour, will include improvements to the existing Spotts facility and will require a public-private partnership. The Port Authority of the Cayman Islands will retain operational responsibility over the new cruise facility.
“The project will include dredging of the George Town harbour and the construction of berthing pier(s) to facilitate cruise vessels. The exact number and size of piers will be determined as part of a substantive business case and is beyond the scope of this document,” according to the strategic outline case.
“The project is presently only viable as a Public Private Partnership due to the Government’s inability to do conventional borrowing,” according to the document.
The strategic outline case notes potential negative impacts to tender operators (who ferry cruise passengers to and from shore), the marine and coastal environment and transportation infrastructure. It also takes into account unpredictable repercussions of the upcoming election.
“The proposed cruise berthing facility has the broad support of the known political parties, and independent members and groups. Nonetheless, local elections are due in the Cayman Islands on 22nd May, 2013, and this does bring an element of uncertainty in relation to the future political directorate that will emerge. The proposed facility will likely have not progressed through a procurement stage at the point in time of the national vote; therefore, the current policy direction relating to the project will be subject to change,” according to the document.
According to the strategic outline case, a cruise “berthing facility will drastically reduce the level of business for existing tender operators,” perhaps causing those companies to fold. A loss of tender capability may have serious consequences when there are too many cruise ships to be accommodated by piers, or when the local cruise industry is attempting to resume following a major hurricane.
The document states, “The possibility of having a negative impact on the marine and nearby coastal environment is high, if the appropriate mitigation measures are not taken through conducting a full environmental impact assessment.”
A berthing facility would allow for a significantly higher number of cruise visitors to disembark into George Town in a relatively short period of time. That requires consideration of physical infrastructure, as well as the social behaviour of the country’s commuters.
The document lists eight possible scenarios in the context of the cruise port project, including “no change”; upgrading existing facilities; developing one pier; developing two piers in phases; developing two piers in phases and moving the cargo port at a future date; developing two piers at once; developing two piers at once and moving the cargo point at a future date; and moving the cargo port now to have the full location available for cruise berthing.
The cruise berthing steering committee includes chief officer Bodden, Port Authority Director Paul Hurlston, Deputy Accountant General Ronnie Dunn, Public Works Department Director Max Jones, government consultant Jim Scott, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office consultant Nigel Hearnden, and other representatives from the attorney general, Department of Environment, auditor general and Internal Audit Unit.
Mr. Hearnden previously signed a report dated 31 January and titled, “Cayman Islands – Proposed Cruise Terminal Development Procurement Life Cycle”, that laid out a deliberative process for Cayman’s government to follow when procuring the cruise facility. In a departure from previous local practice, the report stated that a civil servant (in this case Mr. Bodden), rather than a politician, should act as the government’s point man on cruise berthing negotiations.