Although government’s bid process for the George Town cruise ship berthing facility just got under way, new Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell has just set a few general guidelines for the project.
“We support it as what it is, a berth for a cruise ship,” Mr. Kirkconnell, who is also the deputy premier for the Progressives party government, said Tuesday. “We don’t support upland development; we support the rebuilding and rebranding of George Town itself as a cultural centre for this country and we believe that the cruise pier will only add to that because of the numbers it will bring.”
Mr. Kirkconnell’s position, albeit given in the early days of the new administration, is something of a departure from previous proposals the Cayman Islands government had entertained for the new cruise dock.
Both China Harbour Engineering Company and GLF Construction had proposed at least some retail development onshore as part of the cruise pier project, some or all of which was to be done by local partners, depending on the plan.
Right now, the cruise proposal is in the early days with government simply seeking proposals for a business case. Mr. Kirkconnell said his ministry would continue the efforts of the People’s National Alliance government in that regard.
“The important thing here is that the government itself has taken a decision to have a business case done,” he said. “This is not a private group that wants to build a pier, the government is taking a decision to look at what is needed for this country rather than somebody coming in and saying ‘we have a cruise vessel that’s going to bring 5,000 people, so we need to build a certain kind of pier for that’.”
The strategic outline case was created in response to a policy directive issued by the former government in March. The outline sets 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 – who remains chief officer under Mr. Kirkconnell’s ministry – does not dictate project specifics such as the number of cruise piers, what to do with the cargo port, a time schedule for development, the cost of the project or compensation amounts for the developer.
The outline case does place the project will be located in George Town harbour and will include improvements to the existing Spotts cruise facility. The deal will require a public-private partnership with the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands retaining 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.”
Former Tourism Minister Cline Glidden Jr. said it was his hope that a contract for the construction of the new cruise terminal in George Town could be signed by October. However, government’s former project manager on the China Harbour port project, Alastair Paterson, gave no such hopeful timeline following the termination of talks with China Harbour earlier this year.
Mr. Paterson warned in April that it could be another year before the cruise berthing project breaks ground. He said the consultants hired to do the business case for government would be essentially repeating work that had already been done.
There seemed to be little the Cayman Islands might do to avoid undertaking the full bidding process as prescribed by the UK.
Port expansion talks with China Harbour were abandoned last November after Mark Simmonds, the UK’s minister for overseas territories, essentially scuttled the proposal, citing concerns about the lack of a proper bidding process involved in the selection of the Chinese government-owned construction company.