Minister Kirkconnell sets ground rules for cruise dock

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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. 

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Cruise ships at anchor in George Town. – PHOTO: FILE

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Mr. Kirkconnell
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9 COMMENTS

  1. Minister Kirkconnell,

    Please ensure that a full EIA is done, so that the economic, environmental and social impacts of destruction to the many nearby snorkeling reefs and wrecks are taken into consideration, including effects of storm surge and the risks to the sand on Seven Mile Beach.

    The results of the EIA must be presented to the public, before embarking on such a massive and widely impactful project. This is the wise and sensible way to proceed.

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  2. I think everyone at this point is aware that building a Cruise port in GT will mean significant environmental damage and the destruction of multiple dive sites. I guess people are just going to have to decide if it’s worth it and if some of the damage can be mitigated. People do need to listen to what the experts say instead of the rumor mill. I heard every rumor from the storm surge would reach halfway into GT after the dredging to all of the sand from Seven Mile beach would erode but I am very interested in what a proper publicized EIA would say, not the guy next door or the folks that will lose money due to the lack of need for tendering. The one thing I do know is that building a pier won’t make everyone happy. Some like the idea and want it while a lot are completely against and they all have their own reasons most of which come down to whether it will benefit them personally or not, the same thing goes for every other project on the island past, present and future..

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  3. WHO are they kidding? Another year??? Try 5 or 6, maybe more. All the government seems to want to do is to talk about it. In the meantime, we’re going to lose ALL the cruise ships to more convenient ports on other islands, and once they go, they aren’t going to get them back. By the government dragging their feet and arguing about what they want and don’t want, this project gets delayed and delayed and our store owners are suffering. And any offshoot business (like people returning to Cayman another year) year, are also affected.

    You have one chance, and one chance only, of building a state-of-the-art cruise ship terminal. Do it right. The first impression is the most important; we should build it better than any other island — we need the WOW factor here.

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  4. For those who have been on a cruise you will know what say is true. There is no comparison between boat tenders and a berthing facility. One is efficient, delivering passengers quickly and directly onshore – minimum waiting time. The other can add several hours to the loading and unloading process. I’d rather be shopping than waiting.

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  5. What really concerns me is this.

    Given the number of years we have talked about a George Town cruise ship berthing pier we have yet to see an actual Environmental Impact Assessment for this project.

    Why is that?

    To dredge a basin off of George Town will have an impact on the movement of sand along 7 mile beach. Before anything is done we must have a firm and complete understanding of what impact this project will have on the cornerstone of the tourism product of the country.

    Let have some transparency on the EIA of this project. There must be several EIAs around already.

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  6. Or here is an idea

    You make two cruise berths. one in george town and one in bodden town.

    Make it a law that no more than 3 boats may dock at any one dock.

    This will make jobs in bodden town. Decrease the amount of traffic in george town.

    And utilize the islands size, to it’s advantage.

    How many people would rather drive to bodden town from east end, than all the way to george town.

    Bodden town has the highest rate of unemployed caymanians on the entire island. And for many of them, the rate of pay is not enough to consider buying a car and having to pay gas and insurance to get a job in george town.

    you make boats land in bodden town, the jobs will come. Sure as the sun rises. Business’s will want first crack at those tourists.

    Why are we like 20 years behind with this idea?

    And you make a law that no more development goes past bodden town. That way you keep east end nice and tranquil.

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  7. I’m really glad to finally hear that we are identifying and building what Cayman needs rather than looking around for third party bidders (like CHEC) that clearly will only build what suits their needs.

    This is refreshing.

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  8. The military uses barges put together when they have to move equipment and troops on and off remote islands to ships sitting off shore. These barges are stable moveable and inexpensive. You can drive tanks etc on them. They cost about 400k per 250feet and can go up to a mile off shore if need be.
    They can be moved to safe harbor in case of a storm.
    Why does our ship birth have to cost so much?
    It seems to me that everyone thinks it must be some concrete pier that costs a fortune.
    Realise when a hurricane comes the pier will be destroyed.
    Think outside the box.

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