Editorial for 6 August: Bon voyage, new port board!

Bon voyage, new port board!

The Caymanian Compass is pleased to see, among the appointments to the port authority’s new board of directors, some returning stalwarts as well as some new faces with considerable business expertise.

We welcome the appointment of one of the islands’ most experienced hands “at the helm”, so to speak – Errol Bush. Before his departure in 2001, Mr. Bush had been with the port organisation for many years, where he served loyally and ably in various posts including as managing director. Mr. Bush is known both locally and internationally for his expertise and wise counsel in all things maritime, and his new position at the head of the boardroom table speaks well for him and the future of that critically important body.

Joining Mr. Bush at that table will be Gerry Kirkconnell, who will serve as deputy director. Mr. Kirkconnell, who knows downtown commerce as well as anyone in the Cayman Islands (he heads up Kirk Freeport, the island’s largest group of high-quality retail companies), can be counted on to provide steady and informed advice on redeveloping the downtown area and the role cruise ship tourism can, and must, play in that process.

Indeed, the new port board will be tasked with weighing the costs and benefits of building a new cruise ship landing facility and, even more importantly, figuring out how to finance it out of a national treasury that, for all intents and purposes, is figuratively empty. Clearly, if the port project is to move forward, a public/private partnership will be the most likely – and possibly the only affordable – mechanism.

As reported in this newspaper Monday, June was an especially cruel month for cruise passenger arrivals in Grand Cayman. Only 61,027 tourists arrived by ship as opposed to nearly 90,000 for the same month in 2012.

Statistics like this are much more than theoretical to our downtown merchants. Too many small businesses are closing their doors, and shop owners who remain are trying to make ends meet.

While the Department of Tourism is estimating an increase in passenger arrivals to 1.8 million per year in 2014 and 2015 (up incrementally from the 1.4 million expected this year), we cannot consider those levels to be either sufficient or sustainable.

The cruise landing facilities, coupled with infrastructural improvements throughout downtown George Town, will determine the viability of this component of our tourism industry moving forward.

The port authority, under its new leadership, has a vital role to play, and we wish the new directors well.