Floating dock offers eco-friendly pier solution

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A newly developed floating pier, pioneered in Norway, has been put forward as a potential solution to the economic and environmental challenges of building cruise berthing facilities in Grand Cayman. 

The SeaWalk, which brings the pier to the ships, has been hailed as a development that will revolutionize “ship to shore” travel for the cruise industry.  

It is currently used at two ports in Norway, and its developers say they are in discussions with 20 more ports across Europe and in the Caribbean. 

They say it can accommodate up to 6,000 passengers at a time, can be used in worse weather than tender boats can handle, and would cost less than half the price of fixed piers, with no environmental impact. 

Given the relatively short distance between the cruise ship moorings in George Town harbor and the Royal Watler dock, developers believe the walkways could be a good fit for Grand Cayman. 

“We have looked at a potential installation in the Cayman Islands for a number of years without really getting down to the nitty gritty. We have several ideas of two or three ways we could do it,” said Ole Heggheim, a partner in the company. 

“The environmental issues are very important for many ports. We think we could find a solution in the Cayman Islands that would not affect the coral reefs at all.” 

He said the best option for the Cayman Islands would likely involve up to five floating piers. Piers could be packed away in a major storm, he said, but could be built to withstand rough weather. 

“We have systems that can be used for drilling rigs in the North Sea in the middle of a winter storm,” he added. 

Cruise Critic travel website reviewed the first floating pier installation in Skjokden, Norway, in August 2012 and highlighted Grand Cayman as the port as “top of the list” of destinations where they would like to see the technology used. 

Arthur Kordt, another partner at SeaWalk, said he was keen to talk in detail to politicians on the island to see if something could be done. 

Gina Matthews, spokeswoman for the Department of Tourism, declined to comment on the specifics of SeaWalk. She said the credentials of prospective partners for the pier project would be reviewed through an official request for proposal process this year. 

“The first step in the process is to identify qualified proponents, and the request for pre-qualification is being released in January 2014. After the successful qualified proponents have been identified, the various technical issues will be addressed as the project develops,” she said 

The business case for piers, produced by PwC for the government, did not countenance a floating pier option in any of its suggested scenarios. 

The preferred option highlighted in the report was two fixed piers to be built at the current location of the Royal Watler dock for an estimated cost of between US$100 million and $200 million. 

An environmental impact assessment will be carried out on the plan, which would involve the destruction of some reef in the harbor and 626,000 cubic meters of dredging – equivalent to 250 Olympic-size swimming pools.  

Potential erosion on Seven Mile Beach and “sediment impacts” along the coast have been highlighted as initial environmental concerns in a preliminary document outlining the intended scope of the environmental impact study. 

Mr. Kordt said, “We would like to think we can find a solution for Grand Cayman that would have zero impact on the environment. We would have to put out some buoys, but that would be outside the coral reef line. 

“We got permission to install the SeaWalk at a UNESCO-protected fjord in Norway, so we are able to work in environmentally sensitive areas.” 

He said the SeaWalk provides the same level of passenger comfort as a regular pier, is accessible for disabled people, and requires only a short walk to shore. 

“The distance passengers would have to walk would be far less, for example, than in the average airport,” he added. 

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The SeaWalk floating pier system is currently used at two ports in Norway, and its developers say they are in discussions with 20 more ports across Europe and in the Caribbean.
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19 COMMENTS

  1. This proposal seems an ideal solution as it provides the required walk on walk off service without ruining the view in George Town with an unsightly concrete structure and destroying what is left of the reef in George Town. It is cheaper than a fixed dock and can be removed in the face of a major storm. Well done to whoever sourced this solution. I can’t see a single reason why Government wouldn’t leap at this option.

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  2. Now that’s what I call thinking outside of the box. However is seems more like a solution that the CIG would need to finance themselves because I’d find it hard to believe that private investors would like this option especially without any upland development.

    Getting someone to financially back the pier construction to the CIGs specifications and under their terms without upland development is going to be hard.

    But we should see soon since they promised that it will be put out to tender soon.

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  3. Anyone noticed that the dock in the display is on a flat calm lake? Not in the ocean?

    Although the west side is usually very calm, there is still always *some* wave activity and currents which will cause the ship and the floating dock to move. This will make it very difficult for people to walk without losing their balance, especially elders. It doesn’t take much side to side movement (also combined with some up and down movement) to make someone lose their balance. In the above, the ship will still have to be anchored, so will the dock and be tied to the ship. When the ship moves, so does the dock.

    And when someone hits that dock face first with a concussion and sue either the port or the cruise line for damages, who will flip the bill? And when the cruise lines tell us that the dock is unsafe and inadequate to dock their ships, who will suck up that cost for this extremely bad and unsafe idea and then pay for the right dock that should have been put in place from the get-go?

    Can we just stop with this continual ECO-BS? Docks are NOT ECO unfriendly! This just utter emotional rubbish.

    The trash going into the water is what we have to worry about. No pillars of concrete. If anything, MORE fish and coral will grow around those docks if built properly, especially in open water.

    A dock will NOT:

    – Cause beach erosion (currents do that)
    – Cause coral death (temperatures/biological organisms/pollution, etc. do) Not structures
    – Kill the nearby diving

    All these eco alarmists are only concerned with the politics of this, self importance or some other form of ideological BS.

    Do we need an environmental impact study? Sure, but it should be designed with the intention and purpose to kill development, undermine political adversaries to to feed some eco-extremist agenda.

    Just build the freaking dock already!

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  4. Hopefully environmental friendliness would be one of the most important options when this goes to tender, but this being the only option that has no environmental impact should be a no brainer. The only thing that remains would be how to pay for it. This type of new technology would also be a tourist attraction in itself.

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  5. AJ Ebanks is right on in the post. This ship sits quietly on a calm, serene LAKE, not a ripple in sight. Folks, we’re being fed a steady diet of an environmental holocaust if proper docks are built. Anything, but to build what this island’s tourism demands. Why not give every passenger little rubber floats?

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  6. We have systems that can be used for drilling rigs in the North Sea in the middle of a winter storm. AJ Ebanks, did you read the article? This is 21st century, there has got to be technology to transport passengers, other than environmentally destructive.

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  7. You are all so gullible. You’re shown a picture of a ship on a lake and an article highlighting the floating pier and wow, like it’s the greatest thing since the light bulb. There are always downsides to everything. How many islands and ports in the world have survived the building process of docking piers. The numbers mentioned of dredging the equivalent of 250 olympic swimming pools is ludicrous. Where do people get these numbers. Sound technology and a professional and experienced marine contractor could minimize the impact on the environment with proper piers and Cayman could again be a beacon for tourism. Lets not be pennywise and pound foolish.

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  8. I have to admit AJ has a good point but I wouldn’t rule it out after all how many people lose their balance on cruise ships. And I’m sure all of these things would be taken into consideration before anyone agreed to pay for it.

    Check out these websites for more info or just Google SeaWalk Pier, one thing about what AJ pointed out is that none of these seem to be on the ocean, but if they say they can do it for a drilling rig, they must have an idea for Cayman, on any account I’d like to see what they have to offer before dismissing it.

    http://www.seawalk.no/
    http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/captain-greybeard/2013/03/seawalk-pier-for-geiranger.html

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  9. Assuming the cost benefit analysis warrants along with the product manufacturer stating that it maintains comfortable operation in 3-6′ swells, the most logical solution is to give them an opportunity to prove it.

    And the most logical way to accomplish that is to enter into a 1-2 year lease with them. If it does not work under those conditions then we walk away. I would suspect that the costs of the lease would be quite reasonable being the company would be more than keen to ensure it did work so they can sell their product many times over. Their reputational risk would be great.

    And I am sure that the cost of the lease would likely be no more than the many assessments that have already been performed and the several that still need to be performed.

    Either way if the cost savings are large, environmental damage minimal, and the potential damage during a large storm vs having a fixed dock trying to repel the sea (which we all know is a losing battle anyway), then we owe it to ourselves to seriously give this option a decent consideration.

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  10. I completely agree with Paul, we shouldn’t just dismiss this with giving it due consideration. I find it hard to believe that the manufacturer would put this out there unless they were sure it would work. We still need to see what the financing options would be since Cayman cannot borrow the money to pay for it and I find it highly unlikely that any private investor would be willing to pay for this type of solution. It would be a plus if they were willing to offer financing themselves. I can’t wait to see the results of the Tender. Hopefully we will get to see them all and not just the one selected, that would be transparent.

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  11. Anyone who wants to know what is like to walk on a floating dock should go to Kaibo.
    Go right to the end and wait for a boat to go by kicking up some wake.
    Now imagine a 3-4 foot wave and you’ll get the idea.
    This proposal would be great for a lake or other calm waters, but not for cruise ship passengers with varying degrees of mobility.
    Here’s a better idea. Just get a couple more tender boats. If there was less of a delay between boats there would be no queue on land or when leaving the ship.

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  12. Well, I am pleased to see someone has had the fortitude to run with one of my ideas. For more information please contact me directly. Thank you. (refer to earlier publications)
    Don Fillmore
    Carapace Solutions
    Protecting your environment
    3332-26th Street, NW
    Edmonton, Alberta.
    T6T 1Z4
    780-965-1297

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  13. Donald Have you built this floating pier in a hurricane zone? How will you secure this pier to the sea bottom? Does the ship still have to use their anchor? How about cold fronts with 6-8 foot seas? Would you do a lease and bond in case of the floating dock ends up on Edens rock and Devl’s Grotto? How many floating piers have you done ?
    Could you just share your answer on the comments section of this newspaper?

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  14. Howzit David, Thank you for your inquiry. I would be glad to answer your questions and share alternatives however, this is my field of expertise, hence a fee would be levied. I have had a meeting with your local authorize earlier this year but they have decided to go down a different path. Good Luck. Thank you

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