Study to be completed by end of 2014
A team of consultants, headed by an international coastal engineering firm, has been hired to examine the environmental impacts of a proposed $200 million cruise ship berthing facility in Grand Cayman.
The $2.5 million study will look at everything from the effect of the extensive dredging of George Town harbor on Seven Mile Beach to the impact on traffic of an expected influx of new cruise passengers.
WF Baird Coastal Engineers, which has offices around the world, including in Barbados, won a competitive bid for the work and will also be responsible for the marine engineering study on the port project.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell has previously indicated that the piers will be built in George Town unless it proves environmentally impossible.
The main function of the environmental impact assessment will be to determine what engineering features are required to prevent or mitigate any damage caused by the construction of the piers. A business case, published last year, recommended building two piers, capable of accommodating four cruise ships, in George Town harbor, estimating that the project would create 1,000 jobs and inject $250 million into the economy over a 20-year period.
Public concerns have centered on the level of dredging required in the harbor and the impact that could have on waves and storm surge in George Town, as well as on erosion of Seven Mile Beach. The loss of dive sites in the harbor has also been raised as a concern.
Four other firms will be involved in the production of the assessment, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
They are Kingston-based Smith Warner International, which will carry out “marine related studies and modelling”; Technological & Environmental Network Ltd, a team of engineers, planners and scientists, also based in Kingston; Canadian company MMM Group, which specializes in traffic impact studies; and Cayman-based Bolas Engineering, which will provide local coordination.
Mr. Kirkconnell said the environmental impact assessment was the next step in moving the long-discussed project forward in compliance with the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility.
He added, “I am pleased that with the signing of the contract, the EIA study can now proceed in earnest. Various aspects have been attempted previously, but this is the first time that a comprehensive assessment will be completed for this project.”
He said the assessment would be an “invaluable tool” that would inform planning and design decisions.
“In assessing possible impacts, the EIA will identify the actions that will be required to successfully protect the vitality of the area and safeguard against unintended consequences.”
Councillor for Tourism Joey Hew, who has responsibility for transport, said work would begin soon.
“The marine studies will be carried out between now and September, but the traffic analysis which is an essential part of the EIA, that will also provide pertinent information for the George Town revitalization project, will extend slightly longer.”
The Ministry of Tourism says it will conduct public and private sector “stakeholder meetings” during the process, which will be monitored by the Environmental Assessment Board, which comprises members from the Department of Environment, Ministry of Planning, Ports Authority, National Museum, National Roads Authority and the Department of Tourism.