A $3 million renovation of the SafeHaven marina that sparked a legal dispute between commercial boat operators, developer Mike Ryan and the Port Authority has been completed and the site is now open for business.
Shaun Ebanks, chairman of the Cayman Land and Sea Cooperative, confirmed that operators had begun moving into the North Sound site.
“We now have 20 active boats occupying the new marina,” Mr. Ebanks said, adding that the boat operators had reached an agreement with the Port Authority on mooring fees, but some details of the leasing agreements were still being ironed out.
“Government, Port Authority and the boat owners have agreed to a price of $350 per month,” he said.
The renovation of the site, which began in 2012, led some boat owners to apply for an injunction to prevent the construction work which barred their right of way to their boats. While the construction work was under way, they used a temporary docking site.
Boat operator Bryan Ebanks, who was among the captains who filed the writ, moved back to the site following the completion of the work. He said that, although pricing for mooring has been agreed, there are still outstanding issues in terms of security of tenure for boat operators.
“We’re still in negotiations; we’ve not signed anything yet, but it looks promising,” he said.
He added that he and other boat operators have moved back but are still negotiating with the Port Authority to finalize contracts. He added, “SafeHaven at this point is a work in progress. We have come to an agreement on the price, but it is the security that lies in the agreement that gives these operators the security to do business.
“[The Port Authority] had given us contracts that our lawyers had told us not to sign … If we blew too hard in one direction, we would have violated the terms of the contract, and basically we would have been kicked out of there,” he said.
Before the facility was turned over to government, about a dozen commercial boat operators used it free of charge.
In July 2012, Silverfin Development Company, controlled by Mr. Ryan, announced the commencement of the marina construction work. According to a statement at the time, the company would pay for the $3 million project, at no cost to the Port Authority, the government or the public, and the marina would be turned over to the Port Authority upon completion.
Minister of Tourism Moses Kirkconnell, who confirmed at a public meeting in West Bay last week that the marina is operational, said the new facilities would bring additional income and employment opportunities.
“We’re looking at it from a standpoint of not only from the expense side of this, but there is also some income to be made. The business case of this is the net at the end of the year will reduce the cost of the slips that the boat operators get,” he said.
Mr. Kirkconnell explained that the marina had to be built to “top notch” standards to manage the expectations of tourists visiting the islands. He described the new marina as “a beautiful facility.”
Shaun Ebanks said the new facility includes “21 proper boat slips, better parking spaces, changing rooms, and proper waiting areas for guests.”
“Overall, it is a great improvement to what we had and it can only enhance the outlook of our business and allow us to provide better customer service and a better product to our guests,” he said.
Mr. Kirkconnell said he has had numerous discussions with the boat operators, and assured that the process of allocating docking spaces would be “transparent.”
He said the new facility would result in more jobs within the tourism industry.
“We’re all in this together and we’re trying to create a facility, manage a facility, and create opportunities for boat owners, which again translates into jobs. From the time [tourists] arrive on the plane … you need tour operators, you need taxi drivers … you need people in the facilities helping,” he said