New floating cruise terminal idea surfaces

Businessmen back new design, warn of dredging danger

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A floating pier has resurfaced as a potential solution to the environmental challenges of building cruise berthing facilities in Grand Cayman. 

Hotelier Reginald Delaphena and architect Burns Connolly have teamed up with a Dutch engineering firm and are urging government to consider the design to avoid dredging George Town harbor. 

Both men say they have serious concerns about the impact of dredging, which they fear could lead to erosion on Seven Mile Beach and an increased threat from wave action to the capital when weather conditions are bad. 

As government goes through an environmental impact assessment to examine the likely effects of building the piers – a project that will involve 626,000 cubic meters (22.1 million cubic feet) of dredging – the two men are pushing for equal consideration to be given to alternative design concepts. 

Mr. Delaphena said the design would involve using floating concrete to create a terminal and walkway to the shore from where the ships currently berth.  

He said it could be a permanent structure, robust enough to be used in all weather – unlike a previous fold-away floating dock design put forward for Grand Cayman, which was dismissed as too flimsy by the cruise industry here. 

Concept design drawings for the pier show a walkway across George Town harbor that splits into a three-fingered pier, capable of accommodating six cruise ships, at the current anchorage points. 

Mr. Delaphena said he is extremely concerned about the impacts of extensive dredging in the harbor and has launched a public information campaign and a website, www.cruisetogeorgetown.com to win public support for this alternative. 

“I am not sure that people fully understand the impact of the amount of dredging that is being proposed. In my opinion, there are too many obstacles. We are asking them to look at this alternative as part of the environmental impact assessment,” he said. 

Dutch architects and engineers were on the island last week to take a closer look at the harbor and assess the possibilities for the design concept. 

Peter van Wingerden, of Beladon, a Dutch development firm that specializes in floating buildings, said it could work in George Town. He said similar technology had been used on various projects around the world. 

The design involves using floating concrete that could make the walkway strong enough to accommodate traffic. 

Government is midway through an extensive research and procurement process for cruise berthing facilities, following a business case which recommended fixed piers in George Town as the best way to meet the cruise industry’s needs. It seems unlikely that they will change course at this stage. 

But Mr. Delaphena said he is hopeful that the public would get behind his idea and put pressure on government to change its mind. He said it makes sense at least to investigate the idea further as a ready-made alternative if the environmental impact assessment raises significant environmental issues with the fixed pier idea. 

“We hope that they will come around and do what’s best for the island rather than going down this route no matter what,” he said. 

Previously, a different “floating dock” concept was put forward as a possible solution for George Town. The SeaWalk, a removable walkway attached to a system of weighted buoys, is used in fjords in Scandanavia, but Carnival cruise lines said that walkway wouldn’t work in rougher seas in Cayman. 

Mr. van Wingerden said the floating concrete structure would be much more robust and able to cope with the same conditions as permanent piers. 

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Passengers would be able to get to land from the ships on moving walkways at the dock.

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An artist’s impression of the floating dock proposal.
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18 COMMENTS

  1. Can’t wait to see this thing in a Nor’Wester or a hurricane….when this feel-good project gets torn to shreds in a few years, who going to flip the bill? got some real academics on this dock project as far as I can tell…..

    A real dock does not pose any environmental issues. Can’t we see that this environment business poses an obstruction to just about any positive development ??

    Of COURSE we care and should care about the environment WHO DOESN’T?? But this is RIDICULOUS!

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  2. We hope that they will come around and do what’s best for the island rather than going down this route no matter what

    Really…

    Give me one example or reason that anyone would think this would happen. Look at the progressives track record for choosing what’s best for the whole island.

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  3. Kudos to Mr. Delaphena and Mr. Connolly for their efforts in bringing forth a superior design alternative for the badly needed cruise ship pier. It is a great example of thinking outside the box in the design planning of the most important infrastructure addition in Grand Cayman history. These gentlemen have extremely valid concerns regarding the potential for permanent catastrophic destruction of the sensitive marine environment caused by the huge amount of required dredging if the conventional pier design is used. Trust the Dutch engineers to build a superior structure that would be a beautiful but very sturdy engineering marvel. Remember the Dutch have dealt with one of the most dangerous seas in the world for hundreds of years…the North Sea.

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  4. Hi, maybe someone can enlighten me on this. With all the years of talks about dredging to park ships and elaborate floating piers I have to ask is there a reason why a pier can be built on piles to go out to where the water is deep enough for the ships. I may be missing something but if they can build a bridge from Florida all the way to the keys, why can’t Cayman get a short bridge to a ship ?

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  5. AJ Ebanks, I can only assume from your comments here and in the past that you are both a civil marine engineer and oceanographer. You must have gone to school for a long time to earn those credentials, congratulations.

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  6. I would like to know who, in government, thinks moving the better part of a million tons of sand;-
    a) is a good idea,
    b) will not impact the environment,
    c) and will not need to be re-dredged on a regular basis.
    Surely there is a reason the verb ‘shifting’ is often applied to ‘sand’.
    Would anyone care to compare the amount of sand to be moved to that moved by Ivan – It’s taken a decade for the reefs to start coming back from that.
    Are Cayman’s diving industry and world famous beaches to be laid on the sacrificial alter by those who worship the cruise lines as deities?

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  7. Focus on the tourists that fly to the island and spend money on hotels, meals, and ground transportation. Not the cruise ship crowd that buys T-shirts and visits sting ray city. Also consideration may be given to address the crime rate that continues to increase on the island since Hurricane Ivan.

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  8. Dredging the harbor is a crazy idea that will be a disaster.
    Sadly the seas are too rough for a floating dock.
    If you want to test step onto the floating dock at Kaibo. Every time a boat goes past (at above the posted 5 mph limit) it bucks like a bronco. Imagine a much bigger floating dock in rough weather.
    I agree with Mike Beaverton that we should concentrate on stay over visitors rather than cruise boat people who spend so little here.
    If we really care about these one day visitors at all then improve our ability to shuttle them using tender boats. A uniform design that one can walk on and off rather than climb down into would greatly speed things up.

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  9. Norman, I’m guessing what the engineers who designed this structure had in mind is more stable than what amounts to styrofoam covered in vinyl siding at Kaibo.
    You know what else is essentially a floating dock? Cruise ships themselves – but you don’t wobble around violently every time a wave hits those.
    I don’t know how you make that much concrete float, but I’m guessing if the structure is large enough to accommodate six cruise ships, it must be pretty stable in moderate conditions.

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  10. Christoph. I don’t think the floating docks are filled with concrete.

    The reason cruise ships don’t move too much when buffeted by waves is their size along with stabilizers.
    We often hear weather reports with small craft advisories. Small being anything under 40 feet I think.
    Why? Because a small light craft is always more susceptible than big heavy crafts to wave action.

    Even if these floating docks are 20 foot wide they will still move with the waves. Just imagine the elderly people we have coming here with wheelchairs, walking frames and walking sticks. They will be sliding all over the place and litigation will follow.

    And of course one good NorWester or hurricane will rip them apart.

    Nice idea but non-starter.

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  11. For those of you that think stay over tourist still create more money then cruise lines . I will tell you this , people make more money per capita then working in a hotel or a condo. How much do waiters make in the hotels or bar tenders? Reservation clerks? The room maids? Rest of the staff beside management ? Cruise business creates better pay and salaries for Caymanians. They make a lot more then 8.00 per hour. What most people don’t like is that they can’t get in the cruise business that easy. Therefore it doesn’t serve a purpose. But I can tell you its nice when the large amount of tourist leave and don’t block traffic cause they trying to save a cab or bus fare. People who own duty free stores have told me that cruise business makes up 66% of their business.
    A problem that has been happening in GT is the high price of rent and the only businesses that can pay that rent is jewelry stores. So very very little amount of T-shirts are being sold to cruisers Mr. Beaverton.
    So no most stay over tourist especially return customers don’t really help the transportation industry. They don’t also do that much business with the watersports industry either.
    I would really like to see a dock in spotts so that my industry can finally make what it should have been making for the last 30 years.

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  12. Christoph, I am an engineer, but in this case, I’m merely using common sense. Something I would urge the government to consider using.

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  13. Ok for the armchair engineers. A buoyant objects weight is equal to the amount of water it displaces. Which is why a larger wider and heavier dock would be more stable than a smaller, narrower and lighter dock against wave action.
    Like someone noticed below. Cruise ships don’t rock when a small wave hits them. It’s because they weigh so much compared to the wave, it’s like to trying move a boulder by blowing on it.
    So, make the floating dock really heavy and compensate for the weight of traffic in the design and you should have a cruise ship of a dock, stability wise.

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  14. No matter what anyone thinks it’s at least worth investigating. Hopefully the CIG will at least consider the possibility. We live in a world full of new technologies, why not embrace it.

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