Businessmen back new design, warn of dredging danger
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.