Bush may support fuel project

Although he believes there are a number of questions outstanding regarding the project, Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said Wednesday that he would work with government on a proposed new fuel storage and transshipment facility.

“As I have said before, I will not employ their tactics that will further damage our country and make life harder for the Caymanian people,” Mr. Bush said. “I wish them all the best with this initiative and stand ready to work with them for the betterment of our people.”

A joint development agreement between the government and a Texas-based energy company proposes to close Cayman’s bulk fuel storage facility in Jackson Point, off South Church Street, and construct a new one in East End. The intention of the proposal is to “establish a fully integrated development plan and structure such that they might attract one or more [fuel] terminal companies” that are interested in fuel supply and transshipment operations.

Under the agreement with Navasota Energy, the Cayman Islands government undertakes to: “Work with Navasota on potential sites on the East End of Grand Cayman and provide preferred rights of way for [a] delivery pipeline from East End to [the] current pipeline system.”

The plan, revealed by the Cayman Compass on Monday, raised some concerns from East End MLA Arden McLean, who said he had not been informed of any such proposal by the government.

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One of Cayman’s two major fuel distributors, Rubis, said Wednesday that it “would be excited” to work on such a large project with the government and believes a fuel terminal could be done safely, if the appropriate investment is made.

“The real question is ‘what do the people of the Cayman Islands wish to see happen?’” said Rubis Operations Manager Dustin Kersey.

The other major fuel distributor, Sol, said Wednesday that it did not have enough details about the proposal to respond to questions about it.

According to the agreement, the government would also create an “enterprise/duty free zone” for the operation of the fuel terminal and formulate an economic development package to include certain unidentified incentives.

In return, Navasota agrees to work with Cayman on evaluating potential fuel terminal sites in East End, screen potential candidates to operate the oil terminal, and conduct a bidding process that would involve both Navasota and government reviewing the proposals. Navasota also agreed to support a “cruise ship design terminal initiative,” including specs on refueling.

Mr. Bush pointed out that – at least on the surface – there are some similarities between what government was proposing and a 2010 plan put forward by Cayman Islands businessman Joe Imparato regarding a hydrocarbon [fuel] storage terminal in East End. The Imparato plan for fuel storage was part of a larger project for construction of a seaport in East End.

The former United Democratic Party administration abandoned plans for the seaport project after public demonstrations over the issue.

“Had they worked with me and my government, we as a country could have been much further ahead and jobs would have already been created,” Mr. Bush said, referring to the 2010 project. “Additionally, we would have been able to start seeing lower fuel costs, which is badly needed to give our people some much needed relief.”

Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts said last week that the joint development agreement was still in the early discussion stages and that nothing had been decided.

Mr. Bush said he had heard nothing about the proposed project from government prior to the article appearing in Monday’s paper and asked for more transparency with regard to government communications.

“There is nothing transparent about this entire process and the silence is deafening from their other colleagues who campaigned on transparency and accountability,” Mr. Bush said. “What is the C4C’s position on this [agreement]?”

Mr. Bush said there would also have to be some review of whether the possible concessions discussed as part of the development agreement would satisfy the requirements of the U.K.’s Framework for Fiscal Responsibility, now signed into Cayman Islands law.

The opposition leader also said the land chosen for the terminal site would be a crucial question.

“We don’t want a repeat of the last incident when we found out that there was another secret deal in which Minister Tibbetts and the premier [were] conflicted,” he said, in apparent reference to the earlier proposed route for the East-West Arterial extension along which Mr. Tibbetts’s and Premier Alden McLaughlin’s families owned property.

The route for the road extension has since been altered.

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