Alternative cruise plan floated for George Town harbor


Outline plans for a floating cruise dock capable of catering to six cruise ships and able to withstand hurricanes were presented to business leaders this week as a credible alternative to dredging George Town harbor. 

Citing concern about the environmental consequences of the planned project to build fixed piers in the harbor, a group of businessmen are proposing an alternative solution.  

Speaking at a meeting at the Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, they outlined a vision for how the berthing facility could be built using floating concrete, for around $200 million. 

They believe the project could be financed through local entrepreneur Bo Miller’s infrastructure fund – a new private sector investment scheme that aims to raise cash for capital projects. 

Hotelier Reginald Delapenha and architect Burns Connolly have teamed up with a Dutch engineering firm to produce concept designs for the project, using the same technology as floating offices, ports and hotels in Holland. 

Polite Laboyrie of Dutch engineering and consulting firm Witteveen+Bos, said the project could be done using tried and tested engineering methods. He said the basic design principle involved uses “tension legs” to support a floating cruise terminal and three-fingered pier connected to shore through a walkway. 

He said it could be built by early 2017 at a similar cost to the fixed pier model. Mr. Delapenha said the group aims to put together a business case to show precisely how the berthing facilities could be built and financed. But he said some indication of government’s willingness to consider the idea is required. 

“If they are headed in a different direction and are not even prepared to entertain this alternative, then we will stop here,” he told the Cayman Compass after Tuesday’s meeting. 

Mr. Delapenha said that project would lead to the destruction of coral and marine life, and could cause erosion on Seven Mile Beach and create an increased threat from wave action to the capital. 

He told the meeting, “We’ve got one chance to do this. If we’ve already waited this long to do it, let’s make sure we do it right.”  

Mr. Miller, who appeared at the meeting to advocate for the plan, said money could be raised from locally based investors. He said the passenger fees would provide a healthy return for investors over time. 

“This will allow every one of us to be owners,” he said. 

Carl Bazarian, a U.S. merchant banker and developer who is working with Mr. Miller, said the group could be in a position to present a fully financed proposal to government within 90 days. 

He added that the project could be financed by the private sector without “giving away control of a precious asset” to just one or two cruise lines.  

He said Cayman is in a strong bargaining position as a premier cruise destination and would be able to guarantee shareholders a strong return on investment, by building a dock that could cater to all cruise lines. 

“This is a high-demand market. Build it and they all will come,” he said.  

He said partnering with one particular cruise line risks marginalizing others by allowing one player to control optimum berthing times. 


An artist’s impression shows how the floating pier could look in George Town harbor.


  1. It sounds good, I just hope all involved, including the Government do make sure they dig under every rock to make sure all T’s crossed and all i’s dotted are in the right place with the right persons, because too many eyes think we are just a 24 carats of the sea.

  2. I love the idea of a floating dock vs. the blasting and reef destruction of dive sites for a stationary dock. We lost the Balboa years ago when the initial blasting occurred for cruise ships. The Ora Verde has shifted and moved and made unsafe to dive due to just weather and current. Now we have the KittyWake and many great dive spots along Seven mile Beach. I would hate to lose any more great diving in Grand Cayman as it is the BEST place in the world to dive.

  3. I am dead against spending money on a fixed pier. Too expensive and too much damage to our environment.

    But sadly this is another one of those ideas that looks good on paper but hopeless in practice.

    The floating walkways are to be secured by tension cables, which I assume need to be secured to the sea floor. How?

    Even when secured they are surely going to move in with the waves. This might be fine for a fit, steady person, but not for someone already unsteady on their feet.

    And just what happens if and when there is a major storm? We have all see concrete benches in Hog Sty Bay thrown around by wave action. These things will be ripped out of their anchors and end up in our streets.

    Now just look at the photo above. How many cruise ships are moored there? It looks like it has the capacity for two more. So a total of four ships.
    But on some days we get more than that number.

    As I have said before, here is the economical answer:

    Use better designed bigger, flat deck tenders so people can walk on and off three abreast. Have a more efficient loading and unloading process.

    Think about the Hong Kong star ferries that cross Victoria Bay. They have two engines, one at each end so they can go backwards and forwards without needing to turn around. The chairs have backs that flip from back to front and two decks. So the upper and lower deck fill at once. The second the ferry arrives someone is tying it up and the walkways descend from the boat.
    The second the last passenger is off the new passengers can get on.
    Turnaround time about two minutes for 500 passengers.

  4. Look at the headlines over the last couple of weeks;-

    Dart announces a second hotel.
    Hyatt to be redeveloped
    New Hotel and Road for Bodden Town

    In addition to the room capacity of the new Kimpton, there is clearly going to be an influx of new stayover tourists. The question is if the strategy is there to cope?

    Many stayover tourists are already adversely affected by the cruise ships and there will soon be a point at which decisions have to be made as to where the money will yield the best experience for the visitors, it has already been shown that the lesser numbers of stayover visitors contribute 3x more to the local economy than the cruise visitors so it is important that we concentrate efforts on improving their experience.

    Someone will have to decide if Cruise OR Stayover is the future of the Island, because ultimately the answer cannot be ‘We Want BOTH to Double’

  5. While I think that the idea should at least be looked at for an engineering perspective. I don’t think Cayman need to be to spend another 200 Million dollars on anything. It’s already going to cost more than 100 Million to fix the GT Dump if it even happens and then the rising pension dept. which appears to be in the millions. When is all the spending going to stop.

    Why not just build on the idea of the tender and make it a better experience for cruise passengers. Or even get a smaller vessel that could dock with the ship and have multiple smaller vessels attach to it that could take folks to other locations then just Georgetown.

  6. Andy makes a great deal on sense in what he’s pointing out. I personally think Cayman will need both in order to pay all its bills and retain that TAX FREE status. However I don’t think they need to spend 200 Million dollars on a pier when there’s already plenty of Cruise Tourists coming. They just need to improve on and streamline the tendering process. Most stay over tourists don’t hang in George town anyway so that area just needs to be focused on the Cruise Ship visitors which happens to be their life line anyway. Pedestrianize it and make it more greener so people that visit on ships will want to come back and stay over. Put some more focus on things to do for the stay over tourists like making it safer to walk the streets and beaches in the evening. And for god’s sake do something about that Dump, I was really looking forward to Dart turning it into a huge public Green space like he offered. The walking and bike trails he promised would have been great for that area..

  7. Georgetown is depressing. Businesses have closed. The airport is outdated, passengers are stuffed like sardines into the holding tank, that is the waiting area. Food and beverage there, is one counter of questionably looking food, prices that gouge and no other choices. The island, if is is attracting hoteliers to build first quality facilities, will need an airport that welcomes the tourists. As far as docks are concerned, they as with the airport discussions have been that, DISCUSSIONS, and little else. If Cayman is to compete in the tourism business, it can’t rest on it’s laurels. Development and improvement is the only way cayman will remain a tourist destination.

  8. Have the Dutch engineers conducted a study of the sort of seas generated in GT Harbour in a real NorWester let alone a hurricane of Category 3 or above. It seems inconceivable that a structure with any required flexibly in it’s construction could possibly remain intact when subjected to sustained battering waves – unless it was itself protected by an outlying breakwater. And such a breakwater would undoubtedly be completely impractical.

  9. To people who would dismiss the idea of the floating berthing facility, due to rough weather..they are retractable.

    So, when bad weather is coming and when they are not needed they can be retracted and stored, thereby protecting them and our investment in them.

    They have far less impact on the environment and are far less expensive than what is currently being touted. They also take less time to install.

    What is the down side again?

  10. Nickola
    They are retractable?
    You’re not talking about rolling up an inflatable guest bed and stuffing it under the sofa.

    To carry the weight of all these passengers at once and bearing in mind the length needed, these things are going to be enormous.

    How on earth can they be retracted and stored? And where would you put them?

    Sorry but the whole thing is a non-starter and just wishful thinking.

Comments are closed.