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.