Changes ahead for port authority
The managing director of the Cayman Islands Port Authority will not have his current six-year employment contract renewed when it ends in May, port authority board chairman Errol Bush confirmed Friday.
Paul Hurlston has served in the managing director’s role under the current agreement since May 2009. Prior to that, he held other managerial positions in the organization.
“His contract was not an open contract. It ends in May 2015,” Mr. Bush said. “He has to give us notice of his interest to renew. [The board], in turn, has to give him notice of our interest [in continuing the contract].
“We did not want to renew his contract.”
Mr. Hurlston did not respond to Cayman Compass requests for comment.
The news of Mr. Hurlston’s pending departure comes against the backdrop of persistent rumors of sweeping changes at the port authority, including remarks made last month in the Legislative Assembly that all port staff members would have to re-apply for their current jobs. Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said port staffers “had every right to be concerned” about their jobs
Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell read a letter in the LA, signed by the port board, which indicated talk of staff changes had been chalked up to a “malicious rumor.”
Port Chairman Bush said Friday that statements about staff having to re-apply for their jobs were not true and had “just been put out there by someone.”
“I heard that for the first time from [McKeeva Bush],” he said.
However, Mr. Errol Bush did note that the port authority had hired Deloitte, via a tendering process, to perform what he termed an “organizational review” at the authority, aimed at “getting us back on better financial footing.”
The port authority has reported significant financial losses in two consecutive fiscal years from which government auditors indicated it may not easily recover. In the 2012/2013 fiscal year, the public agency lost more than $2.6 million.
Premier Alden McLaughlin has said financial performance at the port through the first three months of the current 2014/15 fiscal year appeared to be making a turnaround, but the full year’s results won’t be known until next summer.
Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick noted in his evaluation of the agency’s financial statements between 2011 and 2013 that the losses prompted significant concern about the port’s ability to continue operating. “Given that the port authority has already increased fees in 2010, there is limited room for further maneuver on the revenue generation side, if the expected downward trajectory of cargo and cruise passenger volumes continues,” Mr. Swarbrick said. “The likely options include staff rationalization and direct government support to sustain operations.”
Mr. Errol Bush did not paint such a grim financial picture on Friday, but agreed losses totaling millions per year could not be sustained ad infinitum.
“The port has not moved with the times,” he said. “I’ll give you an example. [The Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S.] happened and immediately security tripled or quadrupled on all ports…airports, seaports, you name it. Most ports…in the world instituted a security fee. Our port did not, for what reason, I don’t know.
“Our security in the port has more than quadrupled from what it was before the [Sept. 11, 2001 attacks]. It’s one of our biggest expenditures outside of labor costs.”
Finding ways to pay for essential services in a changing environment is one challenge the Deloitte review will help the port to address, but Chairman Bush said operational staffing at the port is a separate issue. “I really don’t think [the port authority] is overstaffed. I don’t think [Deloitte auditors] are going to find that.”
In the meantime, Mr. Errol Bush said he’s “making the rounds” with port staff, trying to assure them there’s no reason they should worry about losing their jobs, even if the managing director’s contract is not being renewed.
“We were just not interested in renewing his contract,” he said