A floating cruise pier – promoted by local businessmen as an environmentally friendly alternative to dredging George Town harbor – would face significant technical challenges, according to government’s marine engineering consultants.
The consultants looked at the proposal as part of their Environmental Impact Assessment on the cruise berthing project and questioned its ability to withstand hurricanes.
“Conceptually it is a great idea. In reality there are many questions about how you do that,” said Dave Anglin, of the coastal engineering firm Baird.
Citing concern about the environmental consequences of dredging the harbor to build fixed piers, hotelier Reginald Delapenha and architect Burns Conolly teamed up with a Dutch engineering firm to produce concept designs for the project. In its review of those proposals, Baird wrote, “The proposed floating pier concept provides a number of potential significant benefits as compared to a fixed pier concept, including reduced environmental impacts as well as a reduced duration of on-site construction activities and the associated reduction in impacts to existing businesses and operations.
“However, there are a number of significant technical challenges to address in the design of such a facility, and it is not apparent that these issue issues have been considered by the proponent at this time.”
It adds, “The proposed concept is unique, and without precedent, for a site exposed to hurricane waves. Based upon the information available at this time regarding the floating pier concept, Baird questions whether the concept is technically feasible.”
The report recommends the group behind the plan be given the chance to address those concerns, through a more detailed proposal.
If the technical issues can be addressed, it says, developers should be invited to bid on the project.
Mr. Delapenha urged government to invest the necessary funds to look in more detail at the floating pier concept.
He said Tuesday night’s public meeting showed there was overwhelming opposition to government’s preferred project, which would impact more than 30 acres of coral reef and cost the dive industry millions of dollars in tourist spending.
“I think they need to take a closer look at it. I don’t think that is unreasonable given the challenges with the current proposal.
“Regardless of whether they go with our proposal, this one is not going to fly.
“I trust that government is not foolhardy enough to just go ahead and do it anyway. It is the country’s future and I can’t see them ignoring all the opposition and forging ahead.”
Baird’s examination of the floating pier concept, which would extend the pier beyond the reef wall eliminating the requirement for dredging highlighted a number of potentially “fatal flaws.”
“In particular, Baird questions the ability to develop a sufficiently robust mooring system given the significant water depths into which the floating piers would extend.”