Cruise statement: Tourism association's self-inflicted harm

 From: The Cayman Islands Tourism Association
Subject: Cruise Berthing Facilities

“To give an idea of the visual impact, anyone driving into town from the South side along the waterfront will no longer be able to look West to 7mile beach, you will be looking at a man-made concrete dock structure!”

“This has been nicknamed the ‘plume of death’ — very catchy phrase to attract tourism to Cayman waters don’t you think? Essentially all dive, snorkeling and swim activities throughout George Town waters will no longer be able to co-exist.”

It is language such as this that threatens to erode CITA’s credibility as an organization that is representative of the tourism industry in the Cayman Islands.

The commentary in question (which CITA tried to “recall” after sending) was included in an email, signed by the CITA Executive Office and sent to members June 17, setting the table for the solicitation of opinions, via an attached questionnaire from the Department of Environment, about the cruise dock project proposed for George Town. On July 10, CITA sent out a separate survey of its own that resulted in CITA issuing a statement last Thursday, July 16, that the group “cannot at this time support the current proposal to establish Cruise Berthing Facilities [CBF].”***

The statement went on to say that, “This position has been reached after careful review of the documentation available, individual CITA Sector meetings and a survey of our members where the majority of the respondents indicated that they did not support the current proposal.”

Fair enough. However, brandishing the “plume of death” commentary from CITA’s June email, cruise dock proponents are arguing that, rather than being the outcome of objective analysis, CITA’s position against the project seems to have been preordained. The evidence certainly contributes to that appearance.

In response to the umbrage expressed, CITA is further damaging its reputation by refusing to release details about the results of its survey, or “the information we have learnt through our review of documentation of the current proposal for CBF” that the organization said it will share with government.

CITA’s actions, in this instance and in others, are curious and troubling. The association’s greatest strength, and greatest weakness, is its diversity. CITA has more than 250 members, including hotels, condos, water sports companies, restaurants, tour operators, dive shops, managers of attractions, tourism-associated businesses, etc. — with some members focused on stay-over tourism, some on cruise tourism, and many on both.

While it is vital for CITA to serve as a megaphone for the interests of the tourism sector, CITA is performing a great disservice to itself and its individual members when it issues blanket up-or-down determinations on issues that divide its membership — particularly when those statements have been prefaced by prejudicial commentary (in this case, protecting “the environment”) that is not directly related to CITA’s core function, that is, supporting the tourism industry.

If there does exist within CITA membership an overwhelming opinion against the cruise project, backed by germane reasons such as perceived ill effects on stay-over tourism or concerns over government’s potential financing arrangements, then issuing a strongly worded statement against the cruise dock would be entirely appropriate.

It would be even better, perhaps, for CITA to provide specific information about the nuanced opinions of members, broken out by class and category, along with qualitative testimonials from individual members who are for or against the project, or whose feelings are mixed.

Instead, CITA chose to issue an absolute judgment on behalf of its membership, while admitting that its membership was fractured. And though CITA’s official statement projected the pretense of objectivity and broad-minded analysis, its underlying correspondence to members suggests the opposite.

And that is neither appropriate nor helpful — to CITA, to its membership or to the measured discussion our country should be having about this most serious cruise proposal.

***Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 5 p.m. July 22 to reflect a correction.***


  1. How can anyone whois for the environment deny what has been happening in GT? Here are just some examples of marine incidents that have occurred over recent years involving groundings and/or damaged coral reef because of an absence of safe berthing facilities:
    1984 – Rhapsody grounding off the southern end of Seven Mile Beach
    1985 – Grounding of Hyde’s Shipping vessel on Eden Rock
    1990+ – Grounding of North Empress on coral reef offshore the port
    1990+ – Grounding of the Athenian Express on coral reef offshore the port
    1995+ – Grounding of Holland American Line cruise ship on Soto reef area
    2005+ – Multiple groundings of the Seaboard Venture on coral reef offshore the port
    2005+ – Grounding of Seaboard Sun on coral reef offshore the port
    2005+ – Grounding of bulk Cement Carrier ship in Hog Sty Bay
    2005+ – Grounding of bulk Cement Carrier ship on Eden Rock
    2008+ – Grounding of Amazonia in GT north Harbour
    2008+ – Grounding of Holland America Line cruise ship anchor incident preventing departure of vessel unable to recover anchor.
    2010+ – Grounding of the Thompson Dream cruise ship near Pageant Beach
    2013+ – Loss of entire anchoring system of Carnival Freedom in harbour which had to be salvaged and recovered from GT Harbour.
    2014 – Massive coral reef damages suffered from the dropping and dragging of cruise ship anchoring in the south side harbour from a Carnival Cruise line vessel this year anchoring at No. 4 anchorage.
    2014 – Grounding of Thompson Dream cruise ship in GT harbour
    These are just a few of the destruction that hits these reefs. How about the more then 700 shipwrecks around these islands?
    If concrete is going to keep anyone away from GT then it would have been closed since 1937. People have been coming from cruise ships up to 8 ships in a day. No one I repeat no one has ever stop coming to Grand Cayman because of it .
    Again WHERE would this group suggest that a cruise facility think it should go??????

  2. Ignoring the perhaps semantic hyperbole of CITA’s statement, the fact is that a majority of the members voted against the cruise ship dock proposal in its present form, and the Association had the courage to issue a statement. The decision of their members would normally be recognised as the result of a democratic process. CITA has no responsibility to report to anyone, who voted FOR or AGAINST the motion, nor their respective reasons.

  3. @David Miller.

    Yet despite all those alleged incidents cruise arrivals continue to increase and the cruise lines to date have not made one single request to CIG for a permanent berthing facility.

    Whichever way you spin this that doesn’t add up does it?

    If mooring cruise ships (and bear in mind that even with the dock some will still need to be tendered) off GT and at Spotts was so hazardous don’t you think that either the cruise lines or their insurers would have pulled the plug on it years ago?

  4. AJ Ebanks, funny you should use words like that to describe environmentalists.

    You could easily say the same about the cruise dock supporters, since they are using hysterics, fear mongering and emotions to have you believe that if the dock is not built that all of a sudden an industry will vanish, the economy will be destroyed, hundreds of jobs lost, etc.

    I actually read a post on facebook saying that not building the cruise dock would be the equivalent of taking Cayman back to before the time an airport existed here and people had to arrive by sea plane. Talk about fear mongering and emotions!

    The difference is the environmentalists are speaking for and trying to preserve something that has no voice of its own and urging caution before spending tons of money on something that is not clear to be of a huge benefit. I’m a pragmatist in these situations. If a cruise doc were to have exponential benefits versus its costs, I think sacrificing a few reefs would be worth it. But at best the benefits are marginal, so even from a financial perspective it might not make sense.

  5. I”m curious…how does CITA feel about the dump? Why aren’t members up in arms about this ecological mountain of garbage that catches fire ( plume of death for tires ), smells horrible and leeches into the ground and North Sound? Tourism is key to Cayman’s survival and yet this putrid pile of garbage has been debated for decades ( with countless studies to boot )…a la the port.

  6. Christoph, the facebook post doesn’t compare it to taking CI back to planes landing in the north sound, it references that without foresight to future needs and bowing to opposition we wouldn’t have the current airport (that now needs expansion) nor the current port (that now needs expansion) and that if left to environmental objectors we’d still be landing in sea planes and bringing cargo to shore on cat boats.

    David Williams, don’t worry, cruise support is coming. The cruise lines hadn’t been engaged yet and this will be the next step. Everyone seems to take the release of the EIA as the final stage of the project.

    David Wheaton, CITA’s release actually states that the "majority of respondents" not the majority of its membership indicated they were against the current proposal. For example, 450 people submitted responses to DOE, I would hardly call a majority of those respondents "the majority of Caymanian voters."

  7. I think Cayman needs first to pay its outstanding debt and then focus on its most pressing needs like the dump.

    Ships will still come even without the Dock so why break the bank as well as the environment for something that’s really not going to bring a huge benefit to Cayman.

    Why not ask the cruise lines to commit to certain amount of visits or at least give Cayman an estimate before committing so much of Cayman’s Financial resources to this agenda.

  8. Very strange that the main issue on this island, the dump, is being completely ignored, and cruise berthing became a priority all of a sudden. Fix more pressing issues first then proceed to the "wants".
    So what is behind this speedy development?

  9. @ David Williams How do you know what the FCCA or cruise lines are saying? Don’t you know the cruise lines will be building larger ships? 6000 passenger ships. How is that a lie? Don’t you know that just like an old car they can break down at the most inopportune time? Still don’t believe these ships ran aground? You obviously have never been on a boat or a car. Have the insurance companies stop paying for car insurance,plane,hurricane or tornado insurance? While a pile of lies and deceit to stop islanders from making more jobs for their people. Do you own a tourist business on this island? How many Caymanians are hired? How many being trained?
    The dive industry has not offered classes to train Caymanians to be dive instructors. The dive industry is not losing their industry unless cruise lines decline.
    If there is no dock there will be no cruise industry. Are numbers will drop where more people will lose their houses until Gov’t will pickup the bill.
    The social element of the cruise line industry you should understand more if you were a bobby in the UK? You must understand that people will lose jobs.
    We should be able to get dive master jobs? Of course there is a course somewhere?
    CITA membership fees are so high that they should be even listened to. They did it on purpose to keep other small businesses out like taxis and tour busses. Do you think for a minute that the vote would have been denying a cruise facility if the stakeholders would have voted? But again more bias ,not all of the membership voted. The membership that voted were dive people again. Its the same people denying Caymanians their rights.