Impact of port construction highlighted

The negative impact of the three-year construction period estimated for the proposed cruise berthing facility in George Town harbor should not be underestimated, according to a new review from the Environmental Assessment Board. 

The review highlights the economic impact on retailers and restaurants during the construction phase in a summary of some of the key concerns arising from recent studies on the port project. 

The board, including staff from the Department of Environment, National Roads Authority, Planning Department and Department of Tourism, on Monday released its official review of the environmental impact assessment carried out by consultants Baird and Associates. 

The board highlights government’s “legal requirement” to consider the findings of the assessment as it decides whether to proceed with the project. 

Among a number of conclusions and recommendations, it comments, “Given that the construction works will take up to three years to complete, the Environmental Assessment Board believes that the potential negative economic effect of the visual amenity impacts of the construction activity, on both cruise and stay-over visitors, should not be underestimated.” 

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The review, essentially a summary of the environmental statement and technical appendices intended to aid Cabinet in the decision-making process, concludes, “There are a number of major negative impacts associated with this project, both in the construction and operational phases. 

“Furthermore, many of these impacts, even with the application of recommended mitigation measures, still result in significantly negative residual impacts, which in some instances are permanent and irreversible.” 

It highlights the need for the final outline business case on the project to factor in economic losses connected to the loss of reef and water clarity in the harbor. 

It also recommends that decisions be taken on what mitigation measures would be deployed if the project proceeds, in order to get an accurate total cost estimate for the project. 

The review recaps the key findings of the environmental impact assessment, including the “irreversible removal of approximately 15 acres of coral reef habitat” and adverse impacts on adjacent reefs. 

It highlights additional concerns that sedimentation impacts of the project could be an “ecological tipping point” for the reef system in George Town harbor. 

“These chronic impacts may cause the entire George Town harbor reef system to rapidly deteriorate, resulting in high levels of mortality of coral and other marine species,” it notes. 

The review reinforces that the project needs to be combined with improvements to the road network. 

“If the project advances, it must do so with the infrastructural support of the National Roads Authority’s ‘List of Priority Road Network Improvements’ and implementation of aspects of the George Town Revitalisation Plan which were shown to substantially mitigate key issues associated with the growth in traffic expected regardless of whether or not the cruise berthing facility is implemented.” 

Environmental Assessment Boards are convened for the purpose of overseeing environmental impact assessments on specific projects and providing technical input from relevant government agencies to the consultants. Membership varies depending on the project. 

The Environmental Assessment Board for the port project included Gina Ebanks-Petrie, director of the Department of Environment; Rosa Harris, director of tourism; Haroon Pandohie, director of planning; Denis Thibeault, assistant director of the NRA; Peggy Leshikar-Denton, director of the Cayman Islands National Museum; James Parsons, acting director of the Port Authority; and Clement Reid, assistant director of the Port Authority. 

The Environmental Assessment Board says a three-year construction period to build a cruise berthing facility in George Town harbor may have a negative impact.

The Environmental Assessment Board says a three-year construction period to build a cruise berthing facility in George Town harbor may have a negative impact.
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  1. What, when are we going to give up the nonsense of using bias and scaremongering of this project? We couldn”t put it in East End. They don”t want it in Red Bay. Forget about North Sound. Nowhere is the right place. But the experts from 30 years ago say that George Town is the best place . From the time that Linford Pierson was in charge of the port the Technical Advisory Committee said GT is the place.
    When the last Gov”t was in power we picked 3 different companies to build it. We are just wasting time and money.
    Will this board have someone that will represent a "Dredging Engineer consultant " that will have scientific fact and again not base ?
    Dart is building a four lane rd, another hotel, a land bridge East to West across 7 mile beach .Is there going to be a review to highlight the economic impact on retailers and restaurants during the construction phase? I mean really? Come on people we did the EIA next step should be engineering consultants meeting with Ministers to talk about what new technology will they use to keep the reef from damage.
    “Irreversible removal of approximately 15 acres of coral reef habitat” and adverse impacts on adjacent reefs. Lets talk about that? What about the over 1200 feet of drop off reef that now will be able to start growing back because we will have stopped ships anchors from destroying reef? Why isn”t that being discussed?
    Folks banking is going down cost of living is going up they don”t want to control price they don”t want to build a dock . Then allow George Town to be a park get out of the cruise ship business. Downsize the transportation industry, Stingray city boats. Close down Turtle Farm,Pedro St James,Botanical Park, Dolphin Cove, Dolphin Discovery make more people lose their houses.
    Less talk more action please. Thank God PPM promised to build a dock. Ladies and Gentlemen we are depending on you

  2. This is long overdue. To read the pro-dock arguments you could be excused for believing that the whole thing will miraculously spring up overnight with no disruption to everyday activities.

    Taking the environmental considerations apart the assessment that has been missing to date is the one that looks at how three years of major construction work in the island”s capital will impact both stayover tourism and the cruise arrivals.

    It seems reasonable to expect that at some point during the build the work will be sufficiently disruptive to force the cruise lines to revise their itineraries (as they have at other destinations) due to construction work. The problem then is that, as history shows us, the ability of CIG to bring any major project in on time and on budget is something rather less than zero. If that happens here how long will the cruise lines wait for things to settle down before they make those changes permanent?

    I”ll give you a simple scenario – The project kicks off next year with a completion date sometime in 2019 but fouls up. The cruise lines have already drastically reduced arrivals so the people now pushing the dock are really getting hit where it hurts them most – in the pocket. What do expect them to do next? Having given the project vocal support but not put one penny of their own money into it they will go screaming to CIG for compensation.

    Three years is a long time in the tourism industry. I have seen major resorts built from nothing in that sort of timescale and I have also seen them go from boom to bust in a similar period. Whether we like it or not Cuba is opening up and when it comes to major construction projects they do not mess around – check out Mariel. If the Cuban market, as a number of cruise lines are expecting, opens up next year by 2018 we will not only be competing with a major cruise port in Havana but several other destinations (probably self-contained resorts) round the country.

    This project is now way too late to be feasible. It should have been started 15 years ago when the first outline plans were drawn up. Trying to push it through now is a bit like reinventing the wheel – it isn”t going to work.

  3. @ Ron Clair Ebanks

    Nearly 200 years ago Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom”s Cabin, observed that ”Common sense is seeing things as they are; and doing things as they ought to be.”

    Right now I would say that standard government policy on just about everything is the exact opposite of that.

    One of the problems is that it often looks like the funding that keeps the politicians in office is driving policy rather than common sense or even the needs of the electorate.

  4. Lets ignore all the other reasons not to do this and focus on what happens DURING construction.

    In the first year there is likely to be massive disruption, and it is likely to impact the cruise passengers.

    Once the reviews get posted to social media, passengers will CHOOSE a non Cayman itinerary, probably including Cuba.

    Given the novelty value, cruise ships might well retain that non Cayman, Cuba substituted itinerary, long after the new dock is completed.

    Of course in the mean time, the very businesses who wanted the dock will suffer, many will close. They won”t be replaced by businesses which cater to the stay-over visitor who after all don”t want to look at a building site.

    At that point, no amount of CPR will bring the golden egg laying goose back to life!

  5. I think Andy has great point. Cayman will end up with another development project that will most likely never pay for itself or at least in our lifetime. This means that for years and possibly decades Cayman will need to subsidize it like the it does the Turtle Farm or the airport and it will be a tremendous drain on Cayman economy because it will take millions upon millions to keep in operation just like the the new fancy overly expensive high schools.

    Also, while Cayman struggles to pay for the cost of building this new dock in addition to paying for it already overwhelming debt, numerous businesses will be negatively effected and possibly go out of business do to the loss of revenue while the construction is going on.

    In the meantime other destinations like Cuba will be perfecting their product offering.

    Has anyone at all just considered updating the tender experience to something that would make cruising to Cayman a unique experience or possibly build the dock in an alternate location that would now effect the current revenue stream by disrupting operation in George Town.

    Oh Wait the CIG did promise to only look at GT and get the port built no matter what. We all observed how they handled the only realistic option put on the table to fix Cayman’s issues with garbage, so it’s clear the these types of choices have nothing to do with what in Cayman’s best interest as a nation.

    In the years I’ve been acquainted with Cayman I have yet to see anything that would give me confidence that the CIG has the know-how and ability to take on projects like this.

    Just look at everything else they’ve done and compare them to the projects completed by the pros in the private sector.

  6. @David miller

    Trying to compare the Royal Watler tender pier to a four-berth cruise dock is clutching at straws.

    Anyway, despite what you claim I am sure that the 1000s of cruise shippers who were forced to struggle round the site as the build took place found more than a few problems. I remember it as decidedly un-visitor friendly.

    However, as you raised the subject. The highly critical audit Dan Duguay completed on the Royal Watler development in 2006 still makes very interesting reading.