Cautious optimism over cable car cruise plan

Mix of excitement, skepticism greets proposal

Cautious optimism over cable car cruise plan

A proposal to use cable cars to transport cruise passengers into George Town would need buy-in from cruise lines to be a workable option for the port, according to campaign group Cayman’s Port, Cayman’s Future. 

Kirk Freeport boss Chris Kirkconnell, one of the key figures in the group advocating for piers in George Town, said the new concept is an exciting idea if it turns out to be feasible. 

However, he said the idea, put forward by a group headed by James Eldon Whittaker Jr. of GreenTech, would not work without the endorsement of the major cruise lines. 

“It is exciting to see the pictures and it is amazing that someone is thinking outside the box and trying to find a solution that, theoretically at least, checks all the boxes,” said Mr. Kirkconnell. 

“It doesn’t need my approval. I think what they need now is to take it to the cruise lines themselves and to get their feedback. Find out if they are interested in using it and if they will invest in it. 

“If they are, and it is feasible and affordable, then he is home free. Our group is not dedicated to any particular form or type of cruise berthing. We know tendering is not the future for the industry and we want the best solution we can get.” 

He said if cable cars could provide similar speed of disembarkation to berthing, then it would be worth looking at. 

Cayman’s Port, Cayman’s Future, which also involves leading figures from the Turtle Farm, water-based tour operators and other businesses that service cruise passengers, insists the main advantage of cruise berthing is the additional time it gives passengers in the Cayman Islands compared to tendering. 

The cable car concept has also been cautiously welcomed by rival campaign group Save Cayman. 

Keith Sahm, general manager of Sunset House and one of the leaders of the group campaigning against a dock, said any solution that prevents damage to the reefs would be worth considering. But he questioned whether it would be workable in Cayman’s climate and if it could be resistant to storms. 

“If it can do everything he [Mr. Whittaker] says it can do, then great. I personally don’t want to throw out any type of alternative, even using the tenders in a more upgraded capacity. 

“One thing we really like about the cable car idea is that it takes away the need for dredging, which is a real plus.”

James Whittaker, the CEO of Next Development, and James Whittaker, the writer of this article, are not related. 

James Eldon Whittaker Jr. has put forward a proposal for the port involving a system of cable cars.

James Eldon Whittaker Jr. has put forward a proposal for the port involving a system of cable cars.

An artist

An artist’s rendering of the proposed cable car project.


  1. It is an elegant concept but, can Mr Whitaker describe in detail how the two mooring piers shown the illustration, are each going to be able to hold about 200,000 tons of ships in anything except a dead calm. Has he any concept of the windage force created on the side of a cruise ship over ten storeys high and 1000 feet long in even a moderate breeze. If there is a good breeze blowing what effect will it have on a suspended cable car. Has he done any research into the likely cost of insurance for Third Party cover for what could be a high risk operation. Call these picky issues if you want, but these are the sort of issues, plus a number of others, which he has to show have already been researched and been shown to be capable of resolution.

  2. David, I already posted a comment about the weather issues but will quickly repeat it. The Emirates Air Line in London, which comes from same designers, had to be shut down nearly 250 times in the first 30 months of operation because of high winds. I can vouch from personal experience that even when the winds are within operational limits you can get an interesting ride on it.

    The system is also vulnerable to lightning strikes.

    However, my main concern about this is serviceability.

    The Cayman islands is a long way from any spares back up and does not exactly boast the emergency services of a major capital city if anything goes wrong. So what happens if you get an equipment failure? This is going to be one the first questions the cruise lines ask because even a very simple breakdown could strand hundreds of their passengers in the cars.

  3. LOL… this is absolutely ridiculous! I know this is just a thought but thats all it is and there has been zero study as to its mechanics and feasibility.
    Like David said… if the piers move then the whole thing is going to fall into the water… my 6 year old even says it wont work..

  4. While this is cool and interesting, so is Star Wars! Just because it can be imagined doesn’t make it even remotely possible. This is one of those instances that as a newspaper, NEWSpaper, you just wasted a bunch of ink.

    The humidity, the wind, the corrosive environment, the wave action……cable car systems are not designed for any of those. The passengers would truly be guinea pigs in a test lab.

  5. It’s abundantly clear this concept wasn’t peer reviewed in any fashion whatsoever prior to going public in the media…. "Cautious Optimism" ??? Seriously?

    This concept is riddled with very VERY significant issues, security and safety issues, major (ongoing) costs issues, maintenance, breakdown of moving parts, environmental issues, power outage/dependencies and backup systems complications, pollution from oil/continual lubrication, potential hydrolic leaks etc.

    AND most very importantly, it doesn’t solve one of the core objectives of the dock which to target *everyone* Not just people that want a ride. Not everyone will want to be dangled across the sea on a cable car!! Are we going to provide motion sickness bags to those tourists that may have a couple of rums while visiting? This also takes away a lot of the businesses which were supposed to be developed along the dock. So there is opportunity loss on top of that.

    This is a maybe a good concept if you feel like making an island attraction paid for by private sector investors. It’s absolute complete utter nonsense to have government fund this to any further degree than the joke it is now. It’s almost embarrassing that this will be seriously considered and we will use up more time to debate this, and stall progress even further than this mind boggling stage. What does it take a build a dock for God’s sake??

    Are we going to spend another 2 million for an environment impact study for these platforms? It wouldn’t be surprising at this point.

  6. Alas, the idea of a cable-car shuttle from cruise-ship dock excavated a nd destroying reef to mainland of Hogsty Bay is a pie-in-the-sky non-starter. Folks are "cautiously optimistic" about this unworkable plan. Why? How many elderly cruise-passengers and people with dough in their wallets to spend in George Town will be happy to get into a swaying cable car on a rainy or windy day? I rest my case and hae me doots about the viability of this strange initiative. And who will bell the big cruise ship cats and ask them to help fund this iffy project? I’d aver that slim to none would be chances the cruise lines would hand over their dough for this project.

  7. I’ve raised some concerns before on this as well.
    My main issue is that I cannot see how this could have the cost feasibility they claim. The back end of these piers will have to be in several hundred feet of water. I’m not a marine engineer but it takes only a small amount of consideration to know that if we know the cost of developing piers in relatively shallow water, it has to be considerably more to make a hurricane secure platform in water many times greater.
    It is a really cool looking idea but I highly doubt you’ll find the financial backers to make this even possible. I know nothing about cable cars so I’ll leave the criticism on this aspect to others but it does raise questions to me also in a salt water environment.
    The last thing you want is to toss up a Hail Mary of a concept to a wishful thinking design that ends up just collecting rust after breaking down and we still get stuck with having to go back to using tenders and lose ships and passengers while creating unneeded debt.

    There is NO way this concept can move people as easy as if they just walk off on to a dock. They still have to line up to wait on these cars, might be faster than the tenders but not perfect by any means.

    I think if this was really feasible and not just a group trying to jump on the money making train (or cable car) this idea would have surfaced long time ago.
    I hope we don’t go dash the countries chances and peoples lives on a long shot.

  8. What I think about cruise ship dock/cable cars. I know that debating on these issues is good and fun, but I think that the government is not going to do what we suggest in our comments / debates. I think that if we got in 2 lines in front of the LA building, one line FOR, one line AGAINST, and made the politicians count us would be more effective on these issues.

  9. Many interesting points have been raised and several reasonable questions asked. Most of these concerns and questions are already addressed here. under our projects section.

    If there is anything specific outside of what is already addressed on our projects page Im happy to answer either in private or public.

    ***Editor’s Note: Commenter James Whittaker, the CEO of Next Development, is not related to Compass reporter James Whittaker.***

  10. Thanks for the info Mr Whittaker and please keep pushing on this so it does get all do consideration in lieu of getting squashed before it even gets a chance to be considered.

    Cayman is full of Structural, Marine and Aviation engineers that have already condemned this to failure which is the norm so your job is going to be hard. I myself would like hear everything about how it could work before saying it won’t.

    I personally think the decision makers on this will not even consider it because they already have their minds made up and most likely have a vested interest in getting in done the way they put forward. Tons of money has most likely already been promised to certain entities for working on the dock.

  11. He has a lot of good info on his site about this technology. And no matter what anyone say the idea is cool and be great attraction in addition to shuttling cruise ship passengers.

    Looks to be working fine in Singapore and St. Thomas. Does anyone have any of that inside information on the problems they have at these sites.

  12. One question for James Whittaker.

    How much of your own money would you be prepared to invest in this project?

    One problem with all the ideas put forward so far is that the people coming up with the plans always want someone else to pay for it all.

    @ Michael Davis

    The St Thomas Skyride and the Singapore Sky Network are tourist attractions not mass passenger transit systems. To make it work the cars on this system would need to be much bigger. Based on reviews, the St Thomas operation has met with a mixed reception and had a few problems. They both apparently suffer from the same weather limitations as the Emirates Air Line in London.

  13. Agree with Mr.Davis and Mr.Whittaker.

    Boyan Slat, a Dutch 20-year-old on a mission to rid the world’s oceans of floating plastic has said: Human history has been a list of things that could not be done but then they were done!

  14. Thanks David, You’re right they both seem to be designed as tourist attractions and not mass passenger transit systems. However this just seems to be what they were designed for. I am sure that one designed to transport cruise ship passengers would be of a different design and built to suit that function.

    Can you point me towards the negative reviews regarding the St Thomas and Singapore SkyRides, I searched on Trip Adviser and found only great reviews about both. A lot of people seem to enjoy the ride I couldn’t find one that said anything bad about it.

    I still see no reason to discount this idea at this point and feel that the people who put in on the table deserve the chance to pitch their product and have the CIG listen.

    I do agree that this is something new but Skyride technology has been around for the longest ferrying people up on down mountains at Ski sloops in the winter when the wind is regularly strong and gusty. That doesn’t seem any less risky than a ride over water. For the argument about how the cars will hold up in the humid and salty environment or Cayman, I imagine they will fare no better or no worse then other vehicles in Cayman that are used on a daily basis and require no more or no less maintenance to keep up.

    There’s been concerns about the cost of maintenance to the system, I would assume that it would be covered by the ticket price for the each passenger that rides it to shore no difference than the tenders, which also need to be maintained. If this idea was ever seriously considered which I doubt. I would only believe it could work if it was built, managed and ran by a private sector entity that has experience with this type of system. I don’t believe for a minute that building something like this for the CIG to maintain would have any chance of success.

    Regarding your comment’ One problem with all the ideas put forward so far is that the people coming up with the plans always want someone else to pay for it all.’ How is that any different than the current dock plan, isn’t the CIG going to have to find someone else to put up the money for it or do they plan to pay for it out of Caymans current budget. I would like ask anyone where they think the CIG plans on getting the money for this as well for the Dump solution.

    It seems to me that no matter which idea is pursued someone else will have to pay for it, or Cayman will have to find a way to borrow the money going even further into debt.