The members of the Progressives administration like to style themselves as “a government that gets things done.” On the subject of the George Town cruise dock, they have lived up to that promise.
Premier Alden McLaughlin’s announcement Wednesday of the government’s commitment to moving forward with the downtown cruise berthing project is, in our opinion, a defining moment in Mr. McLaughlin’s tenure as premier.
The cruise dock, which is expected to cost $150 million or more, is the single largest public works project in the history of the Cayman Islands — and is a signature initiative of this Progressives administration.
Cruise ships have been anchoring in George Town harbor for some 40 years, and discussions over constructing a cruise dock have been going on for nearly as long. We at the Compass have engaged in this community conversation, culminating in our 16-page special report called “The Dock Debate” that was published July 30 in our print newspaper, and is still available online at the Compass Data Desk, www.compassdatadesk.com.
But even the most enlightening and most heated debates must eventually come to an end. We consider Premier McLaughlin’s announcement to be the final word on the question of whether or not Cayman is going to pursue a cruise dock.
The premier’s answer, and our government’s answer, and our answer is an emphatic “Yes.”
Now that the policy decision has been made, we as a country should rally behind our leaders and behind this national project.
For our part, we will offer four guiding principles that should be adhered to going forward.
First, when something is to be done, it is best that it be done quickly. There is no benefit, now, in over-consultation or over-analysis that is not aimed at the furtherance of the goal. Delays should be viewed as deleterious.
Second, when Cayman sets out to build something of this magnitude, especially in the tourism sector, it must be of the highest quality. Our country deserves nothing less than a world-class project, something that is not only eminently functional but also aesthetically pleasing. We urge government to bring aboard, as soon as possible, specialists in landscaping and beautification, to produce a pulchritudinous project that is up to the standards set by Camana Bay, The Ritz-Carlton or the former Hyatt property. The last thing Cayman needs is a concrete-and-chain-link twin to the existing Royal Watler Terminal.
Third, the cruise dock project must fall within the financing scheme that government comes up with. We are not so much concerned with whether the project costs $100 million, $150 million, $200 million or more, but that once the price tag and funding model has been established, the government adheres to it strictly from groundbreaking to ribbon cutting.
On this point, officials should not unnecessarily squander public resources on uncertain “mitigation efforts” aimed at salvaging coral in the footprint of the dock project. The destruction of the reef is an unfortunate, but unavoidable, cost of the project. Politicians ought not to attempt to appease opponents of a project by unwisely spending taxpayer dollars.
Fourth, while the cruise dock project may be regarded as the catalyst for increased success in cruise tourism, the dock itself cannot be the centerpiece or focus of Cayman’s tourism product. The dock merely aids in the transition of our clients (the cruise tourists) from ship to shore. Each decision made in regard to the design of the cruise dock must take into account plans for downtown George Town, other attractions and the infrastructure that ties everything together. If any one of those elements is missing, it will detract from the potential positive effects of building the dock.
Our officials have not arrived at this decision lightly, but have taken input from industry experts, consultants, special-interest groups and the public-at-large. Not surprisingly, the cruise dock project has engendered much controversy and will surely have political consequences.
Led by Premier McLaughlin and Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell, the Progressives have stood up as one and have chosen this as their course. We support them, we support this project, and we congratulate the members of Cabinet for their vision and, yes, their courage.