Deep-water solution to port problem considered

The government has asked engineers to review the design of Cayman’s proposed cruise port and assess the possibility of moving the piers into deeper water to minimize destruction of coral reefs. 

Consultants W.F. Baird and Associates have been asked to assess the viability and cost of altering the design to limit the dredging that would be required. 

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell acknowledged that any changes on that scale could add to the overall construction costs, currently estimated at $156 million. 

He said the design contemplated by Baird in its environmental impact assessment, which indicated the likely loss of around 15 acres of coral reef habitat, was the most efficient in terms of “value for dollar.” 

But he said government is prepared to spend more money if it means less environmental damage, and has asked the marine engineering consultants to assess other options in more detail. 

“The deepest piling that is there now in the design Baird took forward is in the 50-55 feet range. We have asked them to look at moving the piers into deeper water with the outer most piling being in as much as 90 feet of water. That gives us the opportunity to change the dredge pocket.” 

He said in the next few weeks he expects an indication from Baird on the likely implications of those design changes. He could not say at this stage how much it would add to the cost, but acknowledged, “It is less expensive to build in 55 feet than in 85-95 feet.” 

There would also likely be logistical implications involved in moving the piers into deeper water, including the distance required for passengers to walk to shore. 

Mr. Kirkconnell did not dismiss options put forward by other engineers, including the use of cable cars, but said the cruise lines would have to be involved in determining what was viable. 

“They will give a very clear indication of what they are prepared to have as the best way of getting their guests ashore. They will have input into whether it is moved to 90 feet.” 

He said the design used by Baird in the environmental impact assessment was never intended to be set in stone. 

Researchers examined the coral and sandy hard bottom of the George Town harbor to determine the impact of creating a cruise ship berthing facility.
Researchers examined the coral and sandy hard bottom of the George Town harbor to determine the impact of creating a cruise ship berthing facility. – PHOTO: CSA Ocean Sciences Inc./West Indian Marine Group


  1. This is exciting news about the consideration of moving the cruise port farther out to sea. It is great to see that the location is not set in stone, so to speak.

    While the discussion has been to move to deeper water, there really has not been any indication how much farther the port would be from shore, thus adding length to the "walk" from ship to shore. Would the difference be 200 feet, 500 feet, ten miles? All of these distances make a difference and need to be evaluated and offered to the public for consideration.

    In relation to the cost of the pier, and the "value for dollar consideration, how have these considerations been applied to projects such as the government administration building? To the glamorous, yet seemingly dysfunctional High School? What is the bang for the buck value of those, and should we not put such considerations on all government projects?