Says port will benefit more than waterfront merchants
Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell has refuted suggestions of a conflict of interest over Cayman’s cruise port project.
The tourism minister, whose cousin Gerry Kirkconnell owns Kirk Freeport which has numerous jewelry stores on the waterfront, said, “I love my family, but I don’t own any shares in any of their businesses in George Town.”
Chris Kirkconnell, vice president of operations at Kirk Freeport, has been one of the leaders of the Caymans’s Port, Cayman’s Future, pro-port campaign.
Responding directly, for the first time, to suggestions that his family connections were behind the push to develop new cruise piers in the harbor, Moses Kirkconnell said the project would benefit the whole of Cayman.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Minister Kirkconnell said a “tremendous number of Caymanian families” would benefit from the project, not just the front street merchants.
He said a new cruise dock had been discussed for over a decade, long before he was involved in government.
And he said the Progressives administration had gone through the process in the most “transparent way possible,” commissioning as many as 10 reports and making them available to the public. Both he and Premier Alden McLaughlin contrasted this approach with that of previous governments, which they said had spent millions trying to get cruise port projects started without success.
In his earlier remarks, Moses Kirkconnell expressed some surprise at the level of opposition to the project.
“It has been disconcerting to see this project polarizing the community,” he said. “This is somewhat surprising, considering a berthing facility has been on the cards for development in the George Town harbor for over a decade.
“I can only surmise that some of the trauma is due to the realization that we are a government that gets things done, and when we say we’re going to do something, something happens.”
He said the Progressives had campaigned on the premise of a berthing facility in George Town and had a mandate to deliver on that pledge. But he said they had still sought to gather as much data, information and statistics as possible to make an informed decision.
“Even with the studies, statistics and feedback from the cruise lines themselves confirming the need for these piers, this has not been an easy decision for government,” he said.
“We are fully aware that our tourism product is supported by the natural beauty of our environment. Therefore, it bears repeating that we remain committed to identifying the best possible option that will deliver the most economic benefit with the least environmental harm,” he added.
He said the project would mean jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for many in Cayman.
“Cruise tourism in our islands is made up of a growing number of Caymanians who rely on this industry for their livelihoods. They are not nameless, faceless statistics. They are the taxi drivers, tour operators, retailers, restaurateurs, tours, attractions, and a host of other service providers that work very hard to support this business.”