‘It has all gone wrong straight away’ for British couple retiring in Cayman

A British couple’s retirement move to Grand Cayman got off to a disastrous start when they were told that someone had dropped their shipping container, causing thousands of dollars of damage.

Paul and Sue Williams say they had planned their big move for three years. But when they arrived at the Cargo Distribution Centre last month to collect the container with their belongings, they say they were told, “We’ve just dropped it.”

The windscreen of their Range Rover was cracked, the wheel rims were bent and the engine was damaged beyond repair. The customs seal on the container was broken and cloth covers from the vehicle appeared to have been used to mop up oil, Mr. Williams said. They were quoted $47,000 by a local garage to fix the vehicle, including $27,500 for a new engine.

Two self-assembled Lambretta scooters and some of the property in their 41 boxes packed into the container were also damaged.

The Port Authority did not respond to requests for comment on the accident, but has denied responsibility or liability for the damage. In emails between government risk analysts, shipping agent Seaboard Marine and Mr. and Mrs. Williams, seen by the Cayman Compass, officials suggest the latches on top of the shipping container were faulty and lay the blame at the door of international shipping company CGM-CMA.

Mr. and Mrs. Williams, from Stockport, England, say they have spent much of the first few weeks of their retirement lives in Grand Cayman in official waiting rooms in an effort to get an explanation and compensation.

“We have spent every day in a government office, Port Authority office, a customs office. There’s been no apology, no ‘sorry this has happened to you.’”

Mrs. Williams, 59, said, “This move has been three years in the planning and it has all gone wrong straight away. We should be out looking for a house, but we feel like we just want to call it a day and go home.”

Mr. Williams, 62, said the lack of cooperation from authorities in Cayman has been frustrating and degrading.

“We have spent every day in a government office, Port Authority office, a customs office. There’s been no apology, no ‘sorry this has happened to you.’”

He said the couple had planned the move to Cayman to be nearer to their daughter and their grandchildren in Florida.

“The Range Rover was my daughter’s and it had sentimental value for us. We hoped she would come out from the U.S. with the grandkids and be able to use it,” said Mr. Williams.

He said he was disappointed by the response of Port Authority officials to the situation. As a trucking industry professional who owned his own company in the U.K., he said it was clear to him from an examination of the container that the fault lay with the Port Authority in Grand Cayman.

But he said it had taken numerous emails, phone calls and visits to the agency to get a meeting with anyone, only to be told they were not accepting blame.

“I don’t care who is responsible, to be honest, but to me it is obvious that it the Port Authority. The container was moved numerous times on the journey without any problems.

“Nobody is doing anything or owning up to anything and we are sat here having to spend every minute of every day chasing them up.”

Despite the damage, the couple say they have been charged $6,000 in customs duty for bringing the property, including the car, into the Cayman Islands.

Mr. Williams is seeking a copy of the accident report on the incident, the vehicle maintenance record on the equipment used to move the container, and a copy of the Port Authority’s insurance policy, but has been unable to get this information. He has hired a lawyer to assist.

“We are not just going to go away and forget about it. We will go to court if we have to,” he said.

In emails between various port officials, government risk analysts and the couple, they are advised to file a claim with their shipping insurance, as the Port is only obligated to pay when willful neglect or default of the authority or its agents is demonstrated.

Have a similar experience? The reporter for this story,  James Whittaker, can be reached at  [email protected]

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  1. Very Sad, sad story. Life is full of disappointments and miss-adventures. My advice to the British retiring couple is. Don’t give up. Spend a day at the beach, dig your feet in the cool white sand and enjoy the ocean. If you believe in God, then have faith, he will work it out and you will be compensated by whom ever that is responsible. Enjoy Cayman.

  2. I agree that this is a sad story, and a terrible way to start a retirement here in our beautiful country.

    However, I do have a few questions about how this couple planned (for three years) their retirement here. First off, do they have permanent status here? Most likely not, since they did not indicate they had purchased a home or condo. If they had permanent status, they would have saved the $6,000 on customs duties afforded to people who have that precious stamp in their passport. Second, did they spring for insurance for the shipment? If so, they should go immediately to their insurance carrier. If not, they they made the decision to self insure, and are entitled to the flat rate insurance coverage on their shipment. Finally, did they engage a Shipping Agent to handle their overseas shipment to a foreign country? If so where is the agent in this? They should be doing all of this follow up, after all they is what you paid them to do — ship your household goods from your door in England to their door in Cayman.

    Given all of these problems, I do reach out with sympathy. This is a terrible thing to happen to anyone, and I am sorry to hear it has happened to them. As time passes and they settle in to their dream retirement, I certainly hope this incident will fade into memory.

    Government workers in the Cayman Islands are not know for customer service, and this is an accepted fact by foreigners and Caymanians alike. That is simply the way government works here.

    While this is unfortunate, and a sad situation, I hope you both with remember that your possessions are “just stuff” and you really should spend a modest amount of time fighting about it, and a maximum of time enjoying your retirement days.

  3. It should be simple enought to have an independent expert examine the container to ascertain if it was faulty.
    This reminds me of when we imported a new car many years ago and the bonnet over the engine was damaged.The Port Authority claimed it was damaged before it was shipped, but fortunately we had an independent witness who refuted that saying it arrived in good condition, so we were eventually recompensed for the repair. Someone had lifted the bonnet, but failed to release the catch on the strut holding it up when they tried to close it.

  4. I am so story that you have endured this hardship. All your dreams for the moment up in smoke. I have found this island mentality is “take no responsibility for anything”. Maybe that’s the human element. I hope things will turn around soon.

  5. sorry to hear of your troubles…I have vacationed 14 times in Cayman..we were taken advantage of by a local… car rental company…I called the police and they intimated me…I paid $750US for missing part from my rental because I did not buy THEIR insurance on the vehicle…we have not been back to Cayman..this place has real pirates…..RUN…ya man…RUN

    • The greed.
      Landlords taking deductions from your security deposits for rust on spoons and forks what was there before you moved in (who in their right mind would even check forks and spoon before moving in), or for a plastic washing machine knob that was not there in the first place. If one glass from a set is broken, they charge you for the entire set. Or a 32 weeks pregnant land-lady down on her four with a white towel in hand swiping every nook and cranny in her search of dirt and opening every pot and pan making sure it was washed properly (after everything was already professionally cleaned) and charging $100 anyway. Or a house with an irrigation system that was not mentioned in the rental agreement and runs only at night and increases your water bill to $600/mo.

  6. See Mr. Marbito story , the car rental company got US $ 750. But the Cayman Islands economy got deprived of thousands of US dollars , then why didn’t the car rental company have insurance on the vehicle , what happened to the vehicle was not Mr. Marbito fault , that was theft I believe until I hear the full story .

    That US $ 750 story is very much 3rd world actions and should not be happening in Cayman Islands because the more of them you get circulating in the media the worst it would be for Cayman Islands Tourism , which the car rental companies depends on Tourism too .