A proposal to create a new fuel depot and deep-water port in to service long-distance cargo ships remains on the table, according to the Texas-based energy company behind the project.
The proposed fuel terminal would also serve the local market and could ultimately lead to the shuttering of the Jackson Point fuel depot, according to Frank Giacalone, owner and CEO of Navasota Energy.
A fire in a diesel tank at the fuel depot on South Church Street last week caused the evacuation of homes within a mile radius and revived long-held safety concerns among neighbors about the location of the facility.
Mr. Giacalone, whose consultancy firm signed a memorandum of understanding with the Cayman Islands government to explore a fuel transshipment and terminal project in 2014, said the company has a proposal on the table that would move the fuel depot out of a residential area, bring improved public safety and substantially lower fuel prices to Cayman.
He said Navasota has proposed working with government to attract bidders to build and operate a fuel transshipment terminal, including storage tanks, berthing facilities for mega-ships and pipelines for local distribution.
Mr. Giacalone said Navasota is a consultant that could use its industry contacts to get the best deal for Cayman.
“We are not trying to build this thing,” he said. “What we have prepared for the government is a request for qualifications that has been sitting idle. That would go to the major oil businesses in the world.
“We are still absolutely committed to working with the government to get this done.”
The project was under discussion up to mid-2015 but stalled amid opposition from eastern districts legislators Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean, and then fell off the agenda in the run-up to the 2017 election.
Mr. Giacalone said the firm is now looking to reopen talks with the new government and wrote to officials inquiring about the status of the MOU.
He said the company has identified a 125-acre site in the eastern districts with access to deep water that could be developed to a fueling station for mega cargo ships transiting through the Caribbean Sea.
A fact sheet produced by the company indicates that it would seek to attract bidders for a fuel storage facility with capacity of between 3 million and 8 million barrels – a minimum of more than 10 times the size of Jackson Point.
He said Navasota would seek bids from major oil terminal management companies to build and operate the facility. Their profit margin would come from servicing passing cargo ships, while the benefits of bulk ordering would mean cheaper fuel for motorists in Cayman, for CUC, and for aircraft using the island. Speaking about the proposal in 2015, then-Infrastructure Minister Kurt Tibbetts suggested fuel prices could go down by 20 percent if the terminal was built.
But he said nothing would be done unless there was consensus among elected members over the project.
The Compass attempted to contact Premier Alden McLaughlin, who took over responsibility for the new fuel regulator OFREG after the election, but he did not respond to requests for comment about the location of the fuel terminal or the MOU with Navasota.