Dismissing Opposition criticism of the cruise port project as “fake news,” Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell denied the anticipated cost of building two new piers in George Town harbor had spiraled to $300 million.

Mr. Kirkconnell, who is also tourism minister, did not say how much the piers are actually expected to cost, however.

Initial projections in the business case for the project put the price tag at $150 million.

He acknowledged that a decision to move the piers into deeper water to reduce the impact on coral reefs had brought additional expense.

But he insisted that government was not picking up the tab or offering any financial guarantee for the project, which he described as essential if the island wanted to remain in the cruise business.

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“There is no risk to government on this project,” he added.

Mr. Kirkconnell said interested consortiums had been through a pre-qualifying process and had now been short-listed ahead of the bid process to design, build, finance and maintain the piers.

He did not elaborate on government’s intended financing model for the project. The business case envisaged that the piers could be funded through a combination of the fees that currently go to tender operators, around $5 per passenger, and a share of the $14 per-passenger “head tax” charged by government for every cruise ship visitor.

Critics have questioned whether that combination of fees would provide sufficient annual revenue to cover the cost of building and running the piers, without significantly impacting government’s revenue from those head taxes.

Mr. Kirkconnell has said the ultimate formula will be finalized in the forthcoming tender process.

He dismissed claims from the opposition that government was prioritizing the project over education.

“The one thing I agree with is we all want more education facilities, more spend on education. Our model to spend more on education is to grow revenue, strengthen the economy and use that money for education, health as we identified,” he said.

“If we don’t create opportunity to grow business in this country, we won’t have money to provide any services.”

Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller said in his speech, Wednesday, that he received some anecdotal information about the port, including documents that had been left on his vehicle’s windscreen. He said he was informed the entire cruise project would cost $300 million “plus” and that government had agreed to provide “all fees related to cruise passengers” to the cruise industry for 50 years.

In return, the cruise industry would put $50 million to $100 million into the project, leaving some $200 million worth of funding in question.

Mr. Kirkconnell said the figures cited by the opposition leader were simply wrong: “$300 million in capital costs is not correct. That figure was repeated many times, it’s not correct. The $50 [million] to $100 million cruise line contribution? I don’t know where that came from. Wrong.”

He said the government had taken a firm decision that cruise piers were needed and said the business case inquiry for the project backed that up.

“What we want from a policy standpoint is overnight visitors, and we want cruise. We want to balance and manage them and make sure we maximize the spend when they are in [the] Cayman Islands,” he said.

“There are more Caymanian entrepreneurs servicing the cruise industry with tours and attractions than there are servicing the overnight visitation. That’s the opportunity and that is what we pushed forward for.”

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  1. We need cruise ship business for the future. Maybe people forgot that after Hurricane Ivan, Cruise ships was the first dollar to come back to Grand Cayman. The hotels needed repairs and condos were rebuilt. Now that we have hotels and condos as the creme de la creme, how many Caymanians are employed? Well, you can see the Caymanians who OWN businesses operating on the docks every day there is a Cruise ship. The more cruise ships that come the better. How many Caymanians working in hotels, condos, and bars and rest.? This is essential to maintain the middle class of Caymanians. There is no guarantee that Caymanian children who qualify for higher education will even GET a job here in this country. They may have to go overseas to find a job. Why we need this new cruise ship facility is to KEEP cruise lines coming to Cayman. I’m sure if you have been watching GT harbour you all have seen that only 3-4 days of ships have been coming with usually one to two ships here for the summer season. The newer higher class ships won’t come until we fix this fiasco of no infrastructure. Every Island in the Caribbean has built cruise ship piers. They are increasing the number of ships coming to their port. They will pay fees per passenger .
    We need schools but who will pay for them? People want free schools, free lunches, free after-school care. We need to charge something, Teachers want more money. We have no tax base. Remember you compare apples to apples. If Gov’t gives grants to private schools we will save millions of dollars per year. Private schools have more discipline and usually, offer American school curriculum. Public school teachers make less salaries that are offered in public schools. We still don’t have technical or vocational schools, when? Let us invest in projects that bring real income and make parents responsible for their own children.

  2. Government is putting the cart before the horse. The funding agreement with the cruiselines should have been thoroughly explored before we got this far, to see if it really was feasible, with at least a memorandum of understanding on the financing to support this concept. Without any sort of Government guarantee, I foresee this scheme will be dead in the water (excuse the pun).
    With regard to Mr Kirkconnell’s comment that the piers are essential if we want to remain in the cruiseship business, this is completely at odds with the facts. Their absence has had no effect over the years on our popularity as a destination.Moreover, if as he claims, the piers will vastly increase numbers, we will be swamped to the serious detriment of not only our stayover visitors, but also to our permanent residents.

  3. I am not sure the Honourable member quite understand ‘fake news’.

    If this project is ever to see fruition, then someone has to pay – the developers will not do it for nothing – and as the costs are ‘up front’ how does this square with the idea that a ‘tax’ cruise ship passengers will foot the bill?

    If this is what the Government thinks, then this will never happen.