Unable to expand outwards, Cayman’s Cargo Distribution Centre is expanding upward. A $5.6 million project, currently under way, will allow the Port Authority to stack shipping containers seven stories high, ensuring the Grand Cayman has enough storage capacity for the next 20 years, according to port director Clement Reid.

Two giant cranes, known as rubber tired gantries, worth a total of $2.3 million, have been installed at the site and contractor McAlpine is mid-way through a $3.3 million redevelopment of the yard.

The upgrades, approved by the Central Planning Authority in October last year, are expected to be complete by June.

To motorists passing on North Sound Road, the stacked containers will have the same visual impact as a seven-story building.

Mr. Reid said the Port Authority had been investigating ways to expand the capacity of the center, at the direction of the board, since 2014. After negotiations to buy adjoining land proved unsuccessful, he said attention switched to expanding upward rather than outwards.

“We looked at what was being used around the world,” Mr. Reid said, “and we settled on these cranes, which will allow us to quadruple our capacity.”

He said they are operated through a high-tech automated system that will allow operators to pre-select containers for pickup before customers arrive. The new system will make operations more efficient, as well as making much better use of the space at the yard, he added.

“We were reaching our capacity in terms of storage, and we anticipate there will be increased cargo coming in as the population continues to grow.”

He cited increasing construction, a number of hotel projects and the upcoming cruise berthing development as among the projects that would increase the amount of cargo coming into Cayman.

In an analysis of the project for the Central Planning Authority, the planning department explained how the innovation would also increase the capacity of the yard by eliminating the need for “drive aisles” between the stacks of containers, creating what it described as a much “tighter footprint.”