Economic Forum highlights concerns over cruise pier project

Cruise ship passengers board a tender to return to their ship in George Town harbor. - Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Regular readers of the Cayman Compass and other local media are surely used to seeing headlines over the years such as “Cruise dock deal on track,” “Government gives green light to George Town cruise dock,” and “Government plans to go ahead with cruise dock.”

Months later, those headlines are inevitably followed up with new ones such as “Cruise pier project faces delays,” “No cruise berthing contract before election,” and “Port won’t develop anytime soon.”

Nevertheless, government insists that it’s close to selecting a bidder to build a $180 million cruise and cargo dock in George Town Central.

After putting the project out to bid last September, government narrowed down the potential companies to undertake the development to five in April. The Central Tenders Committee met on May 9 to draw up a shortlist for a final round of bidding, and the deadline for those detailed final submissions is in July.

For the rest of this story, please see The Journal’s website.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now


  1. You only have to look at the picture above to see what the problem is. Way to slow to get on and off this tender boat. We don’t need piers, we need better, bigger tenders.

    Compare this to how people leave and board the Hong Kong Star Ferry:

    See how they walk off 4 abreast.

    A series of pictures showing the whole boarding process can be seen here:

    Note the high efficiency. People waiting to get on stand behind one barrier, while waiting for disembarking passengers to go up a different gangway. As soon as the last person walks off the barrier goes up and the people stream on, even pushing a stroller or wheelchair if needed.

  2. Sorry to down vote your comment here Norm but I must share an informed opinion. As someone who visits ships on a weekly basis I have first hand experience of the around 1+ hour commute from the port to the ship that many guests have to endure when they visit via a cruise ship.

    Bigger tenders are not the answer, examples you have provided here are not tender boats nor would they be suited to the harbor or the ships in the removal of passengers. The current tender boats work as fast as possible using the little space the have at the current port to ship passengers back and forth this is already more efficient than a few slow ferris but its still not enough in ensuring the speed of embark and debark (to support up to 6 ships in port at a time).

    Additionally the pictured image here is the smallest of the tenders that is actually only used in vary rare cases of small ships where these boats actually double as the safety boats that hang off the site (90% of the time ships are using larger local tenders that are fast and hold close to 200 passengers)… yet this is still not enough. On days where there are 4+ ships in port it is normal to sit on a tender boat in the water waiting of a space in the port to park (sat idle myself for 20mins one time i felt like jumping in the water and swimming the 10m over to get on island).

    I have also been witness to guests not arriving on island until midday when their ship came in at 8am, guests have to patiently wait their turn to get on a busy tender boat and for that boat to fight for dock space to debark them… then they can spend a lovely 2-3 hours in Cayman only to begin the fight to get back onboard again (not exactly a day visit to Cayman is it?).

    If Cayman wants to stay competitive, have guests visit the island for more than just a few hours (and keep them coming back) then something must be done. A bigger port and a pier that can support walk on walk off for 4 ships would be a start.

    • Barry.
      I have once visited Grand Cayman on a cruise ship. It was a horrible experience getting off the ship and a long wait in the heat to re-embark.
      The waiting around is mostly a factor of the boarding and unloading time not the actual travel time from ship to harbor.

      I have also used the Hong Kong star ferry many times. The ferry carries up to 600 people on two decks, upper and lower. Each deck has a separate exit. Not possible here.
      The cost is about 50 cents each way. They still make a profit.

      The time to board all 300 people is about 3 minutes or less. You can watch on this video (you can skip the first 30 seconds):

      Our tenders have a small entrance and require people to step down into them. Not a very wide aisle on the boat and seats close together.
      Star Ferries have a bow and engine at both ends. This means they can go straight in to tie up, no need to turn around. The wooden seats have backs that you can flip over depending which direction you are going.

      Of course we could not have a tender as big as this. But it could be bigger, with wider entrance and the floor at dock level so you could just walk on not step down.

      • Hi Norman/Barry,
        have to admit that I agree with both of you – weird as that might sound. The question as i see it is simple. Does Cayman want Cruise tourism or does it want stay over? Right now it seems to be stuck in the middle with a ‘it has been this way for x years’ idea which is fine but a point will be reached when the decision has been made too late.
        I used to love calling in Cayman and seeing Captain Banks who used to bring us all Rum Cake on the bridge which went down so well. However more often than not we had to cancel due to weather. The problem is that our anchor and winch are not sufficient to keep us in position after the drop off. Staying on Engines is hard work for the Captain because not a lot of ship’s at the moment have DP (Dynamic Position which is where the ship stays stationary using a GPS signal and automatically uses thrusters or engines to remain in position) and of course, with money saving in shipping, using engines all day means increased fuel consumption.
        Another problem with Tendering is that – design dependant – people seem to make up reasons or excuses to sit at the entrances which then clogs and slows things down. The old adage of ‘fill up from the back first’ would seem appropriate, of course there is also a human solution to this of ‘get in the middle please ladies and gents’. Combined with this is the space in town for the tenders to berth. If another of your tenders is inside you have to wait outside. Then when your inside you have the huge rock (can someone tell me if it has a name?) which slows manoeuvering down.
        While i agree that stay over toursits are perhaps better for the Island as they spend more and return again and again, Cruise Ship’s are surely an easy revenue source so how about a Pier big enough (and deep enough) for one smaller ship, say 1000 passengers. Which can then be used to bring cargo to the island when a ship isnt using it? They have this sort of set up in a few places such as Madagascar. In Male (Maldives) and Victoria (Seychelles) they have a cargo port that cruise ships sometimes use.
        So at the end of it, the quesiton has to be asked. Whats better, stay over or cruise tourists? What benefits the economy most?
        My text here obviously ignores the environmental impact as I know nothing about the effect of building a pier (however large or small) on island but i would suggest that the impact could be less over a long term than ships anchors and all that cable (anchor chain) going down every day. I am however a Navigation Officer, not an Environmentalist.