Opposition politicians are calling for government to hold a public referendum on whether to proceed with the cruise pier project in George Town harbor.

The political group believes the project is not necessary and does not have the support of the majority of the Cayman Islands people.

Opposition leader Ezzard Miller has tabled a private members’ motion calling for the people to decide on the issue. The motion, seconded by East End legislator Arden McLean and supported by all five members of the official opposition, will likely be debated at the next session of the Legislative Assembly, on Cayman Brac in early September.

Mr. Miller acknowledged that government was unlikely to grant the request for a public vote.

But he hopes it will force government to reveal more details of the project, what it involves, how it will be funded and who the shortlisted bidders are.

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“The government will have to respond to our charges and we will force them to unveil more of the totality of what is going on,” he said.

Mr. Miller believes the motion could also increase momentum for a people-initiated referendum. Under the islands’ constitution, government is obliged to hold a referendum on any issue of “national importance” if Cabinet is presented with a petition signed by 25 percent of registered voters.

“That is an option that is open to us and we will be prepared to support other agencies who are in the process of trying to initiate a people’s referendum,” he added.

Mr. Miller, who held a press conference to announce the motion at his George Town office Thursday, said there was no justification for the cruise pier project.

Citing figures from a 2015 environmental impact assessment report on the project, he said the piers would have a direct negative impact on water sports businesses in George Town that rely on the reef for their livelihood. The report indicated economic losses of around $20 million each year for that sector.

He also took issue with subsequent projections in a business case study that the cruise piers would lead to an overall net economic benefit for Cayman.

That report was based on the projection that cruise numbers would decline significantly if new piers were not built. Mr. Miller said there was no evidence that this was the case.

“There can be no justification or urgency to build a cruise pier in the face of government-reported sustained growth in the cruise ship and passenger visits year-on-year for the last five years,” he said.

Cruise arrivals tipped one million for the first six months of 2018, and while it is broadly accepted that those numbers were buffered by ships diverted from hurricane-hit islands in the eastern Caribbean, Mr. Miller said the overall trend for Cayman was positive – with or without a cruise dock.

He said the Cayman Islands was a key destination on cruise lines’ western Caribbean itineraries and that would remain the case.

“The Good Lord put the Cayman Islands in the correct geographical location, a day’s sail from Montego Bay and Ocho Rios,” he said.

“At some point in time, government has to acknowledge that there is really no need for these cruise piers in order for the industry to sustain itself. That has been consistently demonstrated over the past 20 years,” he added.

He said that the project was not supported by the Chamber of Commerce, Cayman Islands Tourism Association or the Watersports Association, and that the majority of written submissions from the public during the environmental impact assessment process had expressed opposition to the project.

Mr. Miller said the opposition’s position was that the Cayman Islands should support the tender operators in obtaining better vessels and make a smaller scale investment in improving facilities around the port for disembarking passengers.

The private members’ motion highlights a lack of information on the specifics of the project, objections from the general public, fears of environmental impact to coral reefs, including dive sites, in the harbor, and concerns over the affordability of the project.

It adds, “Be it therefore resolved that government hold a referendum to determine if the majority of Caymanians support the proposal for the cruise berthing facility and that such a referendum be held as soon as possible.

“And be it therefore resolved that no contracts to design, finance, build and maintain the facility are awarded prior to the publishing of the outcome of the referendum.”

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  1. The citizens of Grand Cyman need to vote on this huge finiancial cruise ship piers issue!!!
    Public School, Education, teacher salaries and paying off the new school buildings should be addressed before cruise ship piers. Cayman children need to be looked out for before a cruise ship pier!!!

  2. With Calico Jacks and the Royal Palms closing where are these cruise boat people going for a day on the beach anyway? The public beach is crowded as it is. And I really think it should be for the LOCAL public anyway.

    Truly we need to focus on stay over tourists who spend serious money here. Not the “bikinis in George Town” crowd.

  3. As someone who navigates one of these cruise ships there are two ‘problems’ with the Anchorage.
    1: if the swell is more than one metre/3feet you can’t conduct tendering operations easily. 2metres/6 feet and you cancel the port.
    2: if the wind is high, 20-25 knots you would consider cancelling. 30 knots and you will cancel.
    Why is this? Not all ships have systems in place (if they don’t anchor) to keep them in a static position, this is called ‘Dynamic Positioning’ which requires specialist equipment onboard and also increases fuel consumption, therefore overall costs.
    Secondly you have to look at the make up of guests. The guests that my employer has are generally older and more frail. Therefore the conditions that we cancel the port at will be reduced.
    The large ships will continue to come but the smaller, pricier ships will leave if weather systems continue to change. My employer now only calls in twice a week and it is certainly not a cheap ship. A basic cabin for seven days costs on average US$12 000. Perhaps if these guests were made to spend their money ashore it would help retain places like Calico Jacks (as an example).
    I have also seen places that have a small ‘Cruise’ pier which is also used to import goods when cruise ships are not there.
    While I admit that cruise ship passengers can be frugal, perhaps cruise is a good supplement to stay over guests.
    Something needs to be done, I would argue sooner rather than later, but it all depends on the objectives set by CIG. Do they want big ships, lots of ships alongside at the berth or do they only want smaller ships?
    If it can be seen as financially viable and self sustaining then it only depends on the EIA.
    That’s my two cents. I’m looking forward to further comments.

  4. With so much discussion, over the years, whether the cruise ship piers are detrimental to the environment, or help full and necessary for the cruise ship passengers, it is now time for a vote by the citizens. Once and for all, let the people speak, and then put this baby to bed.

    • I think I would probably agree..close the lid on the box one way or another.
      Although, I would urge caution given what the British have been up to since the vote to leave the EU, they seem to be tearing themselves apart.

  5. Mr. Goad Thank you for your knowledgeable contribution to this piece. It is very informative. Of course currently there is no cruise ship pier or jetway’s to enable the flying public to exit the planes without having to use the antiquated, outdated and potentially dangerous stairs. They are a serious challenge in the rain, the elderly, and anyone who has a mobility problem dread using them. Amazing that with the updated Owen Roberts, jetways weren’t considered because of cost. Penny wise and pound foolish.