EDITORIAL – Cruise pier: To be or not to be?

​One of the primary purposes of a newspaper is, of course, to break “news.” But that’s not the only purpose. For example, in this editorial space we often analyze complex situations or argue for the way things should be rather than the way they are.

In other words, the goal of a newspaper is not just to relay the most recent car crash, report the latest sports scores or act as “real-time” stenographer for proceedings in the Legislative Assembly. Fundamentally and quite generally, our mission is to keep our readers, the people of the Cayman Islands, informed.

It is in that spirit that we offer to our readers today’s front page, containing columns from the leading official proponent and opponent of the proposed George Town cruise berthing facility – Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell and Leader of the Opposition Ezzard Miller.

After years, even decades, of discussion, the contentions for and against building cruise piers in the George Town harbor are no doubt familiar to many of our readers. Although cruise berthing proposals have been around nearly as long as cruise ships have been visiting Grand Cayman, the idea has arguably never been closer to realization.

We invited Minister Kirkconnell and Mr. Miller to “make their best case” for and against the cruise dock, and in our opinion each delivered a clear, thorough and persuasive treatise. As readers can see for themselves, the “pro” and “con” sides differ on many aspects of the port proposal, but what everyone should agree on is that the cruise dock would constitute the single largest and most influential public works project in the history of Cayman, the impact of which will reverberate through the tourism sector and wider economy, far exceeding the capital cost of the project, whether that turns out to be $150 million, $200 million or more.

Transforming the George Town harbor by investing in a cruise dock constitutes a very serious, long-term commitment by Cayman to the cruise tourism industry.

Petitions are circulating with the purpose of forcing a referendum on the cruise project. Whether or not Caymanian voters do get that chance to weigh in at the polls (and many would argue that did happen during the 2017 general election), Cayman as a country must have both eyes wide open to the potential benefits and risks of this landmark project.

So as to avoid stealing the megaphone from Messrs. Kirkconnell and Miller, we will not rehash their arguments, but refer you to their columns on Page One.

Three years ago, government committed to building the dock after lengthy public debate. At that time, we offered our conditional support for the project, subject to these guiding principles:

  • Build it quickly and efficiently.
  • Build it well, making sure the project is (and looks to be) of the highest quality.
  • The project must fall within a rational financing scheme. The government should not attempt to appease opponents by unwisely spending taxpayer dollars on, for example, “mitigation efforts” aimed at salvaging coral in the footprint of the dock project.

At the moment, we will not elaborate further on that position, other than to encourage that, when perusing the dueling columns and when considering the port project in the future, our readers and our officials keep those principles in mind.

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