While speaking at Friday’s ceremony to christen the newest jet of Cayman Airways, Premier Alden McLaughlin made a major announcement concerning another aspect of the tourism industry.
Mr. McLaughlin said government has received “formal financial commitments” from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Carnival Corporation to help build the planned cruise berthing facilities in George Town.
The premier said that these financial commitments, coupled with financing provided by the bidder selected to undertake the project, means that no public money will be spent on the project.
“This represents a huge vote of confidence in the Cayman Islands and in the viability of this project,” he said. “It is a very significant milestone on the critical path towards the delivery of the new port facilities that this country needs to secure its economic future.”
Mr. McLaughlin did not provide details about the financial commitments. Government sent out a press release on the issue on Sunday, but that did not contain many details, either.
Government has intended to undertake the cruise pier development as a public-private partnership, where the selected bidders and cruise lines will finance and build the facilities and then collect passenger fees over 20 years.
The press release stated that the cruise lines’ financial commitments will be included in the invitation to submit final tenders to the project’s final three bidders. Those bids should, in turn, be made by the end of the first quarter of 2019, the press release stated.
On Friday, the premier further touted the expected economic benefits the cruise berthing facilities will bring. According to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the development is expected to create 500 construction jobs immediately, and then decades of increased employment and business opportunities totalling to some $245 million in economic benefits, Mr. McLaughlin said.
The premier acknowledged that the cruise pier will cause some environmental damage, but said the economic benefits will far outweigh the costs.
“We acknowledge that there will be environmental impact, and while we are redesigning the project to minimize that damage, there is no way that we can build a new cruise and enhanced cargo port without some impact,” he said.
“The choice is that we either do nothing or we build cruise piers.”