Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell confirmed government is in talks over the possibility of bringing a cruise port to Cayman Brac.
He said the discussion was at the exploratory stage, to see if the island could become a destination on new western Caribbean routes based around the growing opportunities for cruise lines in Cuba.
He acknowledged there were lots of hurdles to overcome for that hope to become a reality, not least the difficulty in finding a sufficiently sheltered location on the Brac.
The prospect of a cruise port in the Brac was identified as a goal in the island’s five-year tourism plan, which highlights the potential of upgrading the cargo dock at Creek in the northeastern side of the island to receive small cruise ships and mega-yachts.
“This could relieve some of the cruise ship traffic concentrated on Grand Cayman, and spread the economic benefit of cruise tourism to Cayman Brac,” the plan notes.
Since then, Mr. Kirkconnell said further talks have taken place about the possibility of a genuine cruise port on the Brac.
“It was identified in the tourism plan and the discussion is taking place with an operator,” he said.
“We have identified an opportunity for cruise vessels to come to the Brac because of the western route and Cuba opening up a lot of cruise business. I believe the interest is there [for the Brac to be part of that] and we are trying to find out if it is feasible.”
Cruise ships have stopped at the Brac previously, mooring off the Creek dock, but only very occasionally. Mr. Kirkconnell said the discussion to create a cruise port in Cayman Brac was entirely separate from the ongoing procurement process for a new port in Grand Cayman. Any such development in the Brac would be on a smaller scale and would depend on the ability to attract enough cruise business to make it worthwhile.
“I hope we could generate enough visitors a week to tell a business that [a cruise dock] is good for our economy,” he added. “From an economic standpoint, you need a certain amount of ships before businesses are going to be comfortable investing. It is a chicken-and-egg situation because you are not going to put a Royal Palms or that type of business there if you don’t have the throughput of people.”
He said the business case would depend on whether enough ships could be attracted to the Brac to stimulate business. Other problems include the lack of guaranteed good weather days on the island.
“Cayman Brac doesn’t have a leeward side, so it is not easy to guarantee a certain number of good weather days, which the cruise industry requires.”
Despite those hurdles, he said, there was genuine interest from the cruise industry, and government was pursuing the conversation.
“We certainly hope it can happen,” he added.