Fewer cruise ships to dock at Spotts

Passengers disembark at Spotts Dock in December from a tender boat that delivered them from the Carnival Magic cruise ship. - Photos: Alvaro Serey

The Port Authority plans to reduce the number of cruise ships allowed to use Grand Cayman’s back up “bad weather” anchorage at Spotts.

The sight of cruise ships off the southern coast of the island have been a fixture of the winter storm season, with bad weather making the main port in George Town inaccessible on several days.

Citing overcrowding and safety concerns, the Port Authority plans to reduce the number of ships simultaneously allowed to tender at the Spotts terminal from three to two. That means more ships will have to be turned away on days when it is not safe to anchor in George Town.

Acting port director Joey Woods told board members that the tender operator and the main shipping agent had agreed to the proposal, according to minutes of the November meeting of the Port Authority.

Mr. Woods also indicated that the proposal had been sent to the cruise lines through the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association for input, the minutes note.

Minutes from an earlier board meeting, in September, detail a presentation by Mr. Woods on the problems experienced at Spotts with three ships in port.

He highlighted safety concerns around overcrowding at the pier and lengthy wait times for passengers, and suggested having two slots instead of three would increase efficiency and improve customer experience.

Mr. Woods showed pictures to the board members of the scenes at Spotts on busy days, before requesting permission to negotiate a change in policy.

Mr. Woods told the Compass there were a number of reasons for the worsening conditions at Spotts. He said larger ships were visiting Cayman, meaning there were more passengers disembarking.

He said the tender boats had also got larger, meaning only two could fit on each side of the pier at any one time.

He said this created serious delays as the third ship waited for space to berth.

“In addition to that, the pier is very narrow and safety with large crowds on it is an issue,” he added.

“Having analyzed it all, in the best interest of safety and customer experience, it was the best option,” he said, adding that feedback from all involved, including the cruise lines, had been in favor of the new policy.

He said the cargo dock and the North Terminal sometimes offered alternate poor weather backup options, but when those were not safe, only two ships selected to use Spotts would be permitted to stop.

According to the Port Authority, a total of 14 ships, carrying 24,304 passengers, bypassed Grand Cayman, mostly because of weather issues, in December.