Disney Cruise Line has committed to help finance the building of the planned cruise berthing facilities and cargo dock in George Town, Premier Alden McLaughlin said on Thursday at the Chamber of Commerce’s legislative luncheon.
Disney now joins Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Carnival Corporation as financiers of the project. Mr. McLaughlin announced the commitments of the latter two cruise lines in December at the unveiling of a new Cayman Airways jet.
Mr. McLaughlin said on Thursday that the financial commitments mean that no public money will be used to build the facilities.
Mr. McLaughlin did not provide details about the financial commitments, but 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.
Government said in December 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, according to government.
Mr. McLaughlin said on Thursday that his government should have a preferred bidder chosen by summer, at which time details about the project’s costs and design will be finalized and made public.
Mr. McLaughlin also addressed some criticisms levied toward the cruise pier plan.
One of the main objections is that Cayman has experienced record tourism numbers in recent years, and so people wonder why the pier is needed. The premier said berthing facilities are required because the cruise lines are building bigger and bigger ships.
Mr. McLaughlin compared Cayman’s current situation to Kodak, the photography company that failed to innovate as the industry shifted toward digital photography. Because Kodak failed to adapt to a changing landscape, it eventually went bankrupt in 2012 and is now a shadow of the former industry giant it once was, he said.
“I fear that will be the outcome for our cruise industry if we fail to react to where the cruise market is developing,” he said. “This government will not allow that to happen.”
Another criticism the premier addressed is the environmental damage the project is expected to inflict on the surrounding area. Mr. McLaughlin said project developers will do their best to keep the environmental impact to a minimum, but that any “responsible government” would need to take into account the massive economic gains the project will bring.
The development is expected to create 500 construction jobs immediately, and then decades of increased employment and business opportunities totaling some $245 million in economic benefits, according to Mr. McLaughlin.
“This comes down to question of judgment,” he said. “Do the benefits outweigh the costs? In my view, yes.”