Final bids from companies vying to build the new cruise and cargo facility in George Town harbour are expected to be submitted to government Friday.

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said in a statement that the bids would be evaluated before a final decision on who will build the piers would be announced.

The statement made no mention of the possibility of a referendum that could derail the project. Campaigners have announced that they have hit the target to trigger a people-initiated vote and they expect a referendum to be called on whether or not the port project should go ahead.

Kirkconnell said that more information on the project would be available once the winning bidder is selected.

“It is very exciting that the procurement process has reached its conclusion, because this means the public will soon be able to see the winning design, and more information regarding the cost and exact positioning of the piers will be available and shared,” he said in a statement.

“I have repeatedly advised that it was necessary to arrive at this final stage in the process in order to have final designs in hand, and having reached this point I look forward to publicly unveiling the plans as soon as the successful bidder has been identified.”

His statement came Thursday afternoon, several hours before a planned public meeting from the group Cruise Port Referendum Cayman to update the public on the next steps now their petition has reportedly passed the threshold of around 5,300 signatures to trigger a referendum. That meeting had not taken place at press time Thursday afternoon.

Kirkconnell recapped some of the details of the lengthy procurement process and insisted no public funding would be required to build the piers.

“As the Premier and I have both previously stated a number of times, this project will be financed from funding which cruise lines have committed to provide and from the remaining balance provided by the winning bidder.

“These will be repaid from passenger fees, which would otherwise have been used for ferrying passengers to and from the cruise ships, and not from the public purse,” the minister said.

To date, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Corporation, Disney Cruise Line and MSC Cruises have all signed formal funding agreements worth around $180 million.

Kirkconnell added, “The financial commitments provide the assurance that cruise lines will continue bringing passengers to our shores for the next 25 years, and are a strong endorsement for the future of the Cayman Islands cruise industry.”

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