Roads clogged as vehicle imports rocket

12 new vehicles added to Cayman’s congested roads every day

At least a dozen vehicles are imported to the Cayman Islands every day, adding to the island’s growing traffic problems, Premier Alden McLaughlin has acknowledged.

More than 4,000 SUVs, trucks and motorcycles were shipped into the islands last year.

Imports have doubled in the past decade.

McLaughlin acknowledged the situation was unsustainable.

“We have to have a better transport system. We need other alternatives to everybody having to own a car,” the premier said.

McLaughlin was speaking in response to questions from George Town Central legislator Kenneth Bryan in the Legislative Assembly last week.

Bryan asked for figures on vehicle imports over the last decade and an explanation of what government was doing to ease congestion on Cayman’s crowded roads.

The statistics provided by the premier in response show that imports rose from 2,298 in 2009 to 4,457 last year.

The most significant increases have been in the past five years, with a growing number of people importing secondhand vehicles from Japan.

Figures from the Economics and Statistics Office, reviewed by the Cayman Compass, show that vehicles are not being scrapped at anything like the same rate.

Click to enlarge.

In 2017, the most recent year for which figures were available, 1,235 derelict vehicles where processed at the dump. The numbers fluctuate wildly and in 2014 it was as low as 71.

McLaughlin said the imports were linked to population growth and were clearly having an impact on traffic. He said government was aware of the problem and had announced, in the recent strategic policy statement, that a major traffic study was being commissioned to look at solutions.

“Of course there are major concerns. You have just got to sit in traffic every morning to understand that,” he said.

“A lot of this is being driven by population growth. We have to look at how we provide adequate transportation [for] the people in this country without having to construct more and more roads. Grand Cayman is so small that even if government had all the money in the world, we will run out of places to build roads.”

He said there were no signs that the islands’ growth would slow down any time soon, and his government was looking at traffic and public transport as part of a comprehensive plan to cope with “continued, significant population growth”.


  1. Why is it that folks keep harping on the “imports” which have nothing to do with the problem. Its the number of “drivers” and whom is “eligible” to drive. Its not about the cars is about the number of drivers which is completely different.

    People only import their own cars when the dealers charge too much of a spread, no different than if a local building or furniture supplier hits that threshold when one’s savings outstrip the effort involved in doing so. Restricting importation only gives license for local dealers to charge a larger spread. And that spread will be carried from car to car when resold so the number of drivers is not reduced.

    Effort should be focused on “who” can drive, at what “cost” in licensing fees, and what “alternative” public transportation is available then.

    Lets face it we dont have the road capacity to let every potential driver do so. Restricting importation may make the local dealers happy, but it will not address the more important issue on “whom” we allow to drive.

  2. It is not the importation of vehicles that is the problem. Even if you own 4 vehicles, you can only drive on the roads with one at a time. The problem is the lack of a well run, scheduled and comfortable public bus system. This island needs proper bus stops with proper buses like any major city has.

    Bus stops need to be built and allow for the bus to completely pull off the road safely to disembark and load passengers. Only stops the bus makes are a designated stops and passengers will have to walk from there.

    There is no other solution that I can see that would be easier, cheaper or more convenient. Cayman adopted the car so we are now stuck with it.

  3. For many years I sat as the Civil Aviation Authority/Cayman Islands Airports Authority representative on the Public Transport Board. During the same period I traveled frequently to Bermuda on official business. I used Bermuda’s public transport (bus & ferry) system quite often and was very impressed by its efficiency. On one particular visit I collected names of senior transportation officials, photos of Hamilton’s bus depot, bus & ferry schedules and other material, and made numerous suggestions and overtures to successive PTB Chair and membership that we should approach Bermuda’s transportation officials to assist in developing a proper public transport system here (we have none – just a series of independent operators without any meaningful oversight and direction, and a bag of meaningless over-regulation and red-tape). To date, I’m not aware that there has ever been any approach made to the Bermudans.

    Granted, Bermuda’s long-standing vehicle ownership restrictions serve as a platform for the very active use of its public transport system. As yet, this factor is not included in our own “model”, however the structure and organization of Bermuda’s system is worth replicating. In the mid-1960’s when Bermuda implemented such ownership restrictions, it was most certainly easier to implement than it would be in 2020’s Cayman – if Government were to consider same (quite likely so, with it’s typical “all-or-nothing” approach to problems).

    Therefore restricting vehicle ownership across the board is not necessarily Cayman’s best solution but a proper, efficient real system could very well be! Clearly it’s long overdue!!

Comments are closed.