The Verdant Isle group has been selected as the preferred bidder for the cruise and cargo port in George Town harbour, though no contract will be signed until the petition calling for a referendum on the controversial project has been fully vetted.
Premier Alden McLaughlin made the announcement in the Legislative Assembly Friday afternoon and promised to reveal more information at a press conference, planned for Monday.
Verdant Isle Port Partners is a consortium of companies including McAlpine Cayman Ltd., Orion Marine Construction, Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
The announcement comes as the Elections Office continues its process of verifying the signatures in the referendum petition.
At last count Friday afternoon, 64% of the necessary signatures had been verified.
If 5,292 signatures, representing 25% of the electorate, are verified, the Constitution indicates a referendum should take place.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said in the statement on Friday that government will not proceed with finalising the contract before 1 Oct. to allow the verification process to be completed.
He said, “This morning the Cabinet of the Cayman Islands approved the Ministry of District Administration, Tourism and Transport and the Port Authority proceeding with the cruise berthing and enhanced cargo facility project on the basis of a bid by Verdant Isle Port Partners as accepted by the Central Tenders Committee on Tuesday, 23 July 2019.”
Campaigners for a referendum on the project said the announcement was an expected part of the process and welcomed government’s acknowledgment that the contract should not be finalised until after the petition verification process is complete.
Mario Rankin, of Cruise Port Referendum Cayman, said it was now incumbent on government to reveal the full details about the cost of the project, how it would be funded and the full designs. Government has previously indicated that it was not able to give these details while the procurement process was taking place. McLaughlin said Friday that details of the bid will be discussed at Monday’s press conference.
It is also understood that the winning bidder will be responsible for financing an update to the Environmental Impact Assessment on the final design. The details of how that process will take place and other aspects of how the project proceeds are expected to be revealed Monday.
Rankin said supporters of the petition should not be discouraged by the announcement that a preferred bidder had been chosen. He said it was an expected part of the ongoing process and, based on the early results of the verification process for the petition, he believes a referendum is now inevitable.
He said the fact that the contract would not be signed until after October was an encouraging sign that the petition was now being taken seriously by the political arm of government.
“I think we all knew that the Central Tenders Committee was going to make a decision on the preferred bidder. That has been part of the process for a while and it doesn’t change anything in terms of the petition. I like the fact that the government statement also included a commitment that they won’t be signing anything until after the petition verification is done.
“The work that everybody put in has borne fruit and I am convinced that the verification process will be completed and that people will get their chance to vote on this in a referendum.”
Johann Moxam, one of the most vocal pro-referendum campaigners, said he expected the government to now come out with information about plans for the next stage of the Environmental Impact Assessment, including public engagement.
He added, “Perhaps the CIG and Ministry of Tourism will now be more open and transparent about the design, estimated total costs, the financing model(s) including cash and inkind commitments, the upland development and the projected increase in cruise passenger arrivals over the next 10‑20 years.”