Cruise Port Referendum Cayman has submitted a three-part letter to the Cayman Compass outlining its concerns about the proposed facility. This is part 2. The first part can be read here. 

As our islands approach the first people-initiated referendum, critical data voters need to make a truly informed decision on the cruise berthing facility have still not been made public. The government should release any undisclosed information that they do hold immediately, and the referendum date should be scheduled to allow for the completion of and public consultation on the updated Environmental Impact Assessment and updated Final Business Case reports, to allow our citizens to make a fully informed decision on this matter of national importance.

This letter forms part 2 of a 3-part letter which seeks to highlight some, but not all, of the numerous significant and unquantified risks associated with this project. Information has been obtained by CPR from publicly available reports found on the websites for the Department of Tourism, www.supportourtourism.com, and Department of Environment, www.doe.ky.

1. Jobs

1.1) Cruise industry jobs provide average monthly income of US$1,662 (BREA report). How will (1) short-term construction jobs and (2) more of the same cruise industry jobs, regardless of the number, help Caymanians obtain financial security for a decent standard of living?

1.2) The EIA (Baird Report) estimates direct losses of US$9‑10.5 million per year of revenue and associated jobs from the loss of the harbour reefs including two historical shipwrecks, the Balboa (directly) and Cali (indirectly). What is the net number of jobs after water-sports businesses can no longer operate in George Town harbour, and restaurants have closed from noise pollution during construction?

2. Carrying capacity

2.1) Cruise vs. stayover constraints: With only 76 square miles, Grand Cayman’s infrastructure and natural environment cannot handle mass cruise tourism which displaces overnight tourists as well as local residents from our most desirable locations. In 2018 both a record-breaking 1.9 million cruise passengers arrived by tender, and stayover visitors reached 463,000. The Department of Tourism (PwC Outline Business Case, Appendix D, page 7) gave a limit of 2.1 million cruise passengers “to maintain the delicate equilibrium between cruise and overnight tourism”. What is the projected or committed passenger increase with the cruise port? A comprehensive assessment of Cayman’s carrying capacity needs to be undertaken for long-term planning and identifying tourism caps, which many popular travel destinations are being forced to implement.

2.2) Cruise-ship itinerary re-routing: Cayman’s geographical location places us ideally as a stop between Jamaica and Mexico on a cruise itinerary. With cruises departing on a weekend from the southern US states for both clockwise and anti-clockwise tours, most ships arrive on a Wednesday or Thursday. The Minister of Tourism indicated we would not receive an increase in passengers per year, rather the cruise schedule will smooth out over the year. (1) Will the cruise lines re-schedule their itineraries and departure days just to avoid Wednesday or Thursday being Cayman’s busiest days? (2) Will cruise lines stop repositioning their ships to Europe and other northern routes during the summer months to make sure that Cayman gets passengers instead?

3. Coral and historic shipwreck relocation

‘Coral relocation’ or ‘translocation’ for George Town harbour merely includes taking live coral from the surface of ancient marine structures. This complex habitat, with formations reaching up to 3‑4 metres in height off the seabed are the foundation for beautiful tunnel swim-throughs for divers and provides shelter for juvenile species of marine life, making it an integral part of the marine ecosystem. Successful translocation is hugely dependent on uncertain, difficult to predict environmental factors, including increased susceptibility to disease. According to the EIA, attempting to relocate 12 acres of coral colony could cost US$12 million-US$87.4 million, with no guarantee of success, and will not re-create the three-dimensional nature of the current environment. How can the cost of coral and shipwreck relocation be included in Option 2’s US$196 million cost when additional research needs to be performed?

Part 3 will examine infrastructure impacts and financing model concerns.

It is also important to emphasise the referendum question chosen by Cabinet should reflect the original petition wording, be clear and easy for voters to understand, and ensure fairness and objectivity.

Linda Clark, FCCA, MSc Marine Environmental Management
On behalf of CPR Cayman