Iris Stoner

Five days after an enormous pipe-laying vessel first moored off Grand Cayman, causing a flurry of rumours as to why it was here, a local agent for the Saipem 7000 said it will be leaving as soon as it finishes changing some crewmembers.

The 650‑foot-long vessel usually stops in the Bahamas to replace crews but the devastation Hurricane Dorian left in its wake there has necessitated the ship seeking other ports.

John MacKenzie, owner of West Indian Marine Group, which is acting as port agent for the Saipem, explained that crew changes happen “quite a lot with passing ships” and this is a common occurrence here that has been going on for decades. Noting its location as a crossroads for two major shipping routes, he said, “Cayman is a great place” for vessels to change crew.

However, the Saipem 7000 is too large to come close to shore, so the only options to move crew are by either helicopter or boat. In this case, the sailors are being carried by boat to and from shore, with 205 coming on board and 56 disembarking this week.

Since the crew hail from all over the world, travel arrangements require a bit of juggling to book all the necessary flights home. As plane departures are organised, the crewmembers are ferried to shore in time to catch their flights. The number of crew leaving depends on the number of seats that can be booked that particular day, MacKenzie explained.

As of press time Thursday, MacKenzie estimated the changeover would be finished “within a couple of days”.

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