Verdant Isle shares port plans

Members of the Verdant Isle group behind the proposed $200 million cruise port project shared some of the details of the plan during a whirlwind series of meetings in Grand Cayman this week.

Led by Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley, the delegation which included executives from Carnival Cruise Lines and other partners in the consortium, met with tour operators, taxi drivers and government as well as the Protect our Future youth group, among others.

Verdant Isle members shared some preliminary designs of the new port during their visit and promised more detailed drawings would be released within the next few days. The group said they would release as much information as possible in advance of the people-initiated referendum, expected to take place late this year or early in 2020.

The outline designs, shown above superimposed on an aerial image of the George Town harbour, indicate the location of the planned piers.

The north pier stretches 432 metres (1,417 feet) into the harbour, with the south pier spanning 272 metres (892 feet). Verdant Isle representatives said the design moved the piers into deeper water to allow for less dredging. Preliminary work for a new phase of the environmental impact assessment is under way to assess how those design changes alter the anticipated effects of the project, which include removal of some harbour reefs and wrecks, and potential impact on adjacent coral reefs.

The group re-emphasised its aim, revealed in the Cayman Compass last week, to bring 2.5 million passengers to the islands and claimed the new facility would ensure the influx of new tourists could be managed in an orderly fashion.

Royal Caribbean CEO Bayley said the group aimed to be transparent and present as much information as possible to the public.

An impression of how the new piers will look – if the project goes ahead.

He said they were prepared to talk to all sides and he believes they can “work with the community” to ensure people are happy with the finished product.

“We sense there are all kinds of different opinions and emotions and we need to go through that journey of communicating. That is our plan,” he said.

“We are interested in dialogue and talking about the project. We hope people will understand the benefits and we can move ahead with it,” he added.

This week, they have met with government members, tour operators, other tourism partners, the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, Cayman Islands Tourism Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Protect our Future Cayman and members of the media, among others.

“We have heard a lot of different opinions,” said Bayley.

“Hopefully, we can work through those together and come up with a future plan that is going to make everybody happy.”

He said Verdant Isle was working with a team of scientists to minimise the impact of the dredging and to relocate a lot of the coral that will be removed from the harbour. He said the new design reduced the footprint, but accepted that there was no way to avoid some impact.

He said there was always a trade-off when major developments were considered.

“As I walked along the beach this morning, I looked at all the development along Seven Mile Beach. There is a huge condo building going up, a huge multi-storey hotel and apartments and many other projects. There is environmental impact.

“It is true that building the pier in George Town will bring environmental impact, our focus is on minimisation of that impact. We are cognisant of it, we are concerned about it, we are getting a lot of feedback on this and we are working closely with the Department of Environment. We have a lot of expertise in our project teams in terms of environmental management and we are working though this to minimise any impact, just as the hotel on Seven Mile Beach is doing.”

Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean CEO

He denied that Verdant Isle would make significant profits from the venture, saying the group was responsible for funding the $200 million project up front, paying off their own borrowing costs and an anticipated $75 million in maintenance expenses over the 25-year operation.

He said the cruise lines want piers in Grand Cayman because it helps their primary business of “selling great vacations” but he denied that the port itself would be a major “profit centre” for the group.

He said it would not lose money on the project and insisted that it was accurate that government would not lose out either. While he accepts that government will take a $2.32 reduction in the per passenger head tax to help pay back Verdant Isle – just over $4 million at current arrival numbers – he said this would be offset by the additional revenue from an influx of new passengers.

“The revenue per guest decreases slightly but the overall revenue to the government increases because of the increase in volume of cruise tourists coming to the port,” he said.

  • This story was altered from the original version to reflect the fact that a planned meeting  between Verdant Isle and the Cruise Port Referendum Cayman group did not take place.

 

4 COMMENTS

  1. An absolute shame that the island would consider to let this happen… the charm and draw of the island is of itself and it’s people… not how many tourists it can overrun itself with. I have been a frequent visitor of your Beautiful island for over 30 years and have seen the changes over that time… Cayman, I believe you have reached maximum capacity if you want to retain your beauty and heritage…. if not, your island…a most precious piece of land and water in the world, (is) and will cease to exist. A deconstruction like this of something so precious on earth should never be allowed to occur and be punishable by law.

  2. Deep dredging to the deep wall for these cruise berthing ships will the STOP the natural annual migration of sand from Jackson Point to NW Point in West Bay. This will affect the the annual sand replenishment along the seven mile beaches which is our National treasure chest!!!
    There is a 4 year study that was done for finding the right location for the sinking of the USS Kittiwake. This data was turned over to the CITA and DOE.

  3. Many of us who visit your beautiful island at least twice a year for many years have begun to look for another island. Not only this pier project but the tearing down of older smaller condo complexes on 7 mile and replacing those with multi story buildings are drastically changing the character of your island. Many divers and other visitors have left places like Cosumel because of those reasons. Please consider the fact that not all “development” is good. You have a beautiful island — except for Mt. Trashmore — don’t change its character in pursuit of someone else’s profit motives. We will be back in the Spring – at least for now.

  4. I find it interesting that the CEO or Royal Caribbean has pointed out the cruise lines and “cruiser tourists” are the ONES IN NEED for the ports. Who cares? What about what the people who call Grand Cayman their home? Or yearly visitors who stay weeks at a time who look at this magical place as their home away from home? This is so bigger cruise ships can bring THOUSANDS of more “sea arriving” tourists into Georgetown. He mentions benefits for the island, but fails to say what they are. I would love to hear them, just what could those benefits be? The many more thousands of cruiser tourists who will come for mere hours out of the day, will just take what they need and want, then leave. The cruise is the cheaper way to travel, and it is horrific what the government is even considering for the people who look at this paradise as just another stop at an island before cruising to the next one. How many years can the island sustain this practice? When the island is stripped of what is its natural resources and beauty, the cruiser tourists will find no reason to come back. Ultimately the island and Caymanians LOSE. Their stunning island will cease to have the pristine reefs, beaches, and turtle nesting sites. (Who in God’s name is approving these monstrous hotels and condos??) The sewers, garbage dumps and traffic will be insufficient. The allure the island will be lost. These cruise ships and “sea tourists” will simply look for another island to be duped by empty promises.