Howard Finlason

Guest column by
Howard Finlason,
owner of Royal Construction

As the owner of one of the companies which formed the consortium bidding to build a new cruise berthing facility in 2010, I feel there should be more public support for the current port project.

Having been a partner in the 2010 proposal with Italian firm GLF, I do have knowledge of the project and I firmly believe this present  deal is one we cannot afford to pass up, especially with the direct involvement of the two largest cruise lines (Carnival and Royal Caribbean). That is something we tried but were not able to achieve in 2010.

I know first hand how difficult it is to get through negotiations of this type and to bring two of the world’s major cruise lines together in the partnership we are seeing today.

What we are witnessing is a uniquely beneficial deal for the Cayman Islands and frankly if it passes us by we may never see the likes of it again.

Based on the assessments we did back in 2010 the port area does not have anywhere near the amount of coral that some opposing the project have suggested. There is a difference between coral habitat which has no coral and habitat which has live coral.

The area dock footprint as currently proposed, has no more than five acres of live coral directly within the area to be dredged, which by the way, is substantially smaller than that proposed in 2010. The current plan also involves relocation of that live coral.

If we have a proposal to put mitigation measures in place to control the sediment during dredging operations to protect the coral in adjacent locations, we should proceed with the project. The expertise is certainly in place to achieve this.

Royal Construction’s affiliate company in Jamaica has been directly involved in coral relocation in Jamaica and has successfully carried out several projects including the relocation of thousands of coral and sea grass specimens for the expansion of the channel into Kingston Harbour in 2003.

I have no doubt that the relocation is feasible because I have seen it done. But I’m also very impressed with the plan to replant coral because with the technology being proposed we could end up with a net gain in coral.

This is also an opportunity to replenish some of the areas currently damaged by the anchoring. Thankfully much of this anchoring will be discontinued once the two berthing piers are built.

The economic impact of the new port will also be significant especially due to its impact on smaller businesses and sole proprietors.

Thousands of persons rely on the cruise sector and hundreds of new jobs will be created.

What are we going to do if we turn this opportunity down and find our cruise income cut in half in five years and hundreds of our people have lost their jobs? Let’s face it, the cruise lines have made it clear they are going to larger ships which cannot facilitate tendering, they need to dock and they are willing not only to partner with us to build this dock but to continue bringing the numbers required to pay for it. What more could we ask? It would be a shame to let this opportunity pass us by.

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