Waves, some reaching as high as 7 feet, pummelled Cayman’s coastline Thursday, wreaking havoc at the port and sweeping four containers into the sea at Hog Sty Bay.
Port Director Joey Woods told the Cayman Compass, “Waves from the stalled front knocked some empties [containers] overboard that were stacked on the dock for the cargo ships [to pick up] tonight [Thursday].”
He said port workers had been in the process of moving containers away from the sea’s edge to the middle of the dock when the containers were swept into the sea.
No one was injured when the containers were swept into the sea, he said.
The port was closed and all operations were halted early Thursday afternoon “until the weather subsides and we can determine if it is safe for ships to operate,” Woods said.
He dismissed social media claims that the containers were deliberately placed near the dock’s edge to press the argument that the proposed port and cruise ship dock project was needed.
The containers, he said, are normally stacked along the west wall of the dock so that there is enough room to load the cargo ships and still have enough space for transportation operators servicing the cruise industry.
“However, the cargo ship for last night arrived at 1:25am and commenced discharge at 2am,” he said, “They left at 6am without taking any empty containers. The supervisor on duty said the sea was calm when he left after 6am,” Woods explained. He added that the weather forecast only predicted 2-to-4-feet seas.
“The dock is 8 feet above sea level. Sometime after 9am, large swells arrived and started hammering the containers. The cruise manager started to move the containers as the cargo staff had gone off duty by then, but the power of the swells knocked over some of the containers that were stacked four high.”
Staff, he said, was called in and West Indian Marine was engaged to help retrieve the containers that fell into the sea. Three were retrieved.
Two cruise ships that were scheduled to arrive in Cayman Thursday were sent to Spotts Dock because of conditions in George Town Harbour, Woods added.
Curious tourists seemed to enjoy watching the roiling sea as they posed for photos and took videos as the waves crashed on the waterfront and the port.
Cayman Islands National Weather Service Chief Meteorologist Kerry Powery said the rough seas were generated by a cold front in the Cayman area.
“The situation is that the cold front has encroached a bit closer to us than anticipated, but is still expected to start to weaken as it becomes stationary just north of our area,” he said.
He added that a small craft warning is in effect specific to marine operations to the west and north of Grand Cayman.
Powery explained that the front was supporting northwesterly swells, which are impacting the western portion of Grand Cayman.
“Essentially, [it is] flowing directly into the port area, amplifying its impact. Marine models still maintain 2-4 or 3-5 feet seas overall, but also show 6-7 feet swell to the west of Grand Cayman,” Powery said.
He said the swells will decrease through Friday in response to the weakening of the cold front.
The weather is expected to improve over the weekend.
The rough seas also impacted a planned ‘Solidarity Swim’ to protest the proposed cruise ship dock, scheduled for Eden Rock and Devil’s Grotto in George Town on Thursday afternoon.
Organisers said the idea for the swim was to show support for the continued existence of natural assets and unify Caymanians of all walks of life as they take to the water. The event was rescheduled to Saturday.