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Tuesday, January 28, 2020
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Man convicted of possessing unlicensed firearm

Elmer Wright, 26, was convicted of two counts of possession of an unlicensed firearm, in the form of ammunition and a bulletproof vest, in the Grand Court on Tuesday.

The charges date back to July 2017 when police found 112 rounds of ammunition and a bulletproof vest tied in a plastic bag in a bushy plot of land along Desmond Avenue in George Town.

During a two-day trial last week, prosecutor Nicole Petit told Justice Philip St. John-Stevens, a single fingerprint was recovered from the plastic bag. That fingerprint returned a positive match to Wright’s left forefinger. Petit also told the court that in July 2017 Wright was fitted with an electronic ankle monitor.

Data downloaded from the monitor showed Wright in the bush for five minutes. During that five-minute window, the monitor tracked Wright at five different locations.

When giving evidence, Wright said he remembered going into the bush, but he could not remember what he was doing on the day the monitor recorded his movements.

“I went into the bush to [defecate] and to hunt crabs and iguanas,” said Wright. “But right now, I feel like I am being set up, because I’m hearing police saying they have my fingerprint on a bag. I don’t know anything about any bullets, or bulletproof vest. I handle [a lot of] bags and jars in that area, so someone might have just taken up a bag that I touched and used it to hide the bullets and vest.”

Justice St. John-Stevens called Wright a “consummate liar”, saying he had arrived at the guilty verdicts largely by “common sense”.

“I am convinced that both the ammunition and the bulletproof vest were left by the same person,” said St. John-Stevens. “I reject that some other person placed it there. He is a consummate liar and I’m sure his explanation on why he visited the bush was a lie from start to finish.”

“I find the defendant guilty on both counts,” he added.

7.7 magnitude earthquake strikes Cayman

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The Cayman Islands and the northern Caribbean were struck by a magnitude 7.7 earthquake on Tuesday afternoon.

The quake, which originated at a depth of 10km (6 miles), was felt in Cayman, Jamaica and Cuba, according to the United States Geological Survey.

The tremor, which occurred around 2:10pm and lasted about two minutes, sent office workers scrambling from their buildings into open spaces. Several sinkholes opened up at various points around Grand Cayman, causing damage to vehicles and at least one property.

Several aftershocks occurred in the hours following the initial quake. The first, registering at 4.7 magnitude, was felt just after 4pm and residents were warned to be on alert for further possible impacts. USGS reported that the aftershock occurred 30km (16 miles) southeast of East End. Another was felt just before 5pm, measuring 6.5 magnitude. By 6pm, there had been a total of eight aftershocks, according to USGS, although most were not felt by those in Cayman.

Sinkholes appeared in the Cayman Islands Hospital carpark.

A tsunami threat message was briefly issued through the US National Weather Service, and police and government issued warnings to residents to steer clear of the coast. A ‘small tsunami’ wave measuring 1.5 feet was recorded in the George Town harbour, according to Hazard Management Cayman Islands’ Simon Boxall.

Premier Alden McLaughlin appeared on government television in an emergency broadcast around 4:30pm to confirm that no one had been injured in the incident.

“I know people are very concerned and alarmed and there has been some structural damage, including at my own house,” he said. “It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I say it doesn’t appear as if anyone has been hurt and we have been spared the worst of what could have been a truly devastating ordeal.”

Owen Roberts International Airport was evacuated immediately after the initial quake and patients at the Cayman Islands Hospital were moved to the upper floors amid fears of a tsunami. A statement released by the Cayman Islands Airports Authority at about 6pm confirmed there was no damage to either Owen Roberts or Charles Kirkconnell International Airport.

Alcohol bottles were knocked from shelves at liquor stories during the two-minute quake.

“Once the earthquake was over, as part of business continuity, all airport facilities were inspected for damage, including the runway, aprons and taxiways,” the CIAA said. “Once it was confirmed that there was no damage to the airport terminal, flight operations continued as normal.”

Governor Martyn Roper, also speaking in a government television broadcast Tuesday afternoon, said, “I know it was a really scary event for all of us on the island. At this stage, there is a low risk of tsunami, but residents are advised to move to the second floor or higher as a precaution.”

An all-clear from the threat of a tsunami was issued in a later broadcast.

The governor indicated there had been some structural damage on both Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman. He said the Cayman Islands Fire Service and Public Works Department were responding to those incidents and the police helicopter was conducting aerial surveys of the island.

He urged residents to keep an eye on the Hazard Management Cayman Islands Facebook page, as well as an ear on Radio Cayman for more updates.

There was no evidence of any injuries or major damage.

“A preliminary damage assessment is now under way and it has been confirmed that several sinkholes have opened up, and at least one property has been structurally damaged, but there have been no confirmed reports of injuries to persons in the Cayman Islands,” Hazard Management said in a statement just after 4pm.

Sinkholes are seen in brick paving in Cricket Square.

Police reported that sinkholes had opened up in a number of roads throughout Cayman, including several in the Windsor Park area; at Worthing Drive and Powell Smith Road in West Bay; Rum Point Road in North Side; and South Side Road West in Cayman Brac.

At Cricket Square in George Town, a small crater also opened up in the brick paving, and on Seven Mile Beach, several sinkholes of varying sizes appeared in the sand.

Sewer pipes along West Bay Road erupted, sending sewage onto the streets.

At least four cars were affected by sinkholes that appeared in the Cayman Islands Hospital car park on Smith Road. The area was cordoned off by police and security personnel. Two large sinkholes, almost half the size of the vehicles, appeared beneath two cars.

Elsewhere, items were thrown from the shelves of supermarkets and liquor stores, and residents observed wave action in condo swimming pools.

Workers set up cots at the Aston Rutty Centre on the Bluff in Cayman Brac. – Photo: Ward Scott

All matters in the courthouse were stopped following the earthquake and jurors were sent home. Judges, attorneys, security staff, reporters and defendants clamoured out of the building as the floor swayed beneath their feet.

Armed police who were at the courthouse on Tuesday, as added security for a home-invasion case, assisted prison officers to load defendants into prison vans and then escorted the fleet out.

Traffic backed up immediately after the earthquake and throughout the afternoon, as people left work early. Several fender benders were reported on Grand Cayman’s gridlocked roads.

Schools throughout Cayman were closed in the immediate aftermath of the quake. According to a Government Information Service press release, all government schools will remain closed on Wednesday while structural assessments of school buildings are carried out.

No flights were affected at local airports, and it was business as usual at the port in George Town where there were no signs of any impact, according to Port Authority Acting Director Joey Woods.

A sinkhole appeared underneath this car parked in the Cayman Islands Hospital carpark. – Photo: Reshma Ragoonath

On Cayman Brac, the Aston Rutty Centre, which doubles as a hurricane shelter on the Bluff, opened around 2:30pm in preparation for a possible tsunami, and patients from Faith Hospital, along with 50 members of the public, went to the shelter, according to Lyndon Martin, of the Public Works Department.

Though the threat of a tsunami generated significant anxiety on all three islands, reports from the US National Weather Service suggested that any wave impact would likely have hit within minutes of the initial earthquake.

The bulletin listed the estimated time of arrival for any wave impact as 2:21pm on Cayman Brac and 2:37pm on Grand Cayman.

John Tibbetts, director general of Cayman Islands National Weather Service, said Tuesday afternoon, “Given that those times have passed, and we do not have a report of a significant wave coming on shore, I would think that the tsunami threat from the initial wave has passed.

“However, be reminded, a tsunami is a series of waves and there is also the possibility for further tremors that are likely to occur over the next six, eight, 12 hours.”

Another view of the largest sinkhole on Seven Mile Beach following Tuesday’s earthquake. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Tim Austin, deputy director of the Department of Environment, said the George Town tide-monitoring system, which is part of the Caribbean tsunami warning network, registered some small waves on the recorder at the predicted time.

Hazard Management advised that people check their homes for structural damage or hazards, and added that the Red Cross shelter on Huldah Avenue in George Town would be open throughout Tuesday night for people who needed alternative accommodation overnight. The Aston Rutty Centre also remained open.

Water services were interrupted in parts of Grand Cayman, due to damage to water pipes. Later on Tuesday, the Water Authority shut down its water distribution system to systematically check for leaks, caused by the quake.

UK’s departure from the European Union

Governor Martyn Roper

This is the first in a series of columns Governor Martyn Roper will be contributing to the Cayman Compass.

Governor Martyn Roper

It is three and half years since the UK voted in a referendum to leave the European Union. A period of uncertainty is behind us as Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party decisively won the UK election in December last year. With a strong mandate to ‘get Brexit done’, and the largest majority in Parliament since Mrs. Margaret Thatcher in 1987, the UK will leave the European Union on 31 Jan. 2020.

Up until now, discussions around the UK’s exit have had little direct impact on the Cayman Islands. After 31 Jan., I do not expect that to change. 

The UK’s long-standing historical links and constitutional relationship with Cayman, and other Overseas Territories, is unaffected. Indeed, with a Conservative government and large majority in power for five, possibly 10 years, I expect stability and continuity in UK/Cayman relations.

The UK wants the closest possible links with our European partners. But under Global Britain, an outward-looking Britain – as a force for good in the world – will increasingly look beyond Europe. I believe that is an opportunity for Cayman and the Overseas Territories to develop an even stronger relationship with the UK in the future.   

On the impact of Brexit, people ask me about travelling to Europe, trade, financial services and EU financial support.

On travel, there is no impact for British Overseas Territory Citizens (BOTCs) as their rights do not come from the UK’s membership of the EU. Those rights will not change as a direct result of Brexit. BOTC passport holders will still be able to visit EU countries visa-free for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. British Citizen passport holders will be able to continue to live, work and study in the EU throughout the implementation period, which runs to 31 Dec. 2020. European Union branding on British Citizen passports will not affect their validity after Brexit.

There will be little trade impact on the Cayman Islands’ economy because the vast majority of Cayman’s imports come from outside the EU. 2020 is a transition year for trade links between UK and EU. Nothing changes until a new trade agreement is in place.   

I understand concerns that from February, the UK will no longer be around the EU table to speak on behalf of Cayman’s financial services industry. However, the UK will find other ways to represent Cayman’s interests, including bilateral lobbying of the European Commission through the UK Mission in Brussels and in EU capitals.   

As a highly sophisticated, financially self-sufficient and well-run British Overseas Territory, Cayman does not receive much EU financial support, apart from some environmental funding. Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, EU-funded projects in the OTs will continue to be covered by the EU for their duration. 

So what are the opportunities for Cayman under Global Britain?

I strongly support the premier’s vision in setting up the new Ministry of International Trade, Investment, Aviation and Maritime Affairs. My office is working closely with the new ministry.

I very much hope the Cayman Islands government will take space at the UK Pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020 – a major international trade fair. It would put Cayman on a global stage in front of a huge audience of heads of government, business leaders, companies and celebrities, as well as the general public.

The UK government has offered technical support for an international marketing campaign based on the UK’s highly successful GREAT campaign.

This will showcase the wonderful biodiversity that Cayman has to offer and support our tourism and financial services sectors.

As the UK leaves the European Union, there may be scope to develop closer links between the financial services industry and the City of London.

Leaving the EU is a change of historic proportions for the UK. Lord Ahmad, UK Minister of State for the Overseas Territories, has asked me to assure you that the UK government is absolutely committed to supporting the security and prosperity of everyone on these Islands. 

The UK is heading into the next phase of the negotiations with the EU. As well as taking up the opportunities afforded by Brexit, including the ability to negotiate our own trade agreements around the world, the ongoing priority for UK Ministers is to continue to ensure that the voices of Cayman and the Overseas Territories are heard and that OTs’ priorities inform the government’s approach every step of the way.

As governor, I will work closely with the premier and members of Cabinet to ensure our views are fully taken into account. 

Port director: Business as usual

Even with a Grand Court decision on the port project referendum looming, it is business as usual for Acting Port Director Joseph Woods and his team.

“We will continue enhancements to our staff and making improvements to our facilities and equipment in 2020,” Woods told the Cayman Compass as he looked ahead to the operations at the port.

Last week, the judicial review case brought by Cruise Port Referendum Cayman member Shirley Roulstone ended in Grand Court after two days of hearings. The case challenged government’s referendum on the $200 million project.

Justice Tim Owen said he intended to deliver his ruling on the case during the week of 10 Feb.

The longer the delay in the holding of the referendum, which was originally scheduled for 19 Dec. 2019, the longer indecision remains on the future of the project.

Meanwhile, operations at the port continue unabated.

“The political side of it… that is not for me to get frustrated over or to speak about. I just say this is what we deal with, and that’s the facts,” Woods told the Compass. “So that’s all we have, we make it work. If it gets bigger, we’d be happy. We can do better. If it doesn’t, well… everybody has to be aware that you’re at the breaking point.”

Making the best of the present conditions
The need for a new cruise berthing and cargo facility has been a long-discussed topic for successive administrations. Opponents to the current proposed project have said the referendum on the facility should separate the cargo aspect from the cruise side.

But Woods said there can be no separation, as both aspects are interrelated.

“You cannot separate both. There’s no way to separate both. If you only built a cargo facility, you still have inadequate cruise facilities that will have to depend on the cargo facility. You just can’t separate them,” he said.

He added that, logistically, the two do not mix together and a separation of facilities is necessary.

“When you operate in cargo, especially if you have aggregate, you will always have aggregate falling off trucks. That creates a slip-and-fall situation, that also creates dust that passengers will have to walk in. If you get high wind days, the dust just blows in your face. The two really don’t mix, and if you only do cargo, you’re not helping the cruise aspect of it any… [If you’re only doing cruise you’re] not helping the cargo any. Both have to be done,” he said.

Cayman has been fortunate not to have serious incidents with the two operations running as they currently do, he added.

“We’ve been very lucky… you might put it that way. But that’s something that we try our best to prevent… any accidents. We try. In an ideal world it would be 100%, but I think we do pretty good seeing that we’ve done it for so long with no real major incidents occurring,” Woods said.

He said he has always stated that more space is needed at the port.

About an acre and a half of land is shared between cargo operations and cruise operations.

Woods explained that, at night, the space is used for cargo operations and the storing of containers when they come off the ships before they can be transported inland.

“By the end of the night shift, we have to have at least one acre of that cleared and cleaned as best we can for the cruise operations, for the transportation sector to be able to park on the dock because we have three terminals that we use for cruise, and none of them have transportation facilities. None… zero,” he said.

To make space for transportation, Woods said, the containers are stacked on the dock’s edges because the space in the middle is used for the cruise terminals.

“Otherwise, passengers would be walking across containers to get near the edge of the pier if you put transportation there, and that’s another safety risk where somebody could slip off and fall off the edge of the dock,” he said. “The containers have no feelings. You put them on edge or near the edge, and you leave a space for passengers, and that’s the best that we can do under the present conditions.”

Looking ahead
Woods said if the port project gets the go-ahead, that would help take the pressure off his team, but if it does not, as head of the port, he still has to ensure operations are unhindered.

“That’s it. If the port project doesn’t go [ahead], we continue working how we are,” Woods said.

The acting port director said that, over the last year, approximately $2.2 million has been spent making improvements to assist with the constraints on existing operations.

“Last year, we acquired eight brand new trucks to replace the 20-odd-year-old trucks that we had that were long past their useful life. So, the new trucks are much more efficient. We don’t get the breakdowns, we burn less fuel, so that was a significant improvement,” he said.

In addition to the fleet upgrades, the port also acquired a new large blade forklift, a new small forklift and two electric forklifts.

Woods said there were some improvements to facilities, such as paving Spotts passenger and transportation areas, the Taxi Dispatch Centre, the North Terminal and improvements to SafeHaven, including installation of banks of water meters.

He said the Cayman Brac Dock was also refurbished and at the Little Cayman Dock, the first-ever plugs to power refrigerated containers were installed.

A total of roughly $86,000 was also expended on IT improvements.

In addition to that, Woods said, nine additional port workers were employed in Grand Cayman and one in Cayman Brac.

He said further staff increases were planned.

All the improvements, he said, were funded from port revenues.

“In addition to that, our cash in the bank also grew significantly,” Woods added.

Port upgrades
8 new trucks purchased
New large blade forklift
New small forklift
2 electric forklifts
Total cost: $1.147 million
Other improvements
Paving Spotts passenger and transportation areas
Paving of Taxi Dispatch Centre
Paving of North Terminal
Improvements to SafeHaven
(installation of banks of water meters)
Cayman Brac Dock refurbishments
Little Cayman Dock improvements ”
IT upgrades
Total cost: $2,207,269 (excluding personnel)

Jamaica health minister: No coronavirus

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Jamaica’s health minister held an emergency press conference to quash social media rumours of a local suspected case of the potentially deadly coronavirus.

Dr. Christopher Tufton denied on Tuesday that a patient at the University Hospital of the West Indies was suffering from the virus.

He confirmed that the patient had travelled to China, where thousands of cases have been reported, on 7 Jan. and returned to Jamaica a week later, but said the person did not have coronavirus.

The Jamaica Gleaner earlier on Tuesday reported that a source had indicated that the hospital’s Accident and Emergency Unit had been partially closed and a patient isolated.

However, UHWI chief executive officer Kevin Allen told The Gleaner that the health facility was treating the suspected case as one of dengue.

“A patient presented at the Emergency Department last night and we are querying dengue. We have sent the necessary body fluids to the lab for testing and we await same,” he told the newspaper.

A reported 4,500 people have been infected with the virus, and 106 have died, according to reports.

In Cayman, no suspected cases have been reported, but local public health department is “closely monitoring the situation,” according to a statement released last week.

Dr. Samuel Williams Rodriguez, medical officer of health, said in the statement, “At the advice of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) we continue to strengthen our surveillance efforts to detect patients with acute respiratory disease and to ensure all health care professionals are up to date with guidance on infection and prevention control, and standard recommendations to prevent infection spread of the disease.”

He said travellers returning from countries where there have been reported cases, and who develop breathing difficulties that are unexplained by any other illness or virus, should contact a doctor as soon as possible and state their travel history so that a correct diagnosis can be made.

LIVE UPDATES: Quake Rocks Cayman

Original story can be found here.

UPDATED (4pm): Earthquake rocks Cayman

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Follow live updates here.

UPDATE (6:06pm): The Cayman Islands Airports Authority has said flight operations have continued as normal. It confirmed that the airport terminal was evacuated and flights were interrupted due to Tuesday afternoon’s earthquake. It said once the earthquake was over as part of business continuity, all airport facilities were inspected for damage including the runway, aprons and taxiways. Once it was confirmed that there was no damage to the airport terminal, flight operations have continued as normal.

Hazard Management Cayman Islands has said that so far five tremors have been recorded since the 7.7 earthquake stuck the Cayman Islands region at 2.10pm. The strongest aftershock registered at 6.1 magnitude with the epicenter 35 miles east-southeast of East End.

Some businesses in George Town have opted to close early following this afternoon’s earthquake. Cayman Mac Store posted that it is closing early to allow staff members to take care of their families. It said it expects to be open tomorrow at 10am.

A Water Authority spokesperson says the company is getting more reports of outages and its team is assessing the issue and will have an update soon.

UPDATE (5:46pm): Government schools will be closed Wednesday following a 7.7-magnitude earthquake and subsequent aftershocks that rocked Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands.

The schools are closed to allow for structural assessments, according to Hazard Management Cayman Islands.

It also says the Red Cross Shelter on Huldah Avenue, George Town is opening at 6.30pm. The Aston Rutty Centre remains open. It is advising those returning to their homes after the earthquake to assess their structures and find alternative accommodations with friends, family or at the shelter if they see signs of structural damage/hazards.

The Department of Education Services (DES) says principals and education officials followed protocol to ensure the safety of the students and staff following the quake. In a statement issued a short while ago, DES said it was in constant communication with HMCI and principals, and once the threat of a Tsunami was significantly decreased, HMCI advised that it was safe to release students to the school buses for the evening’s drop off to their homes.
Students were released to those parents that came to schools to collect them. It said government schools will remain closed until a thorough assessment has been conducted on school buildings to ensure structural integrity.

UPDATE (5:15pm): A magnitude 6.3 aftershock was just confirmed by the USGS. This comes roughly an hour after a 4.7 aftershock.

The Premier and Governor this afternoon appeared on CIGTV to confirm that the tsunami threat has passed.

This from Premier Alden McLaughlin, “I know people are very concerned and alarmed and there has been some structural damage including at my own house,” he said.

“It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I say it doesn’t appear as if anyone has been hurt and we have been spared the worst of what could have been a truly devastating ordeal.”

UPDATE (4:14pm): A preliminary damage assessment is now under way and it has been confirmed that several sinkholes have opened up and at least one property has been structurally damaged, but there have been no confirmed reports of injuries to persons in the Cayman Islands, according to an HMCI press release.

UPDATE (3:45pm): The most serious tsunami threat appears to have passed.

The US National Weather Service listed the estimated time of arrival for any wave impact as 2.21pm on Cayman Brac and 2.37pm on Grand Cayman.

In a statement at 3.35pm, Government Information Services indicated, “Hazard Management advises that there is only a very low risk of a Tsunami following this afternoon’s earthquake felt across all three Islands. The possibility of aftershocks remains and members of the public are advised to stay vigilant and stay tuned to official sources of information including the Hazard Management website, FB  and Twitter pages.”

All three islands experienced the effects of a magnitude 7.7 earthquake believed to have originated 80 miles northeast of George Town, according to Government Information Services.

The Governor Martyn Roper appeared on Cayman Islands Government Television alongside Premier Alden McLaughlin and Minister Tara Rivers to confirm the islands had been impacted by a 7.7 magnitude earthquake just after 2.10pm.

He said, “I know it was a really scary event for all of us on the island at this stage there is a low risk of tsunami but residents are advised to move to the second floor or higher as a precaution.”

He added people should be aware of the threat of aftershocks.

The governor indicated there had been some structural damage on both Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman. He said the fire service and public works department were responding to those incidents.

Premier Alden McLaughlin spoke briefly in the bulletin saying, “We are doing everything we can to get as much information out to the public by as many media forums as we possibly can.”

He said Hazard Management website www.caymanprepared.gov.ky was the best source for official information.

Cayman Airways has suspended all non-essential services have been suspended for the day.
 
Ticket offices on Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, as well as the Cayman Airways Reservations call centre, will be closed until Wednesday. All flight operations will continue today and tomorrow as scheduled, according to a CAL press release.
Water Authority customers are advised to call the Authority’s emergency line 946-HELP (946-4357), to report any wastewater issue along the West Bay Beach Sewerage System.
“Members of the public with septic tanks or onsite wastewater systems are advised to contact their sewerage specialist to inspect their systems for any damages and necessary repairs. Please note that the Authority’s offices remain closed,” according to a Water Authority press release.

(Original story)

An earthquake rocked the Cayman Islands Tuesday afternoon.

All three islands experienced the effects of a magnitude 7.7 earthquake believed to have originated 80 miles northeast of George Town, according to Government Information Services.

Hazard Management Cayman Islands is advising all residents to move away from the coasts and evacuate vertically. Cayman is one of several countries that could expect tsunami waves reaching up to three feet, according to a notice sent by the US-based Tsunami Warning Center.

Here’s their estimates for when a tsunami wave would hit:

CAYMAN BRAC CAYMAN ISLANDS 2:21 01/28
SANTIAGO D CUBA CUBA 2:33 01/28
GRAND CAYMAN CAYMAN ISLANDS 2:37 01/28
MONTEGO BAY JAMAICA 2:45 01/28
CIENFUEGOS CUBA 2:46 01/28
KINGSTON JAMAICA 3:24 01/28
COZUMEL MEXICO 3:34 01/28
PUERTO CORTES HONDURAS 3:38 01/28
TRUJILLO HONDURAS 3:25 01/28
BELIZE CITY BELIZE 4:48 01/28
SANTA CRZ D SUR CUBA 5:16 01/28
NUEVA GERONA CUBA 6:45 01/28

“Given that those times have passed, and we do not have a report of a significant wave coming on shore, I would think that the tsunami threat from the initial wave has passed,”  John Tibbetts, director general of Cayman Islands National Weather Service said. “However, be reminded, a tsunami is a series of waves and there is also the possibility for further tremors that are likely to occur over the next six, eight, 12 hours.”

Belize, Cuba, Honduras, Mexico and Jamaica could also experience Tsunami waves.

People close to the shore are advised to move away from the coast and evacuate vertically as a tsunami may have been generated, according to HMCI.

The quake is believed to have originated at a depth of just more than six miles, according to the United States Geological Survey.

It appears the quake has impacted local telephone service.

The earthquake caused sewage system issues in George Town, according to multiple sources.

Various locations were evacuated including the airport in George Town. Court proceedings were put off for the day. At the Health Services Authority, patients and staff were moved to upper floors. Residents in Cayman Brac have taken to the bluff as a safety precaution.

Sink holes have been reported at locations across Grand Cayman.

 

Need long-term solution to beach erosion

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I read with interest that the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort has applied for a coastal works license to re-establish the eroded beach in front of their property [Cayman Compass, 24 Jan.].

While I applaud the placement of wave droids to study the situation over an 18-month period, I have reservations about them placing a 20-foot-wide sandbag along the shore as a long-term solution to erosion. The material will deteriorate over time, especially with the coral and wave action.

While I agree that many properties have been built too close to the water’s edge, this was not always the case, as previously there was often a good buffer of beach sand.

Certainly, there is no shortage of sand in Cayman but the uneven distribution is becoming a problem, particularly as one moves along Seven Mile Beach towards George Town.

Several tons of sand are lost daily as it trickles over the wall into the abyss, never to be seen again. Surely, this could be used to help replenish the beach. I do not have the answer to overcome the beach erosion. Possibly, we are experiencing fewer nor’westers, which tend to cause replenishment.

I am, however, impressed with the artificial lagoon on the oceanside of Margaritaville, which seems to solve a lot of the problems and will endure for years to come. Maybe it is a step in the right direction?

I think it is time the Cayman Islands government and the Department of Environment woke up to realise that climate change, rising seas and beach erosion may well be a permanent situation.

Seven Mile Beach is a major tourist attraction and already the Marriott claims to have lost $4 million in tourist dollars related to beach erosion. Eventually, this will affect property values.

Time has come for the Cayman Islands government and the DoE to come up with some positive solutions and recognise that the situation is only going to get worse. Ignoring the situation will cost everyone in the long run.

Greg Richmond-Peck

Gov’t should allow paralegals to handle certain cases

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At the opening of the Grand Court on Wednesday, 15 Jan. 2020, both Chief Justice Anthony Smellie and Attorney General Sam Bulgin made reference to persons who are not lawyers giving legal advice and drafting legal documents. Significantly, Mr. Smellie is reported to have asked Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran, who was present, to take action.

But the real issue is what has contributed to this trend. It is in large measure due to the fact that most people cannot afford lawyers’ fees. In particular, since legal aid is not available for divorce cases, many people have resorted to using either current or former serving officers in the judiciary to help them during their challenging times.

The Canadian province of Ontario faced somewhat similar problems. Thus, about 10 years ago, the response of the provincial government was to recognise the desperation of people and to allow paralegals, who charge much less than lawyers, to practise on their own in limited areas.

This alleviated some of the problems. However, divorce cases have posed a new challenge. It was reported on www.lawtimesnews.com on 18 March 2019 that more than 57% of Ontarians did not have legal representation in family court in the period from 2014 to 2015. This led to a recommendation, still under consideration when I last checked, that paralegals be allowed to handle simple divorces. Other developed commonwealth countries have also implemented systems where persons who are not lawyers can undertake conveyancing and probate matters without the supervision of lawyers.

Naturally, some lawyers will not welcome this. The same is taking place in Ontario. The way I see it, the overwhelming number of people who resort to using non-lawyers on the sly, or who would use paralegals, cannot afford lawyers anyway. So any loss of business by lawyers would be negligible.

Accordingly, I urge the government not to compound the problem but to recognise the problems of legal representation in the Cayman Islands and solve the problem for the benefit of the whole society.

Bilika H. Simamba
Attorney at Law

Cayman needs Caymanian tradespeople

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I work as a tradesman in construction here, in this beautiful country, and I must say there is no reason almost every tradesman in my company should be on a work permit; maybe a couple, maybe, but not the majority in this day and age.

I am watching the news about the ‘biggest stories of 2019’ and one of the stories is, of course, the port, the father of the red herrings your government wants you to focus on. If a port is in place how many jobs will it create? Hundreds possibly? And what is the purpose of people coming to the island? To spend money? To invest back into an economy to grow.

Who will build the houses for this growing economy that this port has funded? Who will build this port? Who will build the roads and its related infrastructure? Who will literally build the rest of the island? Not the Caymanians, because their government has intentionally ignored this ageing issue of the dumpster fire that is this island’s education system and it is appalling.

Think about this fact for one minute: there is proof of established trade/artisan schools in the world since before Christ’s birth! We are in 2020 and there is not an established trade school in this country!

The wealthiest country in the Caribbean! Why? It’s not the money. You could easily have a for-profit school system here just like they have all over the world and they are very successful … so why hasn’t it happened?

Absolutely no good reason except that your government is not doing their job. Building a port, gay marriage or whatever the government has got you intentionally concerned about this month is not even on a comparable scale to not having a basic education in a country as well off as this one. You should have my job! I’m with you!

Chris Pine

Cayman catboats: ‘No two were exactly alike’

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One hundred years ago, getting to the hospital, the market or just about anywhere else in Cayman likely would have required a catboat.

“They were the pick-up trucks of yesteryear,” said Loxley Banks, a director of the Cayman Catboat Club, founded in 1998 to promote and preserve the island relic.

“If somebody had to come to the hospital from East End, usually they would have to somehow get them in a catboat and transport them to Hog Sty Bay and then get them up to the hospital.

“It was used to transport dead bodies, sick people, and was used for just about any mode of transportation that was necessary in that day.”

Until the 1940s, in fact, Banks says there was probably only one pick-up truck, if any, in Cayman. The catboat was the primary means of transportation and a centrepiece of many Caymanian stories.

During an afternoon at Kem Jackson’s home in West Bay, Catboat Club members shared stories about the vessels with the Cayman Compass.

The concave sailboats, built of hand-crafted popnut tree and mahogany, weren’t just vessels for running errands, fishing for dinner, or transporting the sick.

They also connected people.

It was how you organised reunions with friends and family. Or how you snuck off to meet a love interest.

“Rum Point would have been a famous place for that,” Banks said.

“You could go into any little cove there and it was like you were going to someplace in Rotterdam, I guess.”

The catboat first brought together Banks’ aunt and uncle, when one waved – or didn’t, depending on who’s telling the story – at the other from shore.

“There’s lots of really beautiful stories, romantic stories, related to the catboat. It has a very important role in our development and that’s why the Catboat Club tries to keep this aspect of our culture, heritage or history [alive],” Banks said.

Rough waters ahead

So, what happened to these once-ubiquitous Cayman-built boats?

The catboat has faced numerous challenges that have threatened to relegate the vessel to history.

First came the arrival of the outboard motor to the islands after World War II. The motors required a flat surface for mounting. The entire hull of a catboat is concave.

“So, they cut the stern off, maybe about a foot and a half, two feet, and made a solid, straight piece where they could mount them and put an outboard motor on,” Banks said.

“Most of what we have, we had to restore because all of them had the sterns cut off and that went on for, I’d say, maybe six, seven, 10 years.”

Most of the catboats that weren’t adapted for motors were condemned to rot, said Catboat Club president Jerris Miller.

“Probably 99% of the 300-plus catboats that were on the island ended up rotting away because they’re made from wood, and you really have to use them and get them into the sea regularly or they just deteriorate,” he said.

As a young man in the ‘70s and ‘80s, he said, he detested the catboats that had been cut and fit with motors.

Now, he recognises that the modifications inadvertently helped preserve a piece of history.

“Here we are, 50 years later, and if it wasn’t for the fact that some people actually cut these boats and put a motor on them, there would be zero catboats on the island.

“We only have one, single catboat that I’m aware of on the whole island that was never cut off at the back.”

That catboat, located off North Sound Road, remains one of Cayman’s few existing catboats – preserved, restored, or otherwise.

Another is Jackson’s personal catboat, Captain D. The boat was one of many that had its stern cut off.

Jackson now has the vessel restored and functional, ready for fishing trips or cruises across North Sound.

‘Patience and time’

As a child, Jackson would help his grandfather fix up his catboat, patching leaks and other necessary repairs.

He would also accompany him into the bush to collect building supplies.

“First thing, out in the sun, he’d be out sharpin’ his axe because he was going out to get timber,” Jackson said.

“And I’d throw that thing on my shoulder. I had to go.”

Miller chimes in that the trips weren’t as simple as carrying the axe and chopping wood.

“They didn’t have any machinery to help them. So, they went into the bush and it was easier to actually make the piece of wood to exactly the size you wanted out there because it was less for a young boy to drag out,” Miller said.

“They’d cut it up and then square it, and they would cut it down to the smaller size that they could use before they even brought it out.”

The rest required a certain level of mental acumen and sheer determination. No two catboats were exactly alike, and no written plans of a Cayman catboat exists to this day.

Boat builders required a few key factors to succeed.

“Patience and time,” Banks said.

“And knowledge,” Miller added.

Through a combination of heat, sometimes from steam, and friction, the builder would slowly bend the timber and fit it into place.

The boatyards were often just yards.

“They would literally just put a keel down in their yard and start to build the ribs and build a complete boat just like that in the backyard,” Miller said.

“It wasn’t like it was one person in the Cayman Islands that did it. Every district had 10, 15 people that would build a catboat in the yard from no plans, no anything.”

While old-time Caymanians carried this unwritten knowledge with them out of practice and necessity, modern islanders have learned that the craft is not so simple.

Through decades of trial and error, Miller has learned that the old way is the only way to build a Cayman catboat. It can’t be adapted to pre-made, ready-to-assemble kits. There is no IKEA for catboats.

Part of the art is picking the right tree, with the right bend, the right type of wood, and approximately the right height.

“Well, the tree that the guy finds might be 17 feet, might be 18 feet, might be 16 and a half. So that’s what you got for a boat,” Miller said.

“When you try to replicate [a catboat], it’s difficult to get it exactly alike. They’re all different, yet they all have the same basic design.”

Over the years, others have attempted to restore the Cayman catboat. But as the story of the boat goes, the vessel has never been easy to preserve.

The efforts of the late Ira Walton, for example, were compromised when Hurricane Ivan in 2004 destroyed several boats that he had built, as well as the Catboat Club meeting space.

In recent years, catboat restoration has received a boost from the Gwen Bush Memorial Scholarship, offered through the Catboat Club’s umbrella organisation, the Cayman Maritime Heritage Foundation.

So far, three young Caymanians, including Miller’s son, have studied boat-making under the scholarship.

“It is specific for young Caymanians to go get trained to learn wooden boat building,” Miller said.

As part of his studies at the International Yacht Restoration School in Rhode Island, Ned Jerris Miller helped restore the 12-foot Beetle Cat, which was later sold for US$11,000.

“They’re learning the old techniques of doing it and it really makes it a lot easier,” Miller said of his son’s studies.

“We’re really proud of the fact that we’re getting young Caymanians interested in it and everybody that has gone and graduated has come back to very good paying jobs. They’re really in demand … with the amount of watercraft that we have here.”

The students trained through the scholarship offer one of the islands’ few links in the younger generations to a near-forgotten practice.

The Catboat Club also visits schools and community groups to promote education about the boats.

For more information on the club, visit www.catboatclub.com.

 

Cayman celebrates National Heroes Day

In this year’s National Heroes Day celebrations, the focus was split between Cayman’s constitutional progress and the contribution women have made, and continue to make, in local politics.

With its usual pomp and ceremony that saw Union flags strung side by side with Cayman flags on the streets and various uniformed groups parade to and fro with music provided by the police band, the annual event brought out hundreds of spectators.

Constitutional progress

“The 1950s and early 1960s were a time of great change for the Cayman Islands, as well as for the other British Caribbean colonies,” said Premier Alden McLaughlin as he delivered the keynote address to onlookers who attended in their Sunday best.

McLaughlin reflected on the struggles of Cayman, and how, through an initial 1959 order in council, Cayman took its “first steps towards political advancement”. He also spoke of recent constitutional amendments that now prevent the UK from legislating for Cayman without, at minimum, consulting with Cayman first.

This year, more than 50 vestrymen and justices of the peace were recognised for their efforts in leading Cayman over the last several decades. The only surviving 1959 vestryman, Arley James A.J. Miller of Bodden Town, was wheeled onto the stage where all in attendance gave him a standing ovation. Miller was presented with a framed copy of his biography, a commemorative banknote and certificate of recognition.

Cayman has nine national heroes. In late 2019, Heroes Square was transformed, with flora that once complemented the statues being replaced with marble slabs that now serve as the housing of busts of five of the national heroes.

The sounds of trumpets could be heard ringing out as the premier helped unveil the busts of Sybil Ione McLaughlin, Desmond Vere Watler, Sybil Joyce Hylton, Dr. Roy Edison McTaggart and Thomas William Farrington. The additional four busts will not be revealed until next year’s Heroes Day celebrations.

The ‘Phenomenal Four’ who paved the way

In 1958, the passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Bill granted women in Cayman a most basic of human rights – the right to vote. The landmark legislation gave women a voice and in the 1959 general elections not only did women vote, they stood as candidates.

The first four women to run for office were Burdell Jackson of West Bay, Ethel Cook-Bodden of George Town, Francine Jackson of Bodden Town, and Laurel Watler of Bodden Town.

Together, they have been dubbed the ‘Phenomenal Four’. Although none of the women was elected in that initial poll, they are credited with blazing the trail for national hero Mary Evelyn Wood to become the first women to be elected to office during the following general election.

Six decades after receiving the right to suffrage, women continue to play an integral role in Cayman’s politics. Currently, there are three women serving as elected officials – Minster Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, Minister Tara Rivers and Councillor Barbara Conolly.

During the ceremony, a new $1 note was given to audience members. On each note, the words ‘Celebrate Cayman, 60 Years, Our First Constitution’ is written. The notes are expected to go into circulation in the coming days.

Car-recycling plant fire contained

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Officials on Monday continued to monitor the vehicle-recycling plant at the George Town Landfill for any signs of a re-ignition of Friday’s fire.

The Cayman Islands Fire Service stated that the fire was first reported shortly after 8:30am on Friday. What was initially thought to have been a “small fire” soon raged out of control, belching thick plumes of black smoke into the sky throughout the day and into the night.

The fire erupted in a section where vehicles are crushed and compacted. At no point was the solid waste mound on fire, according to the Department of Environmental Health, which manages the landfill.

On Saturday morning, a Government Information Service spokesperson said an emergency response team had worked throughout the night to bring the blaze under control. The team, which consisted of Fire Service officers and workers from the DEH and the National Roads Authority, managed to contain the blaze over the course of the weekend.

On Monday, the smoke plumes had disappeared and the site was being monitored. A GIS statement on Monday said, “A small crew from CIFS along with the Department of Environmental Health and Island Recycling [which operates the vehicle-recycling plant] are on scene to extinguish any last remaining deep-seated pocket fires.”

The cause of the blaze was still unclear on Monday, and official investigations into the fire are expected to begin later this week.

The fire’s smoke column spread across a substantial portion of George Town on Friday, with safety concerns leading to Cayman International School closing early and George Town Primary School calling off its sports day and sending students home.

Police shut down parts of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway on Friday as the smoke wafted across the road, and government issued a notice to all businesses and residents in the area to keep their windows and doors closed. The smell of the fire was apparent throughout George Town during the day.

Students from environmental group Protect Our Future questioned what is to be done with the landfill.

“What angers us the most, is that we have brought up this issue for a while, through awareness campaigns, yet it takes a fire like this to bring it back into the spotlight,” said CIS student Daniela Suarez, 17, who is a member of Protect Our Future. “Why does tragedy have to happen for people to notice the youth’s concerns?”

Another member of the group, Mike Odagiri, 14, said, “Not only does this affect the environment, but it also affects our health, traffic, education, and the image of Cayman negatively. Spreading awareness is important, but taking action to fix the problem is truly what we need.”

In the latter part of 2019, there were several small fires at the landfill. Those fires were thought to have occurred due to a lack of proper compaction across the solid waste mound. Friday’s fire is the first blaze reported in 2020, with the resulting plumes of black smoke reminiscent of a previous fire involving a large pile of tyres at the landfill that raged for several days in December 2013.

As of press time Monday, fire officers remained at the vehicle-recycling plant.

Witness confirms strong currents where teen drowned

The prosecution continued its case last week against two youth workers, who are on trial for manslaughter in relation to the drowning of 14-year-old Risco Batten.

Department of Environment officer Bradley Johnson, who took the witness stand Wednesday, 22 Jan., told the jury that an area of South Sound commonly called ‘Pull and Be Damned Point’, was a dangerous area for swimmers.

“I grew up just north, not too far, from there and knew as a child that the currents were very strong,” said Johnson, while being questioned by prosecutor Richard Matthews, QC.
Matthews asked Johnson to describe the general conditions in the area that made for dangerous swimming.

“If you look at the general shape of South Sound, water flows in and around the sound,” said Johnson. “Then, it must exit through one of two areas within the channel or the main open exit.”

Batten drowned on 29 Dec. 2015 while swimming off the South Sound beach during an outing with fellow inhabitants of the Bonaventure Boys Home. He had entered the home nine days prior to his death.

Risco Batten

Defendants Michael Anthony Stewart and Larry Levers, who were employed as senior youth supervisors and youth workers at the Bonaventure Boys Home, had been tasked with supervising Batten and the other boys on a fishing trip along the ironshore near the Cayman Turtle Centre. However, bad weather led the men to relocate the trip to South Sound, where Batten drowned.

A jury of four men and three women has been told that during the incident, both men watched from shore. Levers called the police, while Stewart went to meet officers at the roadside.

On Thursday, Johnson told the jury he had been asked to identify a day when conditions matched the weather when Batten drowned and to conduct various tests. Johnson said after much discussion with the National Weather Service, they identified 3 Feb. 2017 as the day with the closest conditions.

On that day, Johnson recorded the wind speeds and directions, as well as the speed of underwater currents, at four different sites in the general location where Batten died. He found that the strength of the current increased by as much as sevenfold the further he travelled from the shore.

At the location where Batten’s body is thought to have been recovered, Johnson recorded wind speeds of 12 miles per hour, and currents at 11.3 feet deep were travelling at 0.71 centimetres (0.27 inches) per second.

“You couldn’t tell where an object would be, because the current direction varies slightly,” said Johnson. “However, the general direction is from east to west.”

The prosecution’s case against Levers and Stewart is that both men had a duty of care to each of the children. Matthews said both men failed to properly execute that duty and claimed that their failure resulted in criminal culpability.

Both men have denied the charges and the trial continues.

Trio to face trial on football fraud charges

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Charmaine Moss and Canover Watson returned to Grand Court on Friday to face charges of fraud and corruption relating to the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF).

Moss and Watson have been jointly charged with former CONCACAF president Jeffery Webb, with one count of conspiracy to defraud the confederation.

During the mention hearing, which lasted 10 minutes, prosecutor Darlene Oko told Acting Justice Marlene Carter that the Crown was seeking an adjournment.

“The material the Crown seeks to rely on is substantial, and the Crown needs time to prepare a trial bundle,” said Oko.

The court heard that Watson also has other charges of a similar nature before the Grand Court and the prosecution was considering joining the charges.

“Mr. Watson has a dismissal application before Grand Court, and we await the outcome of that application,” she said. “We seek to join both matters, but that will depend on the outcome of the dismissal application.”

Court documents reveal that between January 2012 and September 2014, Moss, 45, Watson, 49, and Webb, 55, allegedly created a fake company called *Ironshore International Limited. Through that company, the trio is said to have claimed to be agents of Admiral Financial Centre Ltd. The charge further alleges that false, inflated invoices were submitted to CONCACAF.

Moss and Webb are jointly charged with an additional count of conspiracy to defraud CONCACAF, which alleges the submission of more fraudulent invoices during the same time period.

Moss also faces a third and final count of converting criminal property in relation to funds transferred to Ironshore International Limited and Moss International Limited.
During Friday’s hearing, Oko requested that the matter be put off until 20 March, at which time pleas are expected to be entered.

“Mr. Webb is named in the indictment,” said Oko. “We will set a trial date; if he is on island at that time, we will proceed with him, but if he is off island, we will proceed in his absence.”

At the time the offences are alleged to have occurred, Webb was serving as a FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) vice president, CONCACAF president and Cayman Islands Football Association president. Watson was serving in an executive role with CIFA. Moss was not a member of CIFA; however, she worked closely with the organisation.

Webb remains in the US under strict bail conditions, as he awaits sentencing on several counts of money laundering, fraud and racketeering – charges to which he has already pleaded guilty.

Moss and Watson were released on bail and will return to court on 20 March.

*Editor’s note: This company has no relation to a company of the same name based in the UK.

Boat captain denies manslaughter charges

Boat captain Sean Michael McDonald denied responsibility for a boating accident that claimed the lives of two people and injured another.

McDonald, a Canadian, pleaded not guilty on Friday, 24 Jan., to two counts of manslaughter and one count of causing grievous bodily harm.

The charges state that McDonald “on 11 August 2019, piloted a marine vessel namely ‘Pepper Jelly’, in a reckless and negligent manner that claimed the lives of John Turner and Emmanuel Brown”.

The charge of causing grievous bodily harm relates to a female passenger who was seriously injured in the boating accident.

This was McDonald’s first Grand Court appearance. He was released on bail.

Air arrivals pass the half-million mark

The number of stayover tourists visiting Grand Cayman has almost doubled in the last decade, to reach a record high of more than half-a-million visitors last year.

In 2019, air arrivals reached 502,739, an 8.6% increase on the previous year.

“This is the highest number of stayover visits in recorded history and the tenth consecutive year of annual growth in stayover visitation,” the Department of Tourism said in a press release.

At the start of the decade, in 2010, annual air arrival figures were just over 280,000.
Tourism officials highlighted improved airlift and an increase in room stock both from new hotels and from Airbnb properties among the key drivers of growth.

The strength of the American economy – Cayman’s core tourism market – has also helped the industry. In addition, hurricanes in rival Caribbean jurisdictions have been cited as a factor in Cayman’s tourism growth.

Key developments in 2019 included Cayman Airways opening a new route to Denver and a new Southwest Airlines service to Baltimore.

“Airlift is our oxygen,” said Director of Tourism Rosa Harris.

“My team and I invest significant effort to maintain and grow strong aviation partnerships to ensure that airline capacity and flight frequency throughout the year are maintained and increased wherever possible,” she said. “This ever-increasing ease in accessibility for our visitors, paired with the exceptional Caymankind service and experience unique to our country, enable us to grow the business and set visitation records.”

This strategy is expected to continue in 2020 with a new service to Toronto beginning in February; increased service from London; a new seasonal flight from New York beginning in June; new flights from Houston; and increased service from Newark and Baltimore.

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said he was pleased with the growth of the industry and focussed on spreading the economic benefit throughout the community.

“We know that tourism provides many opportunities, from entrepreneurship to sharing of our culture, that empower our people to thrive professionally and personally,” he said. “This has been our focus for the past five years and will continue to be a top priority for us going forward.”

He said part of government’s ongoing strategy was to have a tourism-focussed curriculum in schools to create more career opportunities for Caymanians in that sector.

Hoteliers welcomed the growth in tourism, with many celebrating record years themselves.
Tom Mason, general manager of the Comfort Suites, said it had been the hotel’s best year in two decades of business.

“From the big hotels to the small players who work hard each day, working in the hotels, the restaurants, dive shops and attractions, those driving taxis, directing tourists at the port, we all have a part to play. This is truly the success factor that has driven these incredible tourism arrival numbers,” he said.

Slight drop in cruise passengers

Just over 1.8 million cruise visitors arrived in Grand Cayman last year, a decline of nearly 5%.

The figure, 1,831,011, is still the third-best year for cruise arrivals on record.

The 2018 total of 1.92 million passenger arrivals, bolstered by ships diverted from hurricane-hit countries in the eastern Caribbean, was the highest ever.

Representatives of Royal Caribbean have indicated that numbers could surge beyond 2.5 million if Cayman builds a cruise berthing facility. Opponents have suggested that would be more visitors than the island could handle.

This week