Cayman Islands Pushes Ahead with Cruise Facility Plans

The Cayman Islands Prime Minister Alden McLaughlin confirmed on Wednesday that his Cabinet has given the green light for a USD 150 million cruise berthing facility in George Town Harbour to allow for bigger cruise ships to visit the islands.

“I am pleased to confirm that yesterday Cabinet formally approved the cruise berthing facility recommendations regarding project delivery so the project can now progress to the next stage,” said McLaughlin.

Grand Cayman is one of the few islands in the Caribbean where cruise ships must still tender their passengers ashore.  Therefore, the project is proposed to enable berthing of the big vessels in the port. The project will include a dredged berthing area and piers providing berths for four large cruise ships, with additional reclaimed land for landside facilities.

The announcement comes following the feedback from cruise shipping companies which claim that the number of cruise ship passengers visiting the islands will be reduced as companies introduce ever larger ships into service which the port cannot accommodate due to lack of necessary capacity.

However, according to the Prime Minister, “there will be no dredges in George Town Harbour tomorrow, next week, or next month.”

“Instead we will proceed carefully to ensure the minimum environmental impact as well as discussing with the cruise lines their participation in the financing so as to ensure the success of the project as well as to guarantee the long-term viability and benefit of the industry to local people and businesses,” he added, stressing his commitment to ensurCayman Islands Pushes Ahead with Cruise Facility Planse the project is implemented carefully and responsibly to cause the least possible environmental impact.

Namely, the construction of the project is designed to include dredging of coral and dive sites in Grand Cayman’s George Town harbor, which has raised environmental concerns.

The Diving Equipment & Marketing Association (DEMA) believes that the construction and operation of this facility will be devastating to the natural coral reefs.

“Damage will occur due to direct dredging action, turbidity and siltation on the living reefs near Georgetown during construction and additional damage will likely be caused by the on-going dredging required to maintain the berthing facility, as outlined in the June 2, 2015 Environmental Statement. 

In addition, in studying the data presented in the draft Environmental Statement, the actual economic benefit to the Cayman Islands appears to be questionable, involving millions of dollars to re-locate a shipwreck (the Balboa) and portions of the living reef with a result that there would still be a net loss of living coral,” DEMA said earlier this year.

DEMA said that tourists arriving by air to the Cayman Islands (rather than cruise ship) account for 77% of the tourist revenue generated there, questioning the economic sense of the project.

According to the full Pricewaterhouse Coopers report, the anticipated positive economic impact from capital expenditure during the construction of the cruise and enhanced cargo berthing facility, over a three-year period, is estimated to be at least USD 156 million.

“Once the facility is up and running, the increased economic impact is expected to continue, adding about USD 245 million to the our GDP as well as employment for about 1,000 people over the next 20 years, assuming at least a 1 per cent growth in cruise visitors. Net benefits increase to a potential $1.2 billion if cruise visitors grow by at least 3 per cent per annum,” McLaughlin said.

World Maritime News Staff

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