It’s closing in on a year since government announced it was moving full-steam ahead with plans to build a cruise berthing facility in George Town harbour. That decision triggered outrage among the environmentally minded, and in the months since, government has pledged to move the piers into deeper water to allay environmental concerns.
We’re still waiting to see that plan.
Opponents of the project seem to be sticking to the same sort of talking points we’ve grown accustomed to, questioning if the cruise berthing facility is a want, or a need.
Those on the pro-port side are hopeful government can get the project started before Caymanians go to the polls next May, but fear the local businesses may be pushed out of the game in favor of big international retailers.
“When this design comes back with the piers being extended, we will see where it goes from there,” said Tortuga Rum Company boss Robert Hamaty.
He told Cayman 27 he believes government will get the project going before the May elections.
“We are looking forward to it and see what happens, I think that’s basically the only saving grace for George Town,” said Mr. Hamaty. “I think you yourself can see all of the empty office buildings there in George Town.”
On the other side, Sunset House GM Keith Sahm told Cayman 27 the newly implemented National Conservation Law could put a spoke in the wheels of the project.
“All of a sudden there’s a game change out there that would require a new EIA, that would require a whole new expense, and I think that it’s just in that what are we going to do next phase to be honest,” said Mr. Sahm.
Mr. Sahm said moving the piers into deeper water will still create massive siltation problems, as dredging will still be required.
“The siltation problems that you have just from a couple developments going in just to the south of us,” said Mr. Sahm. “That is minute compared to what they are talking about doing in town with all the dredging.”
“Depending on how the negotiations go, all the big duty-free could end up taking over, you can see what happened in the rest of the Caribbean you know,” said Mr. Hamaty.
Mr. Hamaty told Cayman 27 he supports a port plan, as long as the agreements with the cruise lines protect local retailers.
“Each port they go, the big guys jump in and the local guys get pushed out, so we have to fight for what we have,” said Mr. Hamaty.
Mr. Sahm said government’s efforts should be refocused.
“They could come up with many different way to embrace stay over tourism,” said Mr. Sahm.
Here are some things to watch as government goes forward with this cruise berthing project.
Last month, tourism minister Moses Kirkconnell said moving the piers into deeper water could drive the price tag for the cruise berthing facility up to the tune of $50 million.
An outside firm has been working on some cost estimates government says will help it negotiate the financial arrangements with the cruise lines.