Posted on October 15, 2015
Government may have secured its first commitment from one cruise line for the development of piers in George Town, CNS has learned. During talks at last week’s Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) conference in Mexico, officials managed to secure at least some commitment for the project from Carnival. Sources tell CNS that the commitment is for passenger numbers that would equate to tax revenue of some $50 million. CNS has asked the tourism ministry for details regarding the support from the cruise line but we have received no response.
Carnival is an important partner for government in this controversial project but that cruise line does not operate the new class of mega ships, one of the main reasons why the CIG claims Cayman must develop piers. Royal Caribbean, the line with the new generation of massive ships that refuse to tender, has not yet made any commitment to the Cayman government’s proposed plan.
Two weeks ago, although there had been no formal Cabinet discussion and before public disclosure of the updated Outline Business Case, which has still not been released, Premier Alden McLaughlin told a Chamber of Commerce audience that the government had decided to press ahead to the next step in the process of the cruise project, which would be to talk to the cruise lines and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Undermining claims that government is strictly following process, the premier’s announcement was therefore made before the full consultation process with Cabinet and the members of his backbench and in absence of the updated OBC and explanations of how the project would be financed. The premier’s policy position was made very clear during his address at the event, when he stated that government must “choose between the economy and the environment”, and they were choosing the economy.
However, it is understood that McLaughlin made the announcement so that government officials could begin talks with the cruise lines at the cruise conference.
Despite the findings of the environmental impact assessment, which clearly indicated the project would be very destructive project to the marine habitat, the public consultation, which came down three to one against, opposition from the tourism industry and the business community via CITA and the Chamber, the PPM administration appears to be committed to the port now that it believes that Seven Mile Beach is not at risk.
But as government presses ahead with the project, opposition appears to be mounting in the community as the public begins to realize that the project could very well become a reality, regardless of the serious environmental threats.
This weekend members of the Save Cayman campaign, supported by Sustainable Cayman and others concerned about this particular project, are organising a peaceful protest and are hoping that a significant crowd will send a clear message to government that the Cayman community does not support the project, as they believe this particular plan is too high an environmental price to pay and will undermine Cayman’s position as an attractive and unique destination when it comes to its marine habitat.
They dispute that this is a stark choice between economy over environment but also warn that building the piers is by no means a smart economic choice either.
“We’re not against an attractive cruise port; we’re against dredging,” said local photographer Courtney Platt, a member of Sustainable Cayman and a supporter of the Save Cayman campaign. “We don’t want anyone to lose jobs, including both the Cayman cruise industry and the watersports tour operators in the harbour, who are currently earning nearly $10 million per year in direct ticket sales,” he said, noting that revenue will be lost as a result of dredging.
“There are ways to keep Cayman’s cruise industry and the reefs too if we don’t dredge. Whether the solution is improved tendering or berthing, all of our needs can be met without dredging. What Save Cayman, Sustainable Cayman and thousands of individuals ask of government is that they look again and change the plan. There are several good options already on the table. This is not a question of build the current plan or die, as some proponents for the current plan would suggest,” he said, as he urged people to join the protest on Saturday afternoon.
The protest starts at 3pm on the harbourfront in George Town opposite Breezes by the Bay.