Posted on October 30, 2015
The government is taking another look at the proposed design for a cruise berthing facility, which has been at the centre of the work that has taken place so far, to move the controversial project forward. Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell spoke about the possibility of moving the piers into deeper water to reduce the dredging footprint and mitigate the environmental damage.
Kirkconnell said government was committed to providing a facility for the Cayman Islands that would deliver the greatest economic benefit with the least environmental impact.
“We are fully aware that our tourism product is supported by the natural beauty of our environment. Therefore it bears repeating that we remain committed to identifying the best possible option that will deliver the most economic benefit with the least environmental harm,” he said. “Government is reviewing the proposed designs to see how we can achieve even less environmental impact. Included in this is consideration to moving the piers to deeper waters to minimize dredging.”
He explained that in the current design proposal, the deepest pilings are set around 50-55 feet but they have asked the design engineers to look at moving that to 90 feet so the piers would be further away and the dredging would be reduced. Government has, however, ruled out other possibilities, such as the cable car or floating dock concepts, and the plan would still include two piers and upland development.
Despite his very emphatic commitment to the project, Premier Alden McLaughlin said government would still ensure the berthing facility “built under our watch will be done carefully and responsibly to cause the least possible environmental impact”.
He said that looking at possible redesigns was part of the next steps but the main focus would be on the financing model, which they would now discuss with the cruise lines.
The current design calls for a significant upland area of some seven acres but Kirkconnell, the deputy premier, insisted that this would not include any retail development and would be the distribution point for passengers and part of the cargo facility.
Seven acres is, however, a large area and many people believe that the reclaimed land will be a factor for the cruise lines, which the government hopes will be behind the financing of the project through increased passenger taxes. However, local economic experts and pundits concerned about the project believe that the cruise lines will not commit to significant tax increases to fund the piers without additional gain and access to shore-side retail.