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Plans To Cut Dredging Go To Cruise Lines

Posted on November 17, 2016

The tourism ministry councillor, Joey Hew, has claimed that the cruise port’s new design reduces the dredging footprint, as government prepares to begin the tender process for the controversial project, which it maintains will be underway before the election. With the tourism ministry’s review of the revised design plans completed, Hew said they had gone back to the engineers and the cruise lines for testing. Speaking at the George Town PPM branch meeting, he spoke of a sense of urgency surrounding the project, which had been played down earlier in the week, by Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell.

When he spoke to a group of travel agents and other industry stakeholders from overseas as he opened the Department of Tourism’s annual showcase, Kirkconnell told the audience that government was seeking a balance between cruise and overnight guests. He said government was making “slow and steady” progress, as he pointed to the revised plans being less environmentally harmful. Kirkconnell said that the expansion of cruise tourism should not be at the expense of overnight tourism.

However, speaking to the party faithful a few days later, Hew said that there was a need to move the project along, not just to get the cruise dock underway but to improve the cargo facilities, so that Cayman would be able to accommodate the new larger ships being introduced by Thompson Shipping, which he said would cut the cost of shipping.

Hew said government was now focused on costing the project and that the prequalification for it would be complete before the end of this year and before the end of the first quarter next year, when he said the RFP would be issued. If government wins the 2017 election, he suggested that construction would start before the end of next year.

But the fundamental questions of how much it will cost and who pays remain unanswered.

Government has insisted that it will not give up anything and that the piers will remain in public hands, and there will be no upland development – even though sources tell CNS that the Dart group of companies has again expressed an interest in the project and government will give no financial guarantees. Based on the business case, government believes the piers will be paid for through increased passenger fees and the diversion of the money that currently goes to the tender operators.

However, there are major concerns about the economics as well as the environment. Many people do not believe that the finances add up and the public purse will end up footing part of the bill for a project that will mostly benefit the cruise lines, a handful of larger merchants and a very small number of local operators. The project does not have wide support among the community, and although it may become an election issue, both of the major parties support developing cruise berthing.

Source: CNSBusiness

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