November 29, 2020

$3.5m lost at sea

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Huge amount of cruise ship cash gone in one week

Cayman lost $3.5 million in tourism revenues last week alone when 10 cruise ships skipped the island because of high seas, bypassing even Spotts Landing, supposed foul-weather alternative to George Town.

More than half-a-million dollars in landing fees and the average $90 spend per tourist were lost when the 35,000 passengers aboard those 10 ships did not disembark, underscoring the loss of almost 14% of cruise-tourist days during high season.

Burns Conolly

Offering a remedy on Tuesday in George Town’s Seafarer’s Hall, architect Burns Conolly, joined by West Bay community leader, businessman and former independent political candidate Reginald “Choppy” Delepenha and at least four Cayman seacaptains, unveiled increasingly detailed plans for a five-berth cruise-ship dock in South Sound, claiming the location was superior to George Town.

Proposing a 2,000 x 3,000 square foot ship basin set into Red Bay, the facility would offer two berths for Oasis-class ships and three for standard Freedom-class vessels; a 150-slip marina and helipad; places for 20 mega-yachts; a cargo-loading area triple the size of George Town docks; a hotel and 135 condominiums; customs and immigration offices: and a transport centre for buses and taxis.

Flyovers above South Sound Road link the transport centre to Linford Pierson Highway and Grand Harbour, while new roundabouts and bypasses, already gazetted by the National Roads Authority, disburse traffic toward Bodden Town and Rum Point, and toward George Town and beyond to Stingray City and Cayman Turtle Farm.

The Red Bay Berthing plans

The Red Bay proposal, initially unveiled in September in broad terms, though created almost 40 years ago, is intended as an alternate to government plans for $300 million cruise berthing in George Town’s Hog Sty Bay, to be built by infrastructure giant China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC).

While denying any interest in design or construction of the Red Bay facility, the Tuesday-night group said George Town was a poor choice for berthing, environmentally, financially and navigationally.

“In a word, it’s exposed — and will remain exposed,” Mr Conolly told the 100-member audience, pointing out that as long as Hog Sty Bay served the ships, Spotts must remain a foul-weather alternative, “and Spotts is not a real alternate — bypassed last week — and Spotts will become even more irrelevant as bigger ships cannot discharge there even in good weather”.

Dredging Hog Sty Bay to 40 feet for Oasis ships would bring deeper water closer to shore, he said, spurring bigger waves, rebounding between the shoreline and parked vessels, and threatening flooding in Mary Street and downtown.

Managing the traffic generated by landing 24,000 daily passengers would require $25 million of roadworks, while 130,000 square feet of retail space in CHEC’s two-storey pier would threaten existing shops.

“The Royal Watler Terminal will be closed for three years during construction” of CHEC’s dock, Mr Conolly said, while the four-berth space meant vessels “would still require tendering during high season”.

“We are already shoehorning cargo in there, and there is room for expansion in the future,” he said.

The meeting heard that Red Bay’s shallower water meant minimal dredging for the ship basin and associated seawall, and less damage to marine life and reefs than in the George Town project, which could destroy Eden Rock, Cheeseburger Reef, Pageant Beach and the Cali and Balboa areas.

Referring to the projected $300 million construction cost, West Bay’s Captain Bryan Ebanks warned: “We get one chance at this, one chance to get it right. We should take that investment and put it where it does the most good for the country.”

In Red Bay, he said, “for $300 million you can expand and move beyond into the future, and we will come out on top,” he said.


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