December 4, 2020

CHINESE TAKE-AWAY – Berth plans would spoil watersports

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The alternative site at Red Bay

Covering 16 acres on an artificial island in Red Bay, the proposed all-weather five-pier cruise-berthing facility will spur renovation of George Town, while preserving Seven Mile Beach and Hog Sty Bay’s wrecks and reefs.

By contrast, the construction of the George Town port complex by the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), requiring between two years and three years, would entail razing the Royal Watler Terminal, returning tourists to Hog Sty Bay’s north and south terminals; extensive dredging between Rackam’s and Eden Rock, threatening downtown flooding as far as Mary Street and the courthouse; while creating a two-storey mall with retail shops, restaurants and a hotel.

Meanwhile, organisers of Tuesday nights West Bay briefing on the Red Bay proposal lamented the absence of both Premier McKeeva Bush — who had promised to appear — and members of the Opposition PPM, despite invitations, said architect and advocate Burns Conolly and tour operator Capt Bryan Ebanks.

“The Kirkconnells were also invited,” said Mr Ebanks, alluding to the dominant George Town-merchant family, “and not just once. I am very disappointed. This meeting is not about pushing ideas down the throat of anyone, but to present them so that you could digest them and come to a decision about what is best for the country.

“It’s clear that politics plays a major role in deciding, not what is right, but in what is most pleasing,” he said.
George Town dredging, he said, “would comprise the reefs, the sediment stirred up will smother them, all the way from Pageant Beach down to Jackson Point,” ruining diving at Eden Rock, Sunset House and the shipwrecks. “It appears government has no interest to have the Department of the Environment check it out. If the politicians turn out to be wrong on this, it will be a disaster.”
Mr Conolly pointed out that between 70% and 75% of cruise-ship passengers boarded tour buses at the terminals, and with 6,000 visitors and 2,000 staff leaving each Oasis-class ship, “major traffic congestion would result”, requiring multi-million-dollar downtown roadworks.
George Town docks would accommodate only four cruise liners, meaning other arrivals would still have to be tendered
“And that is when they can dock, because during a Nor’wester, we will still have to dock ships out of town, up to 30 days per year,” Mr Conolly said.
Red Bay, by contrast, with five berths — two, possibly three, for Oasis ships – and a 2,000-foot x 3,000-foot turning basin and 20-slip mega-yacht marina behind an eight-foot breakwater, will eliminate the need for the foul-weather Spotts Landing.
Connected by new road links already gazetted by the National Roads Authority and bypassing Grand Harbour’s congested 37,000 vehicle movements per day, the 16-acre island in South Sound includes cargo-loading areas a heliport, hotel, 135 condominiums, immigration and customs, and a bus-taxi transport centre to disburse traffic both eastward and towards downtown, where streets can be pedestrianised with trees, lighting and benches.

Mr Conolly said Cayman’s road system would need to be rebuilt in the face of pending airport expansion, creation of Bodden Town’s “Eco Park” waste-management facility, construction of Enterprise City and Dr Devi Shetty’s East End Hospital and medical university – projected to draw 1 million visitors each year within 15 years.

If the George Town port goes ahead, he warned, Cayman is likely to lose control of it.

“If you stand at Rackam’s and look out, you won’t see the ocean. The fishing boats, the divers, everything between you and the cruise ships now, it will all be gone,” he said. “You will see the port, and a huge basin.

“The cruise lines make money from retail locations. They will own a destination, like Honduras, Labadie in Haiti, Falmouth in Jamaica, the Bahamas. They built those ports, the shops and all the entertainment. They control the quality of the destination and the visitor experience. But ours is in decline. We can’t compete, and George Town will be a let down from all those other places.”

George Town waterfront (photo Christopher Tobutt)

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