October 21, 2020

RED BAY BERTHING: Sea captains name alternative proposal


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In a renewed appeal to the public, a group of Cayman sea captains have presented a proposal to build cruise-ship and mega-yacht berthing, accompanied by cargo facilities on an artificial island in South Sound.

The idea, most recently discussed at a 17 September gathering at the Grand Caymanian Resort, was renewed yesterday by alliance leader Reginald “Choppy” Delapenha, West Bay businessman and 2009 independent political candidate, who said he would present the proposal, variously known as the “South Sound Seaport” and the “Red Bay Development” to government.

“Once again, it seems that we are going forward with another major and costly project without the full knowledge of the pros and cons of all the options available to the country,” Mr Delapenha said, describing an alternative to current proposals to build cruise berths in George Town.

“For many years these islands have struggled with indecision and political posturing and we are now seeing the result of that, declining cruise arrivals and hence the closure of some downtown businesses,” he said.

The proposal foresees a basin 3,000 feet from shore, measuring 2,000 feet from north to south, 4,000 feet from east to west and accommodating five cruise ships, two 1,200-foot “Oasis Class” vessels and three “Freedom Class” vessels.

Included in the plans is 2,000 feet of cargo berthing incorporating a “roll-on, roll-off “ facility between 100 feet wide and 200 feet wide.

A 500-foot-wide channel, excavated to 40 feet, and positioned at a 45-degree angle to the sea, bordered by breakwaters, would admit boats, which would pivot inside the basin, reversing into their berths. An early version of the design envisioned up to 28 mega-yachts at the end of the area, opposite the entrance, although the latest iteration suggests only 20 of the luxury vessels.

A 150-foot wide causeway would connect to Linford Pierson Highway, enabling movement of passengers, cargo, crew and workers.

“I want to talk about these ideas,” Mr Delapenha said, citing support and design help from captains and seagoing veterans Paul Hurlstone, Bryan Ebanks, Alin McCoy and Bob Soto.

“This does not deal with the technical aspects” of building in South Sound, he said, including the costs of reclaiming land and creating an artificial island, its proximity to residential areas and the reconstruction of road and utility networks linking the port to George Town and surrounding areas.

He contrasted this, however, with the George Town proposal: “While the downtown site has some port infrastructure, existing reef damage on the deep reefs and the existing retail investment, these must be contrasted with the total disruption of traffic, the destruction of the shallow snorkeling reefs and Balboa shipwreck, the continued and increasing conflict with cargo, the potential damage to Seven Mile Beach, the closure during northwesters, the proximity to the drop-off and the difficulty of building in very deep water all bring into question whether we are making a good decision for the country’s future placing a dock there.

“None of these issues seem to be under consideration as we rush to build there,” Mr Delapenha said. “We think they all should be considered and a rational decision made prior to investing hundreds of millions of government money.

Premier McKeeva Bush has said he will sign next month an agreement with Beijing’s China Harbour Engineering Company for construction of cruise berths in George Town, a Cayman Turtle Farm visitor’s dock and a bad-weather passenger pier at Spotts Landing.

The Delapenha group’s caymancruiseport.com website says, however, the Red Bay site, because of the shallow South Sound waters, will be “significantly less expensive to build” than George Town, will pay for itself, combat traffic congestion and eliminate the need for the Spotts pier.

“The new facility will not cater to any duty-free retail, thus maintaining George Town as the shopping capital. The Red Bay location will increase business for all, as more passengers can now call in port on more days. Taxis and bus companies will have more work and options and the Island can finally host mega-yachts,” the site claims.

“We have one chance to get this correct,” Mr Delapenha said.


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