November 27, 2020

Red Bay plan dead in the water

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Premier McKeeva Bush

Premier McKeeva Bush said yesterday that he was unlikely to build cruise berthing in Red Bay, citing both economic interests and existing port facilities in George Town.

A leading advocate for the Red Bay project, Captain Bryan Ebanks,  however, accused politicians of short-sightedness, predicting the death of reefs and marine life between Pageant Beach and South Sound if construction went ahead in Hog Sty Bay.

“I can’t go there now,” Mr Bush told iNews Cayman yesterday ion advance of a planned statement in the Legislative Assembly. “I am going to go with what we have now, and if someone wants to build in Red Bay, let them go ahead, but that will draw as much opposition as Rene Hislop’s Emerald Sound project where they were going to dig a six-foot canal.”

Emerald Sound, a now-defeated South Sound residential project proposed by Mr Hislop, generated considerable opposition to dredging and canals in the area.

Red Bay advocates, he said, “wanted to dig a 400-foot channel, and environmental assessments will have to be done and there will be more opposition. As it stands, I can’t go with Red Bay,” he said.

Mr Bush’s remarks come after a Tuesday-night appearance at a Pedro Castle “tourism awareness meeting”. Leading the gathering, the premier told the audience of more than 100 that Red Bay was an unlikely site for the four-berth, $300 million docks.

“There are people saying we should go ahead with Red Bay, not George Town, but I will push ahead with where we are now,” he said, citing local investments of more than $30 million in retail operations through the years.

”There are many investments, family investments, and I just can’t agree to move now what we are doing presently,” he said.

A group of local sea captains, including Arlen McCoy, Paul Hurlston and Mr Ebanks have proposed a less-disruptive, 1,000 feet x 2,000 feet, five-berth pier on an artificial island in Red Bay, accommodating both Oasis-class and Freedom-class cruise ships, cargo areas, a 20-slip mega-yacht basin and a public-transport centre, linked to a National Roads Authority network to both Grand Harbour and the Linford Pierson Highway

“We have invited the premier, the UDP and the opposition to view the plans, just so they can be informed, but they have never showed up. They don’t want to hear about this because it’s a political issue,” Captain Ebanks said.

“All we ask is they look at this. We get once chance to get this right.  That $300 million is not going to come our
way again.”

Mr Bush argued that the $300 million project, allotted to Bejing’s China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) was more attractive, for both economic and equity reasons, than any alternates.

“I started in 2003 with a company out of Ohio,” he said, “and later signed with Meisner Marine,” a Florida company that helped build George Town’s Royal Watler Cruise Terminal.

Artist impression of Red Bay berthing site

“In 2005, we lost the general election,” he said  “and the new government wanted to go north.”

After Mr Bush’s 2009 election victory, he said, “I started with DECCO”, Dart Enterprises Construction Company, initially appointed to the cruise-berth project, “and people were screaming and hollering, but DECCO wanted a 99-year lease, and we would have lost control of our port.

“GLF was next,” Mr Bush said of the Florida branch of the Rome-based Grandi Lavori Fincosit, signatory to another port-building MOU in the parade of rejected construction proposals. “But they didn’t have the funding. They said they were working with the cruise lines and that they had a bond. It just didn’t work out.

“Hopefully, the one we have now, will work out,” he said, describing CHEC financing arrangements which, he said, would “save the country a lot of funding.”

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