November 24, 2020

SUNSET PLEA

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China deals moved a step closer

Photo by: Paul Kennedy

Negotiations with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) about port redevelopment are nearing completion as Cayman officials huddle with the company for two days of talks in Jamaica.

Meanwhile, Capt Bryan Ebanks, leading advocate for an alternative cruise-berthing site in Red Bay, issued a sunset plea for the proposed South Sound plan to be considered.

Meeting yesterday and today in Kingston with representatives from the Beijing-based infrastructure giant, UDP backbencher, George Town MLA and head of Cayman’s negotiating team Ellio Solomon declined to reveal details of the talks, but acknowledged they were moving forward.

“I am in discussions today and tomorrow and will have something soon, and should be back in the next couple of days,” he told iNews Cayman yesterday. Mr Solomon is in Jamaica with Premier McKeeva Bush and others for the inauguration of Portia Simpson-Miller, elected Prime Minister last week.

Mr Solomon had earlier told iNews Cayman he expected to complete the agreement in early February, ahead of the 31 March deadline mandated in the 30 November extension of the June CHEC-government memorandum of understanding.

Capt Ebanks said: “The only reason they want to place the docks in George Town is because that is where the stores are, and the guys that own them have what we call a ‘wheelbarrow mentality’. We used to roll drums of kerosene off the boats and right up to the stores in a wheelbarrow,” he said, describing longstanding beliefs that passengers must disembark on downtown doorsteps.

Mr Bush has repeatedly said he would pursue cruise berths in George Town, fearing for what he said were at least $35 million of investments in downtown commercial enterprises through the years.

Capt. Bryan Ebanks

“The decision is not about what’s best for the country,” Capt Bryan said. “It’s about what the downtown people want and the suspicions and fears of a couple of people. It is not good sense and it is not good business.

“I love my country,” he said, “but it’s so difficult to get people to commit themselves and come out in support.”

Red Bay plans call for a 16-acre artificial island in South Sound, encompassing a 6,000–square-foot turning basin for a five-berth cruise-ship dock, a 20-slip mega-yacht marina, cargo-working areas and a transport centre behind an eight-foot breakwater, all linked by two flyovers to a road network already gazetted by the National Roads Authority. The scheme calls for bus shuttles to the downtown area, rebuilt to accommodate pedestrians.

While costs have not been indicated for the scheme, advocates say it will not exceed CHEC’s proposed $300 million for George Town docks.

The two four-berth piers, they say, encompass tens of thousands of square feet of CHEC-owned “upland” retail space, including restaurants and a hotel; closure of the Royal Walter Terminal for at least two years during construction; threaten environmental degradation from Pageant Beach to Jackson Point, including downtown flooding; and cannot be expanded in future.

“All we are asking is for people to inform themselves,” Capt Bryan said. “We ask only that an environmental impact assessment be done on both sites, and make sure what is right and what’s wrong. If we are wrong, then so be it.”

Before Christmas, Director of the Environment Gina Ebanks-Petrie said she was in talks with CHEC about an assessment, but was still awaiting a response.

 

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