PHOTO: Moses Kirkconnell, the Cayman Islands tourism minister. (Photo courtesy of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism)
The Cayman Islands government will issue a requests for proposals (RFP) for construction of its planned $150 million cruise ship pier and terminal facility by March of 2017, the country’s premier said recently.
An RFP “prequalification process” will begin in December or January, with the tender process for construction projected for March, said Alden McLaughlin, the Cayman Islands premier, at a late October public event reported by the Cayman News Service.
McLaughlin said work is continuing on the controversial cruise port, planned for George Town Harbor in the Cayman Islands’ capital. He said engineering consultant Baird has launched an environmental impact assessment (EIA) following a July re-design of the original project.
The re-design will move the cruise piers into deeper water, a change intended to reduce dredging and ameliorate the project’s environmental impact, which has been the focus of protests by the project’s opponents. When complete, the piers will accommodate four of the cruise industry’s largest class of ships.
The cruise port project has slowly worked its way through a research and planning process that began in 2013. Dutch firm Royal Haskoning DHV is currently performing civil engineering work that will determine the facility’s final cost following the re-design, said Moses Kirkconnell, the Cayman Islands tourism minister. Kirkconnell has said the port will cost $150 to $200 million.
The Cayman News Service article cites critics’ concerns regarding a “lack of transparency” on the part of government officials who are supporting the port project. The concerns include the port’s “real costs” and financing.
Kirkconnell said earlier this year the government is working with cruise lines to create a funding model. While the negotiations are ongoing, cruise giant Carnival Corp. is likely to play a key role in the new development, he said.
Roger Frizzell, Carnival’s chief communications officer, said the company “remain(s) open, as always, to playing a role in these types of activities as a partner in the community.
“There is a benefit to our guests — and to the community — through the undertaking of any type of activity that modernizes our port of call and enhances the attractiveness of the destination for our guests onboard the ship,” he added.
Carnival is one of several cruise lines that have partnered in recent years with Caribbean destinations to fund new port developments. Kirkconnell said any partnership with cruise lines will not only fund construction of the piers, but will ensure they are ultimately “owned by the people of the Cayman Islands.”
The latest developments come as Cayman Islands cruise ship traffic continues its explosive growth of recent years. The country hosted 973,305 cruise ship visitors in the first six months of 2016, a 60,000-passenger increase over the same period in 2015. The Cayman Islands was one of only seven Caribbean nations to host more than one million cruise ship visitors in 2015 despite being the only one without a modern cruise pier and port facility.