PHOTO: Moses Kirkconnell, the Cayman Islands’ tourism minister. (Photo courtesy of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism)
A new cruise ship port recently approved by the Cayman Islands government will cost more than $150 million, but that doesn’t mean the Caribbean nation will be paying for its construction. Moses Kirkconnell, the country’s tourism minister, said recently the expense of building the new pier and cruise ship terminal will be borne by cruise lines.
In a tourism briefing reported by the Cayman News Service, Krikconnell said the cruise port project “cannot pose a financial risk to Cayman.” He said the government is “looking hard at how the financial package will be structured so the burden doesn’t fall on the government.”
In Cayman Reporter.com article, Kirkconnell said the government is working with cruise lines to create a funding model. Cayman Islands officials have previously said cruise giant Carnival Corp. is likely to play a key role in the new development. Late last year, 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.”
He added, “There is a benefit to our guests — and to the community — through the undertaking any type of activity that modernizes our port of call and enhances the attractiveness of the destination for our guests onboard the ship.” Carnival is among several cruise lines that have partnered in recent years with Caribbean destinations to fund new port developments.
Kirkconnell said the Cayman Islands’ strong cruise ship arrival growth warrants a new cruise pier and terminal. Long a popular destination among cruise vacationers, the Cayman Islands hosted 1,716,812 cruise passengers in 2015, a 6.6 percent year-over year increase and the country’s highest total since 2007.
One of only seven Caribbean nations to host one million or more cruise ship visitors in 2015, the Cayman Islands is the only one of the group without a cruise ship pier and port facility capable of handling the largest vessels.
In October, Premier Alden McLaughlin announced the government’s intention to proceed with a cruise ship pier and passenger terminal he said would cost $150 million. The plan calls for the construction of a pier and terminal development in the harbor of George Town, the country’s capital and a redevelopment of the George Town waterfront.
Kirkconnell said while the government supports a solid hotel industry (the country hosted 385,379 air arrivals in 2015), Cayman taxi drivers, tour operators and watersports providers all rely on cruise ship calls. He said that most Cayman residents employed in tourism-related businesses did not work for hotels but depended on the cruise ships for their livelihood.