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PHOTO: Moses Kirkconnell, Cayman Islands minister of tourism. (Courtesy of Cayman Islands)
Future off-shore tendering of cruise ships is out of the question in lieu of building a $150 million cruise pier and terminal in the Cayman Islands, said Moses Kirkconnell, the Cayman Islands' minister of tourism. The controversial cruise ship development was green-lighted earlier this month by Alden McLaughlin, the Cayman Islands' premier.
"The cruise industry is transitioning to mega ships and the major lines all have vessels currently under construction," said Kirkconnell, citing recent discussions with Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) officials and executives at Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which he said account for 82 percent of the country's cruise business.
In a statement, Kirconnell said he was told by Adam Goldstein, Royal Caribbean's president and COO, that the company "never intended" its Oasis-class ships, the cruise industry's largest, to anchor in Caribbean harbors, tendering passengers between the ship and shore. "Royal has never tendered these ships and we have no plans for tendering them in the future," Kirconnell quoted Goldstein as saying.
Kirkconnell's statement follows the recent release of emails suggesting a draft schedule had been worked out for Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas to make weekly calls to Grand Cayman between June and October 2012.
First reported by the Cayman Compass, the emails also indicate a tentative agreement had been reached in principle to tender the 6,000-passenger ships. The emails did not include information on why the plan was not implemented.
Anti-cruise port activists have pointed to the emails as evidence there are alternatives to the new cruise development, which will include dredging of George Town harbor, negatively impacting coral and dive sites.
Cruise line officials cited by Kirconnell say that tendering their newest, largest ships is not under consideration. "The key for a smooth operation of large ships in transit ports is the availability of piers [and] berthing facilities," said Giora Israel, Carnival Corp.'s senior vice president of global port and destination development.
"The itinerary planning executives at our various cruise brands will consider the availability of facilities as a key element in considering a port [and] are unlikely to consider tender ports for such class of vessels," he added.
Said Kirkconnell, "As more of these megaships are introduced, it is becoming clearer that if Cayman wants to seriously be considered as a cruise tourism destination into the future we have to provide the services and facilities cruise lines require.
He said discussions with cruise lines regarding financing the piers are underway. "Whatever agreement is reached for financing the piers will be an arrangement that is unique to Cayman and developed to suit our particular needs. Our goal is to partner with cruise lines and arrive at a formula that will not only fund the piers but will ensure that they are owned by the people of the Cayman Islands."
Brian Major is Managing Editor for Digital Publications & Guides/Caribbean.
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