Ex-Chamber boss queries wisdom of port project

| 26/06/2015 | 32 Comments

(CNS Business): The former president of the Chamber of Commerce has warned that the costly port project should not go ahead based on “unproven back of envelope ‘guesstimates’ about the economic benefits of cruise tourism and private discussions with a select few who are possibly conflicted and have a pecuniary interest to protect in the outcome”. Concerned about the economics as well ad the environmental threats, Moxam worries government will sail ahead without addressing basic business concerns on the project.

CNS Business

Proposed cruise dock for Grand Cayman

The Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce has not yet revealed whether or not its membership will be supporting government’s proposed cruise berthing project in light of the recently published damning environmental impact assessment. But the former president of the business body has warned that the costly project needs much more careful consideration of the economic as well as the environmental costs and he queries if these cost have been weighed properly against potential benefits.

“This is too important to be left to and led solely by those with significant commercial interests in the outcome,” Moxam told CNS business Friday, ahead of what is expected to be the launch of a major campaign on Monday to persuade government to stop the plans.

The former Chamber president said this was too large and expensive a project to undergo based on unsubstantiated threats from cruise business stakeholders.

“We need to make the decision based on a clear plan for tourism that balances the costs and benefits of stay-over tourism with the costs and benefits of cruise tourism,” Moxam added.

“I support the need for some level of cruise berthing,” he said but pointed to other considerations, such as a significant upgrade to the current tendering fleet, before moving forward with a proposal that is expected to exceed CI$300 million.

Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce President Johann Moxam

Johann Moxam

“The difficulty in supporting this particular proposal is that we do not have sufficient objectives and reliable information to make an informed decision in a transparent manner that balances the competing needs of the tourism industry and our country. Trying to build infrastructure to maximize cruise tourism and simultaneously build infrastructure to maximize stay-over tourism on this tiny island without any agreed vision and sustainable plan for tourism doesn’t seem like a common sense approach,” Moxam warned.

He said the interests of the many must supersede that of a select few.

“In the end we will all be left paying the bill. Cruise tourism can’t just be left to develop unchecked; it has to be managed in a sustainable way and protection of the marine environment is a critical factor, especially from the potential negative impacts on Seven Mile Beach,” the local business leader stated.

“This is a highly emotive topic and it feels like this proposal is already a fait accompli,” he noted, as he pointed to comments by government and George Town retailers. “As a country, have we not learned any lessons from past mistakes involving large capital projects and expenditure?” he asked. “I support a tourism model for our country that includes both stay-over and cruise tourism. However, when it comes time to make decisions that will cost the country hundreds of millions of dollars, we need to make informed decisions.”

Moxam called on government to answer some fundamental questions in the public domain before committing future generations to this proposal: What are the true ‘all-in’ costs of delivering the cruise berthing facilities, including EIA, feasibility, proposed reef relocation, construction, insurance – everything? And then, what will be the costs on an ongoing basis of operating the completed facilities?

Other questions the people need to get answers to: What are the expected incremental revenues to government? Exactly how will the project be funded? Is it compliant with the FFR? Has as the UK approved the financing model? And how will it impact the country’s debt ratios?

Moxam said government should also spell out what commitments it has been given by the individual cruise lines or via the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) and for how long are the lines committed and to what extent. He added that the real economic benefit must be clearly supported with facts and not estimates or assumptions, as this will be the biggest ever national infrastructure project the Cayman Islands has ever seen.

“Cayman cannot afford to get this wrong,” Moxam said, as he urged everyone to speak up on the issue and demand answers before rushing to back the project.

Read more about the proposed cruise dock facility on CNS Headline News

and on CNS Business

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Category: Cruise Tourism, Tourism

Comments (32)

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  1. WaYaSay says:

    I agree with Mr. Moxam’s conclusion on the viability of the Cayman Islands providing a cruise dock versus continuing to service our cruise ship visitors by tendering.
    Being someone who regularly takes advantage of the value for dollar offered by cruises and has taken many over the years. I do not understand why anyone would think that a cruise passenger would walk ¼ mile on a hot concrete dock, in the hot sun, rather than take a ¼ mile trip to shore on a first class tender; after all they are already showing their preference for the ocean by taking a cruise. The studies also show that there is NO economy of time for disembarkation from berths versus tendering.
    I keep reading that the Mega ships will not call at Cayman unless we build the new berthing facilities, the question that goes unanswered is this due to not presently having the capacity in our tendering services of is this due to the absence of a new dock?
    I also agree with Johann that we need to upgrade the tendering services provided, however, I cannot fault the tendering providers for being reluctant to invest the millions of dollars to replace their current fleet with purpose built boats, when Government after Government keep threatening to make them obsolete by building a dock.
    Please let me elaborate on what I think a first class tendering service should encompass; larger more stable, three hulled platforms, similar to ferries used in the English Channel and in Australia, that are two tiered, built to the specifications of the disembarkation ports which are standard on Cruise ships. As an aside, it is a myth that tenders cannot service the new mega ships; their disembarkation is done at the same height as other cruise ships, hence the reason they both would be able to use the same dock, were we to build one. The Mega ships and the regular cruise ships all dock at the same height docks in Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, don’t they? These tenders should be enclosed, air conditioned and have seating similar to an airplane or bus. When I have tendered on a cruise, Belize being the most recent experience; the act of tendering has been superior to that of getting on and off in the home port.
    Some people have questioned the safety of tendering; having been the only game in town for over 40 years and transporting tens of millions of cruise passengers, I do not remember one single accident involving bodily harm to a cruise ship passenger, nor do I remember a tender floundering while in service. This fact speaks for itself. Tenders operating from the leeward side of a cruise ship are protected from any wave action and the ships themselves, properly ballasted, are usually not affected by the waves.
    Building a permanent cruise ship dock would remove any flexibility we now have to accommodate cruise ships on short notice. The system we now employ of anchoring, allows any cruise line that may have had to bypass a destination on their itinerary, to apply to the Cayman Islands Government to add George Town as a makeup destination for their passengers, the only limiting factor would be if George Town anchorage is already subscribed to capacity for that day. As any ship returning to a Florida home port, through the western Caribbean, through the Yucatan Channel, has to pass the vicinity of Grand Cayman, in order to get around Cuba. These include ships transiting the Panama Canal and ships visiting Cozumel (3.4M) or Jamaica (1.4M) that combined have 4.8M passengers per year.
    While it is easy for someone to say that cruise passengers spend $140 to $150 Million in Cayman each year, there is no study that verifies these figures. There is also no separation of what is paid directly to Government and what goes into the economy through the public sector, which would be a more meaningful figure; neither is there an analysis of how many businesses benefit from the spend in the public sector. There is no study that guarantees there will be MORE cruise ships visiting Grand Cayman if we build the cruise berths, nor is there a study that guarantees now many more passengers we will get from such a large investment.
    One question I have asked of citizens in other countries where I have cruised in the eastern Caribbean, that like Cayman have only one port, who used to tender and who have built cruise berths is; are there more ships after the berthing ports were constructed than before? Almost without exception, the answer is less. When asked why this is so, the answer has varied from, one or two cruise companies book all of the dock space for the whole year, whenever that Company, for their own economic reasons, do not call as expected, the space cannot contractually be sold to anyone else; to cruise passengers like variety so they do not want to keep visiting the same countries. A hell of a thing to find out AFTER the country has invested hundreds of millions in building a cruise berthing port.
    What do I think Government needs to do to accommodate more cruise passengers? Government needs to concentrate its efforts into making the embarkation onto shore consistently pleasant. This includes building proper tender landings, it needs to be bulk headed with groins to protect from waves, with an entrance and an exit, with two tiers and escalators to speed unloading, air conditioned, and covered to the exit onto Harbour Drive. Government should build three of these purpose designed, tender landing sites, one in George Town, One in West Bay and one in Spotts. The reasons for these are that passengers wishing to shop in George Town could tender to there as they now do, passengers wishing to do the tours of Boatswains Beach, Stingray City, and the Dolphin Discovery as well as restaurants in that area could tender much closer to their destination; the one in Spotts has already proven its viability when the weather is rough and taxies and buses get the extra business. The cruise passengers who are booked to spend in West Bay and the Eastern districts can avoid adding to the congestion in George Town altogether, making the shopping experience for those who choose to shop in George Town.
    The biggest argument for building tender landing facilities versus building a cruise berth dock is the economics of it. Three such tender landing facilities would easily cost less than $75 million versus $250M to $300M for the dock. But this is by no means the only consideration in its favor. Others benefits include, NO dredging anywhere, all three areas have adequate depth to accommodate larger more stable tenders. Moving some of the pedestrian congestion from the hub in George Town and spreading the economic benefit to more of the Caymanian population, in other districts. No need for additional road infrastructure. We could cater to all sized ships, no matter what the weather is doing. Walk off walk on cruise passengers generally avail themselves to free entertainment, food and drinks, available onboard, instead of buying lunch on shore.
    The negatives include; the size of the investment responsibility that lies with the private sector individuals, who already benefit from the lucrative tendering service, in the form of upgrades to their fleet, however, they would have the option of selling the old fleet to stingray city tour operators. Cruise Ship anchors occasionally damage coral reefs in George Town and this a big one. However, Government could reduce this to near zero by enacting legislation that is clear, for cruise lines and pilots, requiring them to carry adequate insurance to cover such occurrences. This legislation would have to include fines in the millions of dollars and be clear as to when the ship is under the command of the pilot and when it is the control of the cruise lines, everyone would be much more careful not to damage our reefs then. Anchorage areas could be clearly defined on GPS, away from the reefs. None of these economic and negatives come close to the environmental damage that will be done if we go ahead with planned cruise docks. Government could also mitigate some of the negative impact to the private sector by assisting to source financing, from the banking sector, for upgrading the tenders, while mandating that this upgrade has to take place in a timely manner or that market be opened up to other bidders who are capable and willing to compete.
    I know the conflicted will try to tear this apart for their own purposes, however, spare me the snide remarks; instead really read my post and argue the facts and figures please, we all have a lot to lose if we go ahead with the berths as planned.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wow there is a whole lot of garbage in that comment. Wish I had those couple minutes of my life back.

  2. Pond'R'us says:

    All I know is that Mose got Percy real busy pumping mud from one end of Cleveland pond to the other, so he is currently unavailable to deal with the silt that is going to be churned up by the GT dredging.

    • Anonymous says:

      You can make jokes, but all Cleveland wanted to do was cut a little channel and dig out a pond. Nothing like the massive PPM sponsored damage being proposed here. I guess it depends which Brac family you come from.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m fairly certain that the current minister of Tourism wasn’t the one that came up with the idea of a cruise dock. Haven’t we been talking about various plans for like 10-15 years? Mac presented Decco design, Chucky worked with Atlantic Star, Cline was GLF then MAC again with CHEC. At least this design doesn’t create the massive city (hotel, casino etc) out in the ocean that the others did. Read the EIA, this design is “22% reduction in total footprint, 39% reduction in dredging footprint, 38% reduction in footprint on reefs, 54% reduction in dredge volume, 71% reduction in disposal volume”
    What happens if we don’t do it this time? We end up with another government that isn’t open book and transparent, pushes a much bigger project through and you won’t have to worry about the “possibility” of an impact on coral, there won’t be any coral left to impact.

    • Anonymous says:

      What happens if we don’t do it this time, 11:42? Hopefully the next governments will now know enough to not try and float this bad idea again. I credit this government for looking at it rationally 9OBC, EIA) and hopefully now everyone can see the numbers don’t add up in Cayman’s favour. Time to pivot and find a better way to do things.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Have all of the people agreeing with Johann read the Outline Business Case, i.e., the ‘basic business concerns’ of the project, which was done first? While I don’t agree with the project (the numbers between the OBC & the EIA don’t add up) it is unfair to lambast the government for considering the port in a forthright way. They produced the business case, they have produced the EIA. You can now weigh them and decide. (Or see areas where both may need further study, if you are so minded.) But you cant’ accuse them of trying to make a decision in a vacuum.

    One item from the studies is that the dock will not allow significantly faster disembarkation than the tenders do. Nor handle any more people.

  5. Anonymous says:

    “possibly conflicted”….POSSIBLY??!!! Hilarious…….its not exactly hard to work out which elected member he may be referring to!
    Anyway, I was wondering….which cruise line is it that’s demanding the port be built? I’d like to see the press release – “Cruise line demands cayman makes major environmental destruction a priority so that cruise line can dock its ships a few times a week”

  6. Anonymous says:

    Reckless uniform comments like this with a total exaggeration of the costs to be well over CI$100m overstated contribute to the reasons why we can never get anything done in our country. Surprisingly, Mr. Moxam does not get it especially when he makes comments that the tendering fleet should be upgraded. It is not about tendering it is about improving the experience of our cruise tourists and allowing them more time on the island to spend in our economy. He should refer to the evidence in St. Martin to support this fact. Mr. Moxam needs to look at the big picture and why would the country wish to turn down the opportunity to receive contributions from the cruise lines to build badly needed port infrastructure. Madness and crazy negative influence by Mr. Moxam.

    • Anonymous says:

      What contributions from the cruise lines? This has been going on for over a decade now and so far not one cruise line (including the two named by David Miller in his comment further down) has offered to put up a cent towards the costs. If you are going to post here please stick to the facts, there’s already enough BS flying around about this without daft comments from whoever you are.

  7. Anonymous says:

    good old politricks, first Mac jumps out at the opportunity to shoot at PPM now here comes the C4C. Bo Bo is already out at it but that’s because he wants to build a different dock. Campaigning is starting early this time around.

  8. Sam says:

    In a business world no project of such magnitude goes without a feasibility study.

  9. Anonymous says:

    It’s interesting to hear someone who otherwise is normally fairly objective in their commentary making such statements when a full business case has not been compiled. What Mr. Moxam lacks to acknowledge here is that only the environmental study has been released. The financing and full costing of this project are yet to be disclosed so someone with basic reason would know not to throw out unfounded statements as he has.

  10. Anonymous says:

    All of his questions have been answered on numerous occasions between the PWC Outline Business Case which HAD to be approved by the FCO under the FFR.
    what other experts than PWC and Mott McDonald would Mr. Moxam prefer? The one the Chinese used? I don’t recall Mr Moxam objecting to that process.

    There are still many factors to be considered once the public counsultation has been completed, but what is not helpful is for seemingly responsible, and supposedly non conflicted individuals, to present questions and speculations that can be answered if they took the time to review both reports before spouting off.

    Finally how much more transparent would you like the process? Perhaps if the reports or potential designs were made available to your select few, with hopes of a green light for a Chinese funded project using one or two specif quarries?

  11. Sharkey says:

    I agree with Mr . Moxam 100% , and I think that everyone should agree the same and stand with him 1,000% and don’t let government start this project cruise ship dock. Please ask yourself how many white elephants can the Cayman Islands support. Look at Cayman Airlines, the turtle farm, and all the others, are these entities paying any of the millions of dollars that it cost to operate them . Then put one more white elephant along with those and you will hear that we have to raise this tax and the other tax to be able to pay for the new dock. You think that Cayman Islands is expensive now to live in, put a other 300 million $ debt along with it and see what you get.

  12. Bean Counter says:

    Johann Moxam is the most relevant President of the Chamber of Commerce in recent history. It’s great to see a future leader stepping up and speaking on national issues in a logical manner.

  13. Truthsayer says:

    What Mr. Moxam is telling us may not be what some individuals want to hear, but he is telling it like it is! Most of the drum-beaters for this megabucks dock expect to become more wealthy, with the government spending OUR money to make it happen…. and damn the damage to the environment. There is nothing new docks will do for the cruise tourists except give them a long walk in the hot sun.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Great and very well thought out comment except for one point. Your story refers to commitments, “given by the individual cruise lines or via the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA).” The FCCA cannot commit anyone to anything – the cruise lines are the only entities that can enter into binding agreements relating to this project and the sooner people get their heads around that the better. In fact as the industry evolves and cruise ships operating in this region are increasingly being both flagged out of and operated from ports outside the USA the FCCA is becoming little more than an irrelevant nuisance.

  15. GT voter says:

    Another dumb idea from the Regressives! Roll on 2017!

  16. nauticalone says:

    I totally agree with Mr. Moxam here. Cayman is a tiny island nation, and as cruise tourism demands huge numbers for minimal return (if any) on investment, it seems clear that for some time now our attention and resources should be more so focused on stay-over tourism.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Mel would be proud of you

  18. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Johan for the courage to speak out against issues that harm Cayman

  19. Anonymous says:

    Great points raised in the article the conflicts of interests are crystal clear

  20. David Miller says:

    This was in the 2013 EIA:
    Meetings were held with the cruise line representatives,
    specifically Carnival and Royal Caribbean. From their perspective,
    berthing is needed for two main reasons one being passenger
    experience and the other safety.
    With respect to passenger experience, the cruise lines have told us that
    passengers dislike tendering because of:
    the extra time required for getting on/off ship (so less time for shore
    the need for queuing (both for getting on and off ship);
    the diminished flexibility (when there is a large volume of
    passengers, passengers are assigned a time when they can go
    ashore, they’re not free to go when they want); and
    less convenience, especially for younger and older passengers (for
    example, difficulty of getting a stroller onto the tender).
    With respect to safety, although the tender service in Cayman is
    considered to be of world class standard by the cruise lines, there is
    always a greater risk for passengers when getting to shore on a tender
    as opposed to simply walking off the ship at berth.
    Some stakeholders would like the Oasis Class cruise ships to call at the
    Cayman Island, which is not possible without a berthing facility. There is
    a very strong commercial reason to want a berth as it would give an
    additional destination to call on with large vessels.
    We can do all the EIA’s you want but the future is now. Our competitors have upped their game and so should we.

    • Muff Diver says:

      David are you referring to EIA paid for by Dart? Was that ever made public for regular folks to review? Please direct us to the link

    • Anonymous says:

      If the first part of your comment is correct (and I would like to see documentary proof of that because bluntly I don’t think it is and certainly there’s been no evidence of this so far) then why are Carnival and Royal Caribbean refusing to make any financial commitment to this project? They’ve happily put a lot of money into other destinations but I don’t see anything coming our way. I suspect what you refer to here as the ‘2013 EIA’ is actually the completely unsubstantiated case put forward by the previous government to prop up the deal were trying to push through with the Chinese.

    • Anonymous says:

      Quote, “Our competitors have upped their game and so should we.” Yes, but they did it with funding from the cruise lines, something that is clearly missing here. Don’t you for one second wonder why that might be? My guess is it is because the cruise lines are now concentrating on Cuba and don’t now really give a damn what happens in Grand Cayman any more.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Oh no not you ,Johann. Every country ,island has a cruise ship facility. Of course it would be profitable . All the other island port facilities are. What would make you think that tender upgrading would change anything with all the major cruise lines saying they need piers ? The only way tendering would stop causing this nonsense is for the monopoly to be outlawed. I bet this song would stop singing if Dart was involved with tendering.
    One thing we keep forgetting is that our airlines is and has never been profitable. How about lets save some money there and close CAL????? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Johan thank you for saying what most people fear the truth

  23. Anonymous says:

    Cayman needs to have a referendum on this port project

  24. PortHole says:

    “You can’t take a donkey to a horse race.”

    That, apparently, is a good enough reason. No other analysis is required…….

  25. Anonymous says:

    Well said Mr. Moxam again showing leadership and consistency. All valid questions that must be concerned.

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