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Watersports business warns against cruise dock proposal

| 11/06/2015 | 1 Comment

(CNS Business): A recent Environmental Impact Assessment revealed that the proposed Grand Cayman cruise berthing facility in the George Town Harbour would devastate several acres of coral reef. “To destroy that is to destroy Cayman, and if the reefs go then so do the tourists,” a local diver told CNS Business. But an owner of a waterfront businesses along the harbour demand said, “It’s time to stop having a third world type operation to bring our tourists to shore.”

The EIA stated this multimillion-dollar two pier port, which would accommodate up to four ships, would benefit the country by around $250 million over the next 20 years. However, the report also predicted the proposed development would impact 15 acres of coral reef, as well as “increased stress” on an additional 15-20 acres of reef. An option of a “relocation program” to move the coral away from the construction zone was suggested in the report. With an expected price tag of $CI13 million, the experts admitted that the relocation program would not achieve “no net loss” and “success is not guaranteed”.

Related article on CNS: Challenges and uncertainties for port project

Andrew Barns is the divemaster at Eden Rock, a popular diving and snorkelling business in downtown George Town, in a spot that is considered a “high impact area”, where dredging would take place in order to build the proposed design. Barnes explained that there are endangered species of coral in that area that would be gone forever from our country’s marine life.

“You can’t just lift up a coral and move it because coral grows in the depth that it needs to survive, obviously from sunlight and currents. If you move coral it has to be moved to the equivalent depth with the equivalent amount of sunshine, otherwise it’s just going to die. Lets face it, these things take thousands of years to grow and to just try and pick them up and move them — it’s crazy,” he said.

CNS Business

Building the port would destroy a large area of coral reef

Barns, who has been diving for 34 years, said the majority of visitors to Grand Cayman come to see the sea and what’s in the sea. But after reading the EIA, he believes there are a lot of holes in the report and building the cruise ship dock is the wrong way for Cayman to go.

The total damage to the reefs is projected to be between $100 to $160 million over a 20 year period. But while the report found that there would be no significant impacts for Seven Miles Beach, Barnes believes that’s a promise they can’t keep.

“I think we are going to see a lot of total reef destruction here in Cayman. They’re talking about spending $13 million, as a figure they pulled out of the sky, on relocating coral. That’s nowhere near enough money to relocate the coral that they’re actually going to destroy, he said. “When they start dredging, the actual damage will be half way up Seven Mile Beach, I believe, back down to Sunset House. The figures they have given us are a lot smaller than that but there is no way they can contain that much turbidity in the water in this area. It’s going to spread all the way along and we are going to see major changes in the reefs all the way along.”

Barnes said that if the government moves forward with the proposed project he would be very disappointed, not just because many people are going to lose their jobs without scuba and snorkelling here, but for the sake of the reefs that will be destroyed.

The assessment did reveal that there would be significant gain from the berthing facility and Gary Bodden, Owner/Manager of Paradise Seaside Grill on the George Town waterfront, said he agrees.

Bodden said he has been running his waterfront business for the past 22 years and has been waiting just as long to see a cruise port built in the George Town Harbour. He told CNS Business that if the proposed project is followed through, then Cayman will finally be able to move into the future of the cruise business.

“Here we are one of the busiest ports in the Caribbean and we don’t have piers for our cruise ships. It needs to be built,” Bodden stressed.

Experts said in the report the new cruise port would create nearly 1,000 jobs. However, while piers would increase cruise passengers numbers, there would be no overall improvement in disembarkation rates compared with the current tendering.

Bodden said when it comes to potential reef damage this project can bring, he doesn’t believe it’s any worse than what is happening now.

“You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You have to give up something, but in the long run it will eliminate all those ships that are anchoring out there everyday, those boats running back and forth all day long creating turbulence and everything else,” he said. “The benefit will be tremendous. People will have more time ashore, can go on more tours. It will make more time to spend money.”

He believes if the government doesn’t go through with this proposed project, “then as a country we are taking a risk of cruise lines pulling out of the Cayman Islands.” The islands has to provide a proper facility, he said.

“Get on one of the tenders and board the ships and you’ll see the danger, the inconvenience, of having a third world type operation to bring our tourists to shore. It’s very dangerous for people in wheelchairs. We need to build a peer for the benefit of the country and to provide a better service,” he explained.

CNS Business

Proposed cruise dock for Grand Cayman

 

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Comments (1)

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  1. David Miller says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Gary Bodden. I am a Retired NAUI and PADI Dive Instructor .I started diving in 1969 in Grand Cayman . We have been dropping anchors on reefs since 1655 . The first cruise ship Atlantis came here 1937 and thats not including all the schooners that were built in Grand Cayman. So don’t pretend that anchors haven’t been mashing up reef for a long time.
    If it wasn’t for Capt. Kent Eldermire in the 70’s the fuel tankers would still be dragging anchors every time near Waldo’s reef. They did that for years, all the silt that comes up when the bottom is disturbed even when a diver is overweighted. I don’t remember Sunset House complaining about those tankers. No diver has stopped diving in Caymans waters after every Northwester.
    Sand and silt is thrown on every piece of reef on the western side of Grand Cayman . The reef has a unique way to keep itself clean which can be observed after every Northwester.
    Mr. Adrian Briggs can remember that he and I went on a rescue dive to Northwest point. We joined other companies to look for a lost diver. We were passing the dredge that was cutting next to the cruise ship Rhadsody. He noticed that the dredge was discharging all of its materiel on top of the reef. I went down and took the picture and it was in the newspaper front page . The cruise lines lost its bond which was 1-2 million dollars . It had to have it to do dredging in the harbour. We thought that it would cover all of Soto’ reef but it didn’t. That pile was a huge mountain of sand, marl and microscopic limestone. NO PROBLEM.
    I want to tell you all to notice how diving has gone down in business. How was there so many Caymanian dive masters back then but not now? When we had a lot of Caymanian Dive masters business was flourishing. Now sometimes you see a boat with 4 people. I think everyone will agree that people are coming here to see stingrays. They are mostly run by Caymanians. So if one had to take a vote we would most likely vote for Caymanians to maintain their livelihoods. There are over 100 tour busses and 200 taxis, 80 stingray boats alone not including people with the port,immigration, customs, shops and their staff inside the port . Then what about all those people who work for Kirk, Dart , other stores ,craft market?? The number is going to be somewhere around 6000 people this dock will impact. Thats going to be a lot of votes.
    Let us remember that the ships Co. make the decisions on whether to send first class ships to a first class port or the second class ships to a third class port. Right now we have become a third class port compare to a lot of third world countries around us. We need to step up our game. Our busses and boats need to better our rest. need to sell lower prices on food and drink. We need to put places for people to sit in the shade away from the dock that also has waiters and waitresses. The same as Camana bay. But without a cruise pier it ain’t going to work. People who are buying off the ship account for 33% . That 33% will do a early tour go back to the ship bathe change and come back onto the island and spend again ,the rest won’t.

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