Merchants push for cruise port development

| 13/07/2015 | 30 Comments

(CNS Business): Some prominent merchants told CNS Business that they feel cruise tourism would plummet if a new cruise berthing facility is not built in the George Town Harbour. Business owners say it’s time for the island to move forward, while those against the cruise port continue to lobby against the idea in hopes that the government will re-think its proposed plan. Environmentalist groups in Cayman believe the port would be a disaster and the end of the pristine marine life in and around the George Town area as we know it. 

Chris Kirkconnell, VP of Operations for Kirk Freeport, explained that with the new berthing facility Cayman would be able to accommodate larger ships like the Oasis class ships, which will ultimately increase per-passenger spending. He believes cruise numbers could take a big leap to 2.3 million passengers a year with the new proposed facility. Without it, Kirkconnell fears the figures could fall below a million.

Cayman News Service

Ronnie Anglin, Owner Captain Marvin’s

Ronnie Anglin, owner of Captain Marvin’s, agreed with Kirkconnell and said that without a cruise port Cayman’s future in the cruise industry is in jeopardy. Both business owners stressed this port plan is the first one of its kind to include improvements to the cargo facility and would give the islands’ main cargo facility a much-needed overhaul.

Anglin told CNS Business that after more than 15 years of discussion as to what would come of Grand Cayman’s cruise port, it’s time to update and protect the country’s lifeline to the island.

Watch the CNS Business video report to learn more about why these business leaders feel the government leaders are finally taking a sensible approach to a new cruise berthing facility.


Category: Cruise Tourism, Featured, Sustainable Tourism, Tourism, Video, Watersports

Comments (30)

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  1. WaYaSay Again says:

    Come on man…………One Kirkconnell is the Minister of Tourism whose ministry HAS to spearhead the development of the mega cruise ship dock for Cabinet.
    One Kirkconnell owns the majority of the Duty Free stores in central George Town…………..another gift from the people of the Cayman Islands of importing goods without having to pay the duty that we ALL have to pay on a daily basis. Incidentally not changed by a grandfather Kirkconnell 25+ years ago when he was a member of Executive Council, now cabinet………..?

    Another daddy Kirkconnell is the Deputy Director of the Port’s Board of Directors……..who gets to spend Governments (MY) money on a mega cruise ship dock……….?.

    Another uncle Kirkconnell owns the only private beach on Seven Mile Beach that caters heavily to cruise ship tours and will benefit from the cruisers who do not want to buy duty free goods………..?

    I am not suggesting anything crooked is going on here…………I am saying, stop wasting MY money on a dock for the 1%………they have enough of it already!

    Yes I am also saying that I am conflicted, I am retired and need to keep as much of MY money as possible and pay out as little of it on import duty that others are NOT paying, for the rest of my life. This mega dock certainly conflicts with MY interest.

    I am also NOT supporting Legge’s contention that ALL Caymanians are corrupt……..don’t paint ME, and my family, with the tar brush of the 1%’ers.

    Improve the tendering experience for the cruise ship passengers, we know this service can handle 2 million plus passengers as it has serviced over 1.9 million in 2006…………..Oh yes, open up the process to competition among Caymanians, as the way it is now monopolized also stinks. Government just needs to legislate the quality standards……..then get out of the way of free enterprise!

  2. Red Flag says:

    You know, the supporters of the dock seem to be stuck on THE DOCK. I thought that the reason FOR exploring the dock was to enhance the cruise ship passengers’ experience in the Cayman Islands. There have been a few alternatives offered to the public and the GOVERNMENT to do this in a way that is less expensive, more environmentally friendly and enhancing of the experience a cruise shipper would have when disembarking and embarking from our harbor facilities. All you hear from the MERCHANTS and their supporters is DOCK, DOCK, DOCK. Yet, they accuse the opposition to the dock of being selfish and short sighted in their arguments against the construction and resulting destruction of the reefs and wrecks. Then they plead for the opposition to get past the destruction argument and get on to the benefits proclaimed to come from this construction. Well, the destruction IS the point and there is no getting by that. Once the dredging is done, if you don’t like the results, you can’t just change the paint. The supporters themselves are just a small portion of the island (although a wealthy portion). It seems they are happy to take away from everyone else something that belongs to all Caymanians and I would say, to all people that visit here to see clear water and beautiful corals and marine life. One must be a little selfish and short sighted to destroy something as beautiful as this harbor is for a few more dollars to someone who is ALREADY richer than most people on this island and the USA. I personally dive those reefs and wrecks and love them. The proponents of this project are proposing to take something away from me an all the other water oriented people for their own personal gain. That makes the hairs on my neck stand up. They obviously think that the dollar in their pocket is much more valuable than our appreciation and love of the underwater environment that is unmatched in the rest of the Caribbean. If the names were not so deeply ingrained in Cayman history, I would be sure they were expat carpetbaggers coming down to ruin our home for profit.

    But they are not expat carpetbaggers, they are good solid Caymanians that just have the wrong idea. And the dock is THE WRONG IDEA. I know the government, like all parties hoping to get elected, promise to do better than the guys in power and most of the time they are sincere. Unfortunately, for this government, they have had to inherit some difficult situations not of their own making. They made promises along the way and have tried to keep them. Some have worked out better that others as is usually the case. This promise to build the dock is one that they could not have dreamed would so badly blow up in their face. After all the chopping and changing that the previous government did on who would or would not build this thing, I’m sure that it would have seemed like a sure fire winner for the present government to commit to gettin’ it dun. But guys, this is not the way to go. Think outside the square. I’m really afraid your minds are already made up. I just want to say on behalf of a lot of your country men and expats that it is alright to change you minds. If you do not believe the EIA as to the acreage of coral to be destroyed, how can you believe the part about 7 mile beach not being damaged? If that were to happen during or after the construction of this proposed project, what would your legacy be? You are the representatives of the people, all the people. The folks that are filling your ears with the positive out comes of this project may really believe what they are saying, but they are wrong, not bad, just wrong.There are better, safer, less damaging ways to keep the cruisers happy, enhance and even elevate Cayman’s standing in the world. There are better alternatives out there. Explore them. When people think of this moment in Cayman’s history, you want them to think well of you.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It would be nice to seem some honesty introduced by the merchants into this discussion.

    The truth is that Mr Hamaty, Dart with buildings like Breezes and the Kirkconnell’s have too many shops/shopping malls with stores that they’d like to see busier. Now they want government to bail them out.

    They are happy having 2.3 million passengers a year with the new proposed facility – really? Any honest person will admit that crowds often have a detrimental effect on the places they visit, sometimes leading to significant damage, can the merchants agree that cruise tourist numbers should be capped? Will the merchants pay for the required regulation of these 2.3 million passengers? This proposed port and swamping Cayman with cruise passengers will deprive future generations of the environment we currently enjoy, 2.3 million passengers will undoubtedly negatively impact the quality of life for the local community.

    If government allows this to happen they should hang their heads in shame. Once the environment is gone it cannot be recovered.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I can see why Kirkfreeport and Tortuga want as many cruise passengers as possible, but I am not sure I follow Captain Marvins’ thinking. The Sand Bar can only hold a certain number of people at a time, and it is already at maximum capacity on busy days… surely Anglin should be seeking a higher proportion of stay-over customers who will pay him full whack ($50 a trip?) rather than more cruise passengers who effectively pay him a small portion of that amount ($15?) once the cruise lines have taken their cut?

    Do cruise lines have trade and business licences by the way?

    • Ronnie Anglin says:

      Anonymous 4:50, I agree with you about the sandbar. We get the same $ from our cruise passengers as from our stay over guests as we do NOT work with the cruise lines. It would not be a bad idea to also get some facts on how our Tourism works now and how we can make it even better by finding the best balance and deliver the best possible experience to ALL of our guests. Many cruise passengers come back here as stayover guests (stayover is our main source of business by far but we would not survive without the others and many of our 75% Caymanian staff would be on the streets without work if we didn’t have them). Thank you and God bless.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks for responding. I’m glad to hear you guys stand up to the cruise lines and their ridiculous commissions/booking fees – if everyone took the same stance the cruise industry would contribute a lot more money to our economy.

        But back to the point, if you agree with me that the Sand Bar has a maximum capacity and already reaches capacity on busy days, where are we going to put everyone? Dart has at least 2 new hotels coming, so if we improve the airport stayover numbers should only increase. Adding more cruise numbers to the mix as well can only worsen the experience for everyone.

  5. caymanaindonkey says:

    Once again, and I will keep repeatingmyself. “Let’s fIrst expand the airport”! Then we can look at the port.
    We also need to address education and crime immediately,!

    • Anonymous says:

      Come on now tigalayo you aren’t keeping up with the news. Airport is already a go and construction starts in a couple months. Crime needs attention but bringing more jobs and opportunity to Caymanians through these projects will help that too.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The average cruise ship passenger spends very little on the island, and if there are thousands and thousands and thousands of them here at once, the lines in Kirk Freeport and the other jewelry stores and souvenir outlets are going to be so long, they will just turn right around and walk out! The wealthy cruise ship passengers, who would be spending larger sums of money, are even less likely to stand in a long line, waiting to be helped. Yes, I’m sure the tour operators who are solely based in the North Sound (Stingray City trips and what not) would see increased revenue with larger ships and more passengers, but are they not looking at the bigger picture?? They make their money taking guests to the pristine environment along the barrier reef in the north sound, but how can they, in good conscience, fight for a berthing facility that will undoubtedly kill the entire harbor area? Do they not care that the coral just across the road is going to be killed? The fish and other marine life that relies on the reef will also perish or attempt to relocate themselves. As someone who also makes her living off of cruise ship passengers, I would rather make less money but retain our amazing national treasure underwater!

  7. Christopher Kirkconnell says:

    @Chet: Actually most of us employ a much larger percentage of Caymanians than the service, dive, or hospitality industries do. Currently Kirk Freeport employs just under 75% Caymanians, Tortuga is 65% Caymanian, and turtle farm is 96% Caymanian. I don’t have the stats for every business downtown or related to the cruise industry, but those that I do know are majority Caymanian employed companies.

    We have trained Caymanians in many fields between helping young Caymanians get their IT certifications, the first Caymanian trained Watchmaker (Justin Ebanks), our entire jewelry repair team (3 persons) are Caymanian and all were educated and trained by us. To speak a little more about Justin, his grandmother started working with us from back in the Brac (around 1962) in our general store before the family moved to Grand Cayman. Mrs. Powery moved with us to Grand Cayman to work with our supermarket and was our first cashier when the supermarket opened in Grand Cayman. From there she came working with Kirk Freeport for the last 52 years until she recently retired. Mrs. Powery used to bring Justin to work with her on the weekends and he had a fascination with the watch repair workshops. After high school asked if we would allow him to train with us. He apprenticed under our head watchmaker for 4 years before travelling to Rolex for certification. Justin just left Cayman this year and is now working with A.Lange & Sonne (one of the most prestigious watch manufacturers) in Germany. We are extremely proud of Justin, as any other employee (or extended family member as we consider them) and hope that someday he will return and work with us again.

    Two of our three watchmakers are Caymanian and have been working with us between 16 and 31 years. Our buyer for fragrance, beauty and cosmetics has been with us 35 years and started as a sales clerk then store manager before becoming the buyer. Our crystal and China buyer has been with us for 41 years. The majority of our store managers are Caymanian and have been with us from 15 up to 39 years. Our administrative, accounting, IT, purchasing and logistics teams, executives etc. are almost 100% Caymanian (only 3 permits in our entire offices). We currently have 57 Caymanians that have been with us for 10 years or more.

    We always try to hire Caymanians first, we give Caymanians first benefit of any job opening and we are always looking to create training, advancement and education opportunities for our Caymanian employees.

    • Anonymous says:

      Keep in mind that many of those are ‘driftwood’ Caymanians, ie paper Caymanians… Does that still count?

  8. B. Hurlstone says:

    It is patently obvious that these people hyping the megabucks port boondoggle are just looking for more $$$ and only considering their OWN future.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The port will be fine, the reefs will be OK, the globe won’t get any warmer because of this and our children will still be able to breath. The water will be exactly as pristine as it is now with the current dock. And a few more jobs will be available..

  10. anonymous says:

    Working in the cruise retail industry elsewhere in the Caribbean with a port I can say that, without question, the Oasis class ships do not guarantee a higher per passenger spend. Some of the smaller ships from the same cruise lines generate higher revenue per passenger. There is no magic wand to the spending and these ships don’t make that much of a difference. The people with more per passenger dollars are the ones on the small, luxury ships. The Oasis ships simply carry more people so this is a numbers game.

    • Anonymous says:

      Many thanks for that excellent comment 6:19. There’s a ‘more is better’ myth being spread by these retailers that for years their staff have known is BS.

      15 years ago I used to drink with a number of employees from one of the major cruise-dependant outlets in George Town. Back then they told me that as cruise arrivals increased their income, which was commission-based, actually decreased. Their best days were when there were one of two vessels in, that then started to tail off if a third turned up and by the time five were in port nobody was spending anything.

      If, as these businessmen seem to be planning, the intention is to now try and pack well over 10,000 cruise shippers into the town in a day the likely response is all too predictable – they’ll take one look at the chaos and stay on board. Remember that the modern cruise liners are self-contained, floating resorts and in reality they don’t need places like Grand Cayman.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is no way that you can say this and actually believe it. You are completely spewing false information. Ask anyone including the owner of Atlantis Submarines what the difference is with the Royal customers and especially what the difference is with the newest ships. Once the next 2 Oasis class ships launch (one launching early 2016) the remaining Royal Caribbean ships will start to pull out of Cayman and all we will have left are the Carnivals and lower end all year round.

      • Anonymous says:

        I believe it because I see it in my figures every time the ships come in. This is not false information, but a fact of the business. We have Oasis class ships roughly every 2 weeks. We receive the older, smaller ships more often. The sales are, for a number of ships, very clearly higher and we are generally taking more from the smaller ships than we are from the Oasis class ships – at roughly double the number of passengers on Oasis class we are seeing about double the per passenger spend from some of the smaller Royal Caribbean ships.

  11. Anonymous says:

    If the cruise dock is so important why aren’t these ‘prominent merchants’ getting involved in funding it? What they really seem to saying here is ‘we’re over-committed and aren’t making enough money so we what CIG to help us out’. In effect they want the government to mortgage our futures to protect theirs.

    As for this myth that the Oasis-class and other mega-liners will become regular visitors if the dock is built – it’s getting boring. Dock or no dock the plans for these vessels do not include the old-style island hopping itineraries. With the new generation of cruises stops at places like GT are regarded as down time so will never happen.

    • 1 if by air 2 if by sea says:

      So what you’re saying is the hotels should get together and pay for the new airport?

  12. Anonymous says:

    The cruise port aside, Cayman needs an upgraded cargo facility ASAP. The existing cargo port is operating well above capacity, the economy is improving, the population is growing, and this is the lifeline of the country.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is true BUT the bottom line is that the cargo port should not even be located in the center of town This is the main reason that restaurant/bars in town cannot excel after the sun goes down. That is when the lumbering container trucks roll on all night long. I remember sitting on the balcony of Breezes. Lovely setting. Until a huge truck rumbled past blowing smoke and squealing their brakes.

    • Anonymous says:

      Another Kirkconnell myth. The cargo port is not anywhere near capacity, and if there is a reduction in cruise ships that will result in more capacity, as they can work during the days when no cruise ships are in port

  13. Cruise Controller says:

    This is the very same scam run by wealthy NFL and other sports owners to get US cities to use taxpayer funds to build stadiums. The benefits to the wider community are usually marginal when set against the vast cost to the local municipality. In the case of the GT dock the overall outlay is simply too big, both in terms of the build cost and the known and potential environmental damage.

  14. CRITICAL says:

    Why hasn’t Cruise Ship business plummeted already, and what would be the Economic benefit, in terms of increased revenue by improving the Cargo facilities. This Cargo issue is just ” smoke and mirrors ” to try and bolster their cruise ship dock argument.

  15. SKEPTICAL says:

    Of course the retailers are squealing. Some of them have huge capital investments in GT premises. But, their concerns are totally self-centered. What revenue benefits does CIG get from Duty Free and Memorabilia sales to cruise ship passengers. The profits go to the retailers. Introduce a Sales Tax on their sales, and at least the island would get some benefit. Whatever weasel words they use in their current fliers, they couldn’t care less about the potential destruction of the marine environment. If the current government goes ahead with the proposed docking facility, their political legacy will be that they were the ones who destroyed Cayman.

    • Anonymous says:

      Just FYI, there is no such thing as “Duty Free” in town. 30 years ago these items were duty free but not now. Duty is paid on all merchandise except the alcohol sold on departure.

  16. Chet O. Ebanks says:

    Instead of all these downtown merchants and business owners going on about what a bigger port would do or cruise her thing upgrade. What they need to do in encourage train and hire more CAYMANIANS. Start by helping your own people instead of importing expats and paying them SLAVE wages thus stopping up the unemployed citizens of our country from getting jobs. How many downtown businesses can say the employ 50% or more CAYMANIANS as their employees. The answer is not 1.

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