MOU reveals no commitment with Atlantic Star

| 22/01/2009

(CNS): The Government has released the Memorandum of Understanding which it signed with Atlantic Star last July regarding the terms of negotiation about the possible redevelopment of the George Town Port. The MOU, despite rumours to the contrary, is merely an agreement to talk about a deal but not necessarily make one. Government has also confirmed that it still considers George Town to be the best place for the new port – both cruise and cargo.

Speaking at the post cabinet press briefing on Thursday, 22 January, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said that in the interests of Freedom of Information the MOU was being released into the public domain. He said accusations that government had already privately signed a deal with Atlantic Star were unfounded.

“The MOU was merely to set out negotiations and the signed MOU is being released today,” he said. “This is not a secret contract. It outlines a framework for negotiations in a confidential manner.” Tibbetts stated that by releasing the MOU, which has now been extended to the end of January, it was open to public scrutiny.

The MOU is a six page document signed by Minister Charles Clifford, Wayne DaCosta Chair of the Port Authority and Fahad Al Rashid of Atlantic Star. The contents are merely terms of agreement with regards the parameters of negotiation between the parties to work towards a possible deal but there is no indication of any deal already shaped. The document sets out vague parameters for discussions only. The MOU makes no mention of the fact that Atlantic Star owns the land where the new cargo facility is proposed to be sited.

During the briefing it was also revealed that the Environmental Impact Assessment would remain confined to the George Town location and the team will only be asked to consider other areas if it becomes apparent there is a need to do so during the assessment.

“The George Town harbour has been home to a fully functional cruise and cargo port for decades.  Anchors have been dropped, piers built and commercial zones established to facilitate the lifeline of these three islands,” said Tibbetts. “In many respects, significant harm has already been caused in the port vicinity in order to support this vital activity. It has been proposed by the Port Authority and government that the existing site is the most appropriate location for future expansion. More than a decade ago, in the 1994 Master Port Development Plan, it was proposed that George Town was the most appropriate location for facilitating port expansion.”

He added that the current plans would expand the existing footprint for cruise facilities and  establish new cargo facilities within close proximity to the existing cargo centre. “Going somewhere new and starting fresh will undoubtedly cost more and create significant harm in what might otherwise be pristine, virgin environments.”

Tibbetts noted that, while all construction projects have an impact, the EIA would indicated how to minimise damage, but he said government had officially stated that it would not proceed with the project if it is scientifically determined that serious and unavoidable harm would be caused, for example, to Seven Mile Beach (7MB). “However, rather than assuming what the impact will be, the DoE is utilising a highly respected firm, CH2M HILL, who has conducted prior work in the Cayman Islands to conduct the tests and to report back to the people and government,” he said.

At a recent public meeting, a number of local sea captains and people who have worked in Cayman’s marine environment for many years had grave concerns about the redevelopment and indicated that 7MB could be at risk, along with a number of other dangerous or detrimental impacts on the local environment.

Tibbetts announced that the public input period on the terms of reference for the EIA has been extended until the end of January, even though an extensive list of stakeholders had been consulted and asked for their contributions.

“Following these consultations, the public was advised that input could still be submitted to the DoE through this Friday, 23 January.   Today, I would like to announce that, out of an abundance of caution, the government has agreed to extend the consultation period for another week through 30 January 2009,” he said, adding that at this stage the consultation was on the Terms of Reference for the scientific study only.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    "I am suspect of the MOU as being the total of the understanding between the government and Atlantic Star. The fact that Atlantic Star owns the land would be used for the cargo …"

    -Excellent observation, I like your thinking and whole heartly agree with your comments…WHY would Atlantic purchase so much land, just to let it sit there!!!!

    No one in this day and age will purchase so much land to let it just sit there, just to view it day to day…Oh wow look at this beautiful piece of land I bought,!!!. They must have been given some indication of intent..

    Government stop trying to pull the wool over the Caymanians eyes and people of this country – please wake up and take off the blinkers. And wipe the cobwebs from the brain. Start thinking for yourself and stop being MIS-LEAD!!!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Will you please desist with these "fat" pictures of Kurt Tibbetts?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I am suspect of the MOU as being the total of the understanding between the government and Atlantic Star. The fact that Atlantic Star owns the land would be used for the cargo port would indicate a financial committment on their part that would go far beyond a simple understanding of intent.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I respectfully disagree with the current government on the issue of cargo port location.
    The government must think of the future of the country. Sooner or later the current cargo port location in George Town will prove to be inadequate to suit the countries needs. Simply moving the port location over slightly also ignores the need for downtown commercial property and future development.
    Moving the port location out of George Town in phases is the realistic answer. First build an aggregate port somewhere and phase in constructing a full time replacement cargo port with enough land to sustain Cayman growth for 100 years.
    Also the risk to 7 mile beach is an unnecessary risk, move the cargo port location and develop a port for the future of the Cayman Islands.