Cruise berthing blunders

| 27/04/2011

I have watched with interest and disappointment as the UDP Government has moved from blunder to blunder on the cruise berthing project. The first blunder with this project was when the UDP abandoned the cruise berthing and cargo port project plans that I had started to implement.

The second blunder was when the UDP entered into an agreement with DECCO to establish cruise berthing facilities without a mechanism to secure formal commitments from the cruise lines and the Premier’s simultaneous announcement that there would be no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) done. The third blunder was when they abruptly terminated the agreement with DECCO after negotiations reportedly “broke down”.

The fourth blunder was Mr Cline Glidden’s immediate announcement that they had moved to the next best proposal and that they were about to enter into an agreement with GLF Construction Corporation (GLF) to build this project. Mr. Glidden said that they would be using the EIA which DECCO had apparently previously commissioned but which has to this date not been made public. This was followed by DECCO stating that they would provide the EIA to government but would have to first be compensated for it.

The fifth blunder was Premier McKeeva Bush’s announcement at the 2011 Cayman Business Outlook that the mysterious “Chinese” were prepared to do the cruise berthing facilities if GLF failed. And the sixth blunder was the recent announcement from Premier McKeeva Bush that he had terminated the agreement with GLF.

These series of blunders have denied our country the much needed cruise berthing facilities, which will have a significantnegative economic impact for our country beginning with a 25% decrease in cruise tourism in 2011.

It would be easy for me to sit back and simply say “I told you so” but as a country we need to extricate ourselves from this mess that the UDP Government has put us in and look for solutions to this problem.

I warned this UDP Government in 2009 that if they abandoned the plans and EIA which I started implementing, the country would be facing a 1 to 2 year delay with this project. Mr Cline Glidden’s response to me at the time was “no” as he said that they would be starting construction in the first quarter of 2010. Now here we are in the 2nd quarter of 2011 and not only do we have no construction started but, according to recent statements from the Premier, for the second time in less than one year we have terminated an agreement with yet another proposed developer.
So not only is there no agreement in place to establish cruise berthing facilities but there is no certainty as to who will be doing this project and when.

It defies logic that the Premier would terminate the agreement with GLF almost immediately after GLF advised the government that they could mobilize for this project within 6 weeks and simultaneously demonstrated that they have the financing in place with a reputable financial institution. It is not possible for the Premier to select yet another developer/financier, have them mobilize and on the ground in less than six weeks. Therefore it begs the question: why did Premier McKeeva Bush make this decision ? I suppose the answer to that question will become clear in due course. That decision by the Premier is suspicious at best and will ultimately need to be investigated further in due course. The decision suggests that one party isn’t getting what they expected from this agreement but we will explore that further as more information surfaces.

Having said that, I believe that politicians must seek to work together in the interests of our country, especially on projects which we agree on. This is one such project and I have publicly offered my assistance before. I also understand that it can never be in our collective best interests for any government to fail. The bottom line is that if the government succeeds, the country succeeds and we all succeed. If the government fails, we all fail. Those who are in opposition to the government who believe that we should continue to allow the government to fail as a strategy to win the next election are making a fundamental mistake and have miscalculated where we are economically at this point. They would be well advised to focus on saving our country because the next election might not matter very much if we don’t.

I can say that, based on my experience with projects of this nature, we cannot, unfortunately, move from where we are now to an agreement with yet a third proposed developer and achieve cruise berthing facilities in less than two years. This means that the initial blunder by the UDP to abandon a well thought out cruise and cargo policy and plan is going to result in a 4 year delay with this project and a continued decline of our cruise industry unless we are prepared to be creative and act now.

Is there an interim solution while we await berthing facilities? Yes, I believe there is, so here are my thoughts. The UDP Government must immediately formally invite the cruise lines back to the table and ensure their participation. This project cannot and must not be undertaken without their commitment to deliver a specific annual minimum number of passengers during the term of this agreement, which will likely be 20 years. The risk is far too great without such a commitment. This is why the agreement which I signed with Atlantic Star Limited to establish cruise berthing and cargo facilities allowed for negotiations with third parties to help finance this project and those discussions had indeed begun with the cruise lines.

The majority of the cruise lines are owned by either Carnival or Royal Caribbean although many operate under different brands. Because this is the case, Carnival and Royal Caribbean are keen to see cruise berthing facilities established in Cayman because we are still a popular destination with their passengers. Unfortunately, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class mega ships cannot be tendered and will by-pass the Cayman Islands on their western Caribbean itinerary. This problem is made worse by Royal Caribbean’s decision to redeploy to other regions some of their smaller ships that previously called on Cayman.

If the UDP government is prepared to, in good faith, invite the cruise lines back to the table as a party to the new negotiations and demonstrate some stability with moving this project forward, we may be in a position as an interim solution to convince Carnival and Royal Caribbean to prop up our cruise arrival numbers via increased port calls from their various sub-brands which still operate some of the smaller ships on the western Caribbean itinerary.

Because cruise lines plan and begin to book their itineraries 18-24 months in advance of a cruise, the UDP Government must act now if we are to have a chance of saving our 2012 cruise tourism winter season.

Finally, I believe that those who are responsible for this mess must be held accountable. Until we embrace real accountability in our country for failures such as these, not very much will change at the policy table.

In closing, I encourage all tourism service providers, including public transport operators, to begin preparations for what will unfortunately be our most challenging cruise tourism summer season to date. Examine your business practices and operations to determine where you can make adjustments in your expenditure to offset the inevitable loss of revenue that will come during the upcoming summer months.

 

Charles E. Clifford is the former tourism, environment, investment & commerce minister. He lost his Bodden Town seat in the May 2009 elections and resigned from the opposition party a year later. Clifford has, however, remained active in the political arena and has expressed a desire to create an alternative to the current political parties at the next election. 

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Comments (21)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I hope you all see that Mr. Clifford’s predictions are already beginning to materialise. Long standing downtown restaurant “Bacchus” closed its doors for good this past weekend citing decreased cruise ship/passenger projections and increased taxes and fees by the UDP Government……making an impossible environment for businesses to succeed.
    All indications are that Al a Kabab has also closed their downtown location and it is curerently shuttered. Senior Froggs closed last year and so did the Far Away Places store. How many more will close before this UDP Government begin to listen ?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Chuckie, you already had your turn and you blew it….you’re a bit of a revisionist and starting to become a rather sad sideshow (remember the ‘march that never was’?)…..then you bailed from your party, probably in forlorn hope that the 2-partysystem will be done away with……it won’t…..mac is a disaster, but he’s in power and for whatever reason, he’s walked away from GLF…..XXXX, but it may also be because mac is convinced (rightly or wrongly) that the chinese will fund and build faster (possibly because they’ve donated to the correct swiss charity)……either way, Chuckie you aint gonna fix this, and nobody is gonna call you for help, because you can’t help…..there will be no dissolution of parliament before Term, there will be no coup d’etat because frankly we are too lazy, and you’re independent, which means you’re as relevant as Ezzard!! not good!!

    as to the Port – its been plagued from the start by bad marketing from all those who depend on it….bizarrely, we caymanians are convinced that cruise tourism is bad!!!  so really, we dont care whether the thing gets built or not, and this is probably wrong because as little as i know, i’m pretty certain that the chance to bring millions of tourists to our island in a proper environment (i.e. a nice port with berths, proper taxi operations, etc) would probably work in our favour long term with people enjoying their experience and having time ashore to spend money and to learn about us……..but it really seems to most of us that only a very few stand to benefit from cruise tourists, and its dart, kirkconnell, diamonds, tortuga, and that seems to be it…..so we dont really feel sorry that nothing is happening becuase we dont understand properly how it affects the entire nation……..unlike say the dredging of the north sound, we do see how that could really damage all of us, so we dont like it and wont have it…….same with east end port…..same with oil refinery (at least, what we understand of it)….but the cruise port? it just seems to be a big project for a small group of people and nobody really cares if it doesnt happen…..and if it does happen, who cares who builds it? nobody really…..just try not to wreck too much fo downtown, try to keep seven mile pristine…..please relocate the dive sites and shipwrecks, dont just lose them…..wouldnt it be nice one day to see all the objecting and nonsense just calm down and we get back to being happy and blissfully ignorant!!  maybe its the economy, maybe once things turn (and they will, probably through nothing more than natural cycles.)…then we’ll care less about what the fools in power are up to….we never cared before and things were good!

    • Anonymous says:

      No one knows how this story will end up. However we continue to fall further behind our competition in terms of providing proper berthing facilities for cruise ships. This means that we continue to undersell our product as a tourist destination. It means that tourist traveling on these cruise ships have limited time on the island, thereby limiting whatever money they are going to spend and limited what they see of the country that may bring them back for vacations or make investments.

       

      Here is the thing.My suggestion to the UDP is that whatever you are going to do with the port do it before the next elections. This country from all we are hearing is poised to change governments at the next elections and everytime we change Governments they dump what the previous Government had and start from scratch once more. And in the end the people of the Cayman Islands continue to wait for something that should have been in place a long time ago. Such is how Governments in the Cayman Island work with all projects.

    • Anonymous says:

      What people seem to forget is that the PPM started to deal with Atlantic Star long BEFORE they came to the public with the MOU. What the investigative reporters should be looking into is when exactly did the PPM govt begin the “talks” and when where all the parcels of land bought up. Would they have bought up the parcels if they had not had some heads up? They dont seem to have an alternative plan for the site and seem to be waiting…….

  3. Joe Bananas says:

     Blunders, blunders , blunders!  UDP this PPM that.  Why do Caymanians continue to follow blindly those who have shown time and time again that they are completely incompetent to the job at hand?  Because they don’t trust anyone else.

  4. Anonymous says:

    It sure would have ben expensive with another unnecessary high school sitting on it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Unless no one remembers almost everyone attending Chuckie’s meeting at the Family Life Center disagreed with his berthing plan.

    Now somehow he has positioned himself as the cruise ship guru and I don’t think he should be followed blindly.

    I don’t see the Genesis class of ships at over 1 billion each flooding the market regardless of what Chuck says.

    The 110,000DWT class of Carnival ships are almost new.

    • Anonymous says:

      At least The Chuckster was bold enough to face the public and consult them on the project. You must give him credit for that. The majority of the people in attendance were not directly involved in cruise tourism and had no clue of the significant impact of cruise tourism on our economy. Even the sea Capts couldn’t agree on where the cruise berthing should go. Some supported the proposed location and others suggested South Sound or the North Sound.

      • Anonymous says:

        And Chuckster was going ahead with his plan regardless of the majority which disagreed with him…There may have been different ideas about where to place the port everyone agreed Chuckster’s plan was flawed.

        I don’t remember even 1 person supporting his plan other than those who he brought there with him.

         

         

  6. Anonymous says:

    If Chuckie is counting blunders, it hard to see how he could have missed the biggest one of all. More than two years after the new Chairman of the Port Authority placed the first full page advert in the local newspapers, NOT ONE single document has been passed by the Central Tenders Committee for review.

  7. Anonymous says:

    nicely laid out… now i wish someone else would chart all the other countless blunders, u-turns, flip flops by this government over the last 2 years…

  8. Anonymous says:

    Alternative yeah right !!!
    What exactly did he do in four years for the average Caymanian – many went to him for assistance with various matters, and were there any results or did he get back to them? This sounds like “the pot calling the kettle black”.
    He should have stayed with Policing.

    • Anonymous says:

      There lies our problem. Too many people think that politicians are placed in power to give them “assistance” in various matters rather than doing what is best for the country. Macdinejad holds sway over the country today because less than 2,000 voters in West Bay only want a represenative who will give them some “hep” with their utility bills now and again, and maybe a new fridge or stove every four years.

      • Anonymous says:

        Wow. I did not know that the UDP has an household appliance factory in West Bay.

        • Anonymous says:

          It works farmore efficiently than that. You just need to know who owns an appliance store, and recall if you saw that person sitting on the UDP platform in meetings leading up to the general election.

          In the weeks before the election, a poor voter visits the store and says that he needs a new fridge, stove, or whatever appliance. He then says that his name is on a "list" to receive the appliance and it is duly delivered without him having to pay one red cent. As someone who frequents the store, it was hard to miss what was going on.

          I don’t know who put up the money for these appliances, but I’m pretty sure they expected something in the way of "friendly" legislation in return for those gifts.

      • Anonymous says:

        Hardly the case mate! But we elect people to give more than a sympathetic ear, especially when they are presented with facts. That goes for any politician. It’s called the right of redress I believe and a constituent has that right regardless of which democratic country they are in. But perhaps were are dealing with the Peter Principle.

    • Anonymous says:

      "many went to him for assistance with various matters"

      Do you mean the many that I’m sure went to him for a handout? Or to secure some other favour for that individual’s personal benefit? Or the benefit of their child? Or husband? Because if so SHAME on that individual and good for Mr. Clifford for not ensuring results or getting back to them. Good for him for not stooping to the level of corruption that is rife among many MLAs.

      What Mr. Clifford did for "the average Caymanian" was attempt to improve the lives of ALL average Caymanians through appropriate channels and transparently by setting policy.

    • Absurdistani says:

      Ask not what a politician can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

      • Anonymous says:

        Lets not forget that we elect politicians to serve. They seem to forget that though once they become elected and act as though they are Lords & Masters over us. Simply put it goes to their heads for the majority of them and they forget who put them in.

    • Anonymous says:

      When will you people learn that the government is not there to provide handouts to lazy people. It is there to provide good policies so you can make a good living for yourselves.