Minister called out on claims

| 14/08/2008

(CNS): Caribbean Marine Services (CMS) released a statement yesterday that appeared to refute statements made by Tourism Minister Charles Clifford at a press conference on 31 July to announce plans for a full redevelopment of Cayman’s port facilities.

At issue is the Minister’s claim that when he first started talking about the development of berthing facilities at the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) conference in St Kitts in 2005, he began discussions with the owners of the tendering facilities about the intended establishment of berthing facilities and the need for them to prepare for that.

The CMS statement aimed to “set the record straight regarding recent statements in the media by the Honorable in relation to the development of the Port and the future of the cruise ship tender service.”

The tender company said that at no time did any meeting take place between the Directors of Caribbean Marine Services and the Honorable Minister in relation to the berthing facilities or tendering services in the Cayman Islands during that conference.

However, CMS Directors did meet Clifford approximately three years ago in the Legislative Assembly building in Grand Cayman to discuss the proposed berthing facilities, said the release. “In attendance was Mr Ken Thompson, Mr Gerry Kirkconnell and to the best of the Director’s knowledge, tendering was not discussed.”

CMS also stated that on 13 July 2007, a recorded delivery letter from Caribbean Marine Services was signed for and received by the Offices of the Minister for Tourism asking for a meeting between the government and CMS, in order to help develop their future business model. “To date we have had no response,” the release said.

It continued, “As a result of the Honorable Minister for Tourism’s statements, certain stakeholders in the development of the Port, including numerous cruise lines, have been left with the mistaken belief that Caribbean Marine Services has been involved in, and fully briefed on, the development of the Port. This is not the case. Caribbean Marine Services has had no meetings with, or received any information from, the Government regarding the development of the Port, but obviously we would be extremely pleased to be included in any future discussion of the proposed pier projects.”

At the July press briefing, Clifford announced that the Cayman Islands Government had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Atlantic Star Limited (ASL) to formalise ongoing negotiations for the development and management of the Island’s cruise tourism and cargo handling facilities.

The plans are to separate the two elements of the port with cargo going towards the north and the new cruise berthing facilities expanding into the current port area. Clifford said the use of tendering facilities would diminish once cruise berthing facilities are established but there would be other opportunities for the tender boat companies.

“There will be a need in the foreseeable future for tendering to continue, albeit at a reduced level,” the minister said. Because there would be less need for tenders, the government had also offered advice to the tender operators on how they can restructure theirbusinesses.

“An example is using those tenders as water taxis to take tourists to other locations around the island. It was done in other locations and it certainly can be done here in Cayman,” he said. “And my gut tells me that is a much more lucrative business than what they currently get per head for tendering passengers ashore.”


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