(CMR) While the Cayman Islands people have objected to plans to build a new cruise ship berthing facility due to environmental concerns, the country will now have to consider development plans for its cargo port facility.
Minister of Tourism and Transport Kenneth Bryan said the Government is now taking a proactive approach to address the capacity issue at the cargo port, an issue which must be addressed for the country's food security.
He said, “a strategic outline case (SOC) concerning the expansion of the Cayman Islands cargo port has been accepted by Cabinet and approval has been granted to proceed with a development of an outline business case for this project.”
These two comprehensive documents, the SOC and business case, serve different purposes and are required under the procurement law, the Minister said.
He explained that the cargo port is the main port of entry for at least 95 percent of all ports to the Cayman Islands. During the day it accommodates cruise operations, and at nights it transitions for cargo operations from 6 pm and 5 am.
“The strategic outline case establishes the options for Government's consideration. The outline business case is completed by financial experts… examining each of the options in more details, including their cost. This is ultimately what helps Government to determine which of the scenarios are feasible, and or affordable, or worth pursuing,” he further explained.
“Whatever the report comes back with is what we will consider. The most important thing here is food security for the country. We have to be able to feed our people and unfortunately we do not have a large enough agriculture component here. This is a national issue,” the Minister stated in response to questions about the likelihood of building of a dock.
“The strategic outline case has outlined that the capacity to bring goods through the port are currently stretched. And the reality is that within 10 years we will also be nearing the capacity of the vehicles that are currently calling here. Taken together, this means that that the port will not be able to handle the level of cargo required to support our growing economy and population,” Mr. Bryan added.
He pointed out that cargo ships currently coming into Cayman are getting old and are reaching the end of their life span which means they will be replaced with newer larger ships. With the new cargo ships much wider, he said larger cranes will be required .
In addition, the Minister explained that bigger ships will require deeper draft, and when fully loaded their draft will exceed the water level, As a result they will not be able to berth at the current port.
Although the country has decided not to move forward with a cruise berthing facility, Mr. Bryan said pending capacity problems with the cargo port will become more acute overtime.
He said the Government is proactively trying to gather all the necessary information so informed decisions can be made to resolve this pending problem.
The strategic outline case has suggested expanding the port facility in George Town or establish an alternate port at another location on island.
With this process a major undertaking by Port Authority, the organization intends to recruit a business manager to oversee the business case process which will be carried out by independent financial experts, Mr. Bryan said.
The strategic outline case will be available online for the public to view.