“My motivations are not financial gains, and I do not oppose the building of a cruise ship dock. I am against the irrational and blatant disregard for the environment if we put a dock where experts have already established it will have far more negative impacts than positive,” Adrien Briggs, an Owner and Founder of Sunset House.
We reported in the current issue of X-Ray Magazine (editorial and page 5) that the Cayman Government is currently assessing a 'proposed cruise berthing facility' which could boost the country's economy by allowing more and bigger cruise lines to moor in Georgetown. The public consultation on the draft environmental impact assessment has now closed.
Cayman News Service stated the "the final report from the consultants will soon go before Cabinet for a decision against the backdrop of polarized campaigns in opposition and support."
The "Pro-port development" campaign - 'Cayman's Port / Cayman's Future' - has issued a flier stating that "Opinions vary on what lies beneath" and "Let's investigate & [sic] get the facts."
The statements do seem quite astonishing when you consider the plethora of PR that the Cayman Islands public relations department has issued over many years. Beautiful images and footage that highlight the water quality and superb reef diving in Grand Cayman.
The "Pro-port development" campaign is also trying to persuade the public that the destruction of the reefs will not be as extensive as the EIA suggests, and that without the piers many local people working with tour operators, or driving taxis will soon be out of work.
The unemployment threat seems to be in conflict with the Environmental Statement that indicates the average visitor arriving by cruise ship spends far less than visitors arriving by air.
- Average visitor spend arriving by cruise ship - $CI 82.14
- Average visitor spend arriving by air - $CI 1,103.07
- Annual Cruise Visitor Spend - $CI 115,000,000.00
- Annual Air Visitor Spend - $CI 381,000,000.00
Threat to watersport businesses
The Environmental Impact Assessment has also advised that this development will massively threaten the watersports tourism industry whilst significantly devastating the capital’s marine environment.
Currently the "SaveCayman" campaign (www.facebook.com/SaveCayman) and (www.savecayman.org) has highlighted that two big attractions sold to visiting tourists are both underwater. Stingray City and the George Town dive sites would be irreversibly destroyed.
As I write this almost 400 voters have signed the SaveCayman petition to trigger a referendum on the topic, whilst over 4,000 people have signed an open petition asking government not to go ahead with this project. (The link to the petition is at the top of this article).
"Winners and losers on both sides"
Cayman News Service observed that there were " winners and losers on both sides" and interviewed "one local businessman who has shares in both a tender operation and one of Cayman’s oldest dive resorts. Adrien Briggs, an owner and founder of Sunset House, said he will be directly affected by whatever decision is made regarding the port and has made it clear he is a 50/50 owner with Attlee Bodden in a local tender business that services the cruise lines. But, he said, they could sell off the fleet tomorrow and his concern is “the irreversible damage this project will cause”, not just to his tender business or resort but for other business owners here and generations to come.
“Sunset House was the sixth hotel on island when it opened and the only one of the six that still operates today, and all because of the precious dive sites situated immediately in front of the hotel,” he said.
Those sites are among a list of dive reefs and wrecks that will either be directly destroyed to make way for the piers or gradual destroyed, during the construction period and after because of turbidity.
In the end, this battle is about the economics of the environment. We are the last Caymanian-owned hotel in Grand Cayman and if this dredging process were to take place it would probably be the end of the last Caymanian hotel. All hotels will lose business.
Adrien Briggs, an owner and founder of Sunset House