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CAYMAN PORT: THE DEBATE CONTINUES

Front Pages 23 Feb, 2023 Follow News

CAYMAN PORT: THE DEBATE CONTINUES

The Quarries at Breakers

By Staff Writer

If all goes according to the plan suggested in the Strategic Outline Case(SOC), Cayman could have a new cargo port at Breakers.

But it may take that plan a long time to materialise as already the matter is the subject of extensive coast-to-coast debate throughout the land.

From the time Hon. Minister of Tourism and Transport, Kenneth Bryan, made the unexpected announcement and tied his flag to the mast of a new cargo port, the issue has risen to the top of the national discourse with strong arguments for and against.

Driving the new debate is the Woods SOC(Strategic Outline Case) for a new cargo port, authored by Joseph Woods, Cruise and Security Manager at Cayman Islands Port Authority, and former Acting Port Director.

His report adequately addresses operational shortcomings and limitations at the present cargo facility which shares space with cruise ship passenger movements, restricting it to night-only operations.

The ports of a country - sea and air - are vital indicators of its current state of development. Therefore any projections about their expansion must be tied to well-researched evidence of the country’s socio-economic growth projection.

The Woods SOC recognises this, stating: “Forecasting the demand and growth in cargo is not simple, straightforward and easy, as it is influenced by many factors. Population growth, affluence of the population, the state of the economy locally and worldwide, infrastructure development, the stage and vibrancy of the local construction industry, the volume of both stay-over and cruise visitors are among the leading influences of the demand and growth for cargo importation.”

It also notes that “it is inevitable that as the economy and population of the Cayman Islands continues to grow, so will the volume of cargo”.

According to its assumptions, “for every increase of 5,000 in the population, the trend indicates that containerized cargo increases by an average of 5,500 TEUs (Twenty Equipment Unit/ 20-foot container).

Based on that, the report projects that “when the population reaches 100,000, we can expect to be importing an additional 33,000 TEUs per year, for a total of approximately 65,836 TEUs per year or approximately 80% of the 82,836 TEU capacity of the vessels currently calling Cayman.”

That in turn relies on what the Woods SOC report says is ‘based on information from the Economics and Statistics Office(ESO)’ which suggests that Cayman’s population will grow to between 100,000 and 120,000 in ten years.

Significantly this is not directly attributed to the ESO but is based on an extrapolation from the 2021 census report. -

And that’s where the case for a new cargo port seems to go a bit adrift.

Projecting a Cayman population of 100,000 in ten years is a staggering increase of over 28,500 in a decade. That’s an average increase of around 238 more people coming to live in Cayman each month or 4,856 per year.

At the outer scale, it projects a population expectation of 120,000 by 2033 - an alarming growth of over 48,500 more people in the next 10 years with an average increase in residents of 404 more persons every month, or 4,856 every year until 2033.

But according to ESO, Cayman’s population between 2010 and 2021 grew from 55,036 to 71,105(updated to 71,432 by the time the 2021 Census report was released).

Compared to what the Woods SOC is basing its population rationale for the new cargo port on, that was a much smaller increase of 16,069 over the past ten years. It shows that around 1,606 more people came to live in Cayman each year between 2010 and 2021, or 133 per month.

The figures in the Woods report on the one hand double that each month over the next 10 years for an expected population of 100,000 and almost quadruples it if one goes by the projected population projection of 120,000 by 2033.

As population figures are so crucial to this report it would be necessary to have empirical evidence supporting this projected growth trend.

Further, in the absence of an updated National Development Strategy since Vision 2008, it’s difficult to justify the broad population projections contained in the Woods report.

This opens a wider debate about whether and how Cayman can sustain a population of 100,000 within the next ten years…or if ever…and the impact on the environment, healthcare, traffic congestion, education, housing, cost of living and the demographic composition of the population.

Those are major issues to tackle even before we get to the stage of thinking about a larger cargo port and relocating it from Hog Sty Bay to possibly Breakers as recommended with all of the other issues surrounding that.

There’s still much work to be done, further reports to be written and conversations and consultations to be had. It may very well be the case also that previous ideas for separate cargo and cruise facilities might even be dusted off and given another look.

But crucially, a comprehensive updated strategic national development vision for Cayman seems now to be more of a prerequisite than ever.


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