Cruise berthing facility recruits another benefactor

Cayman’s potential cruise berthing facility came one step closer to reality Wednesday, when Premier Alden McLaughlin announced that MSC Cruises has made a financial commitment to the project. Royal Caribbean, Disney and Carnival had previously signed on to help build the facility in George Town.

MSC Cruises has signed a letter of intent to provide $15 million in financing on the project, bringing the total amount pledged between the four cruises lines to a total of $180 million. The total cost of the project is still unknown, and government is sorting between three proposals to carry out the project. The completed bids were initially expected by the end of the first quarter in 2019, but McLaughlin said Monday that the bidders have asked for a little more time to finalise their proposals.

“It’s a complex arrangement,” said McLaughlin when reached by the Cayman Compass. “That’s why we’re in the sixth year of development. This project spans three administrations.”

McLaughlin said that the government has spent $7 million on consultants, research and development, and environmental impact assessments regarding the project.

McLaughlin said Thursday that the cruise lines that have already agreed to finance the facility will have preferential use of the facility.

A bid for a construction company to complete the project is pending.

“These agreements, coupled with the finance to be provided by whichever entity is eventually selected as the preferred bidder on the project, ensure that no public funding will be required to build the cruise berths and enhanced cargo facility,” he said in an official statement.

“As well as strengthening the project’s financing structure, having cruise companies financially vested in the project provides assurance that the country’s finances will not be exposed to risk and is a positive indication of their commitment to our Islands for decades to come. It is a win-win situation for the country, the preferred bidder and the cruise lines.”

A PwC study indicated that a cruise ship berthing facility could reasonably be expected to create 500 construction jobs immediately. And then over the course of decades, studies show that the facility could bring $245 million in economic benefits to Cayman.