Solomon admits cruise line's interest in Pageant Beach
(CNS): The government’s backbench MLA who has been leading the negotiations with China Harbour Engineering Company has admitted that there is a proposal on the table to build a pier at Pageant Beach. As reported by CNS in December, Ellio Solomon confirmed that parties in Cayman had submitted an alternative proposal at the location that would directly involve a cruise line. Speaking on Cayman 27’s "The Panel" on Tuesday evening, the George Town representative said, however, that this was not necessarily in the interests of the Cayman Islands and government was going ahead with the CHEC deal.
At the end of last year CNS revealed that a proposal for an all-weather facility with no competing retail that would deliver passengers around one mile north of the current terminals and shuttle them into the down town area had been ashore given to government. Sources told CNS that it came from an unnamed group of local businessmen and would involve a direct partnership with a cruise line and would not depend on upland retail development at the site, which is currently in private hands.
In January representatives of the local company that owns the land at Pageant Beach told CNS that they were very surprised to read about the proposal to develop a port on that property as the owner had not been approached by anyone regarding the development of a port there and the land was not for sale.
Solomon clearly stated on Tuesday that a proposal for a deal with an unnamed cruise line had been put forward to construct a pier for its exclusive use.
Government, however, intends to press on with the CHEC negotiations, which have been extended after the most recent MOU between government and the Beijing firm was extended. Solomon stated that, despite speculation to the contrary, construction would start on the CHEC project in September.
The George Town representative admitted that, regardless of the deal with the Chinese firm, the cruise line in question was willing to go ahead with a monopoly pier.
“We have to ask ourselves if this is in the best interests of the country,” he said, denying that the cruise lines were not interested in the CHEC proposals. “If you can give any one of those cruise lines a monopoly over a particular pier, they’ll take it," he claimed.
He said government was not going forward with the Pageant Beach proposal or any others as it intended to go forward with CHEC.
Solomon justified the size of the CHEC project, in particular the upland development, which has raised concerns among many people, from the downtown merchants in the capital to the contractors association, as he said the retail was needed to give local traders a place to “sell their arts and crafts and coconuts” and to give the Port Authority additional revenue.
He also dismissed the environmental concerns, suggesting it was just opposition for the sake of it. However, he said government was committed to mitigating any environmental threats that may arise before construction starts.
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