FAQs

During the referendum debate one of the members had concerns that the piers will be too close together for ships to turn around. Please clarify.

It is not necessary to turn the ships around in between the piers.  The pier spacing and width of the berth pockets is sufficient to allow the largest cruise ships to berth, either bow-in or stern-in; if necessary, the ships would turn around offshore, prior to berthing or after deberthing. 

Of note, detailed navigation simulations were undertaken for the 2015 EIA layout to confirm that the prior design allowed for the safe arrival and departure of the full range in cruise ships expected to use the facility.  Assuming the project proceeds, additional navigation simulations will be undertaken to support the final design of the project.

What effect will the turbidity stirred up by the construction work have on our crystal clear waters?

The EIA study indicated that dredging and land reclamation works could cause lethal and sub-lethal turbidity and sedimentation levels that extend up to 200m beyond the project footprint.  This was based on review and analyses of numerical model results for both hydraulic and mechanical dredging operations, with different assumptions for the level of sediment generated by the different dredging operations.  The 200m distance represents an upper bound estimate derived from the EIA model results.

The Verdant Isle Port Partners design has reduced the requirement for dredging, and has also eliminated the requirement for offshore disposal.  In addition, Verdant Isle Port Partners will use a mechanical dredge, real-time monitoring of turbidity levels and adaptive management of the dredge to minimize adverse impacts on the marine environment.   This approach is generally consistent the lowest impact scenario considered in the EIA, whereas the 200m distance was based on the highest impact scenario.

Assuming the project proceeds, updated modeling of turbidity and sedimentation due to dredging and cruise ship props and thrusters will be undertaken to define the anticipated impact zone around the project based on the proposed dredging method.  This information will be used to finalize the coral relocation and dredge management plans.  Corals that are located within the project footprint or within the estimated high impact zone around the project footprint (where high levels of turbidity and sedimentation may have lethal effects on coral) will be relocated.  Subsequently, real-time monitoring and adaptive management techniques will be used during dredging to maintain turbidity and sedimentation levels below pre-determined thresholds.  These thresholds will be defined based on a review of practical experience from similar projects around the world and consultation with the DOE.  This approach will minimize the risk of adverse impacts on corals around the project.

In 2015 we were told that using all known mitigation we could expect near total coral death outside the pit to at least 200m. How will you save those areas from silt death?

The EIA study indicated that dredging and land reclamation works could cause lethal and sub-lethal turbidity and sedimentation levels that extend up to 200m beyond the project footprint.  This was based on review and analyses of numerical model results for both hydraulic and mechanical dredging operations, with different assumptions for the level of sediment generated by the different dredging operations.  The 200m distance represents an upper bound estimate derived from the EIA model results.

The Verdant Isle Port Partners design has reduced the requirement for dredging, and has also eliminated the requirement for offshore disposal.  In addition, Verdant Isle Port Partners will use a mechanical dredge, real-time monitoring of turbidity levels and adaptive management of the dredge to minimize adverse impacts on the marine environment.   This approach is generally consistent the lowest impact scenario considered in the EIA, whereas the 200m distance was based on the highest impact scenario.

Assuming the project proceeds, updated modeling of turbidity and sedimentation due to dredging and cruise ship props and thrusters will be undertaken to define the anticipated impact zone around the project based on the proposed dredging method.  This information will be used to finalize the coral relocation and dredge management plans.  Corals that are located within the project footprint or within the estimated high impact zone around the project footprint (where high levels of turbidity and sedimentation may have lethal effects on coral) will be relocated.  Subsequently, real-time monitoring and adaptive management techniques will be used during dredging to maintain turbidity and sedimentation levels below pre-determined thresholds.  These thresholds will be defined based on a review of practical experience from similar projects around the world and consultation with the DOE.  This approach will minimize the risk of adverse impacts on corals around the project.

In 2015 you said you can re-dredge to minimise thruster silt. Is that still the plan? Who will pay for it? Please describe that plan.

Re-dredging of fines after the primary dredging is completed is not currently included in the project cost.  Sediment resuspension by cruise ship traffic is not expected to be a long-term problem.  Sites where sediment resuspension by cruise ships is known to be a problem (Key West, Bermuda and Venice), these are all characterized by long dredged channels across shallow, sheltered areas comprised of fine sediments; these conditions do not exist in George Town Harbour.

Regardless, the Port Operations Plan will include various measures to minimize this risk, including a preference for bow-in berthing (which puts the main props in deeper water), a wind speed operational limit (high wind speeds require greater power application during berthing and deberthing) and limiting vessel approach speeds and power application to the minimum necessary for safe vessel handling.

Will the thrusters forever be kicking up silt and mud which will be a daily detrimental event with myriad negative consequences?

The strong water flows generated by cruise ship props and thrusters during arrival and departure maneuvers may cause sediment resuspension and turbidity plumes.  Numerical modeling of this complex process was completed as part of the 2015 EIA study.  The model results indicate that the extent/severity of this turbidity primarily depends on the presence of fines on the seabed.  Given the exposed nature of the project site, the existing seabed materials do not include significant fines. 

Based on practical experience at similar sites, it seems unlikely that turbidity plumes will be a significant problem with this project.  In particular, three sites where sediment resuspension by cruise ships is known to be a problem (Key West, Bermuda and Venice) are all characterized by long dredged channels across shallow, sheltered areas comprised of fine sediments; these conditions do not exist in George Town Harbour.

That being said, dredging of calcareous rock present in George Town Harbour may leave behind some fines on the seabed; however, these fines will be rapidly dispersed by waves, currents and the early operation of the facility.  As such, no significant long-term impacts on underwater visibility are expected.

Best-in-class silt management techniques will also be deployed during dredge operations that will keep loose sediments from drifting and moving and to ensure minimal impacts to the surrounding marine environments. These includes mechanical dredging and real time monitoring buoys that conduct readings every 15 minutes and relays that information to the dredge and other entities. These monitors will be set with ranges turbidity limits. If at any time during the dredging or construction of the project these monitors detect turbidity exceeding the limits of maximum turbidity; then the dredging / construction will slow down, stop and or move depending on the situation. 

It is also important to note that the piers have been designed as open structures and therefore do not interfere with sediment transport in any direction, their design allows for the free flow of water, sand and marine life.

Underwater visibility in the harbour averages 100’+. How will ships in shallow water affect visibility at harbour dive sites such as Eden Rock, Cali and Soto’s Reef?

Noting concerns from the public after the initial design as part of the EIA in 2015, the design of the cruise berthing and cargo port facility has been modified to reduce the dredge area and volume, which will have a significantly less effect on the surrounding area than originally proposed.

How will the boulders used as the foundation for coral remains stationary in bad weather?

Natural limestone boulders sourced from Cayman quarries will be secured on the sea bottom to provide a suitable foundation, or substrate, to attach relocated corals to.  Engineering analyses will be undertaken to define the requirement for attaching to stabilize the boulders to resist storm waves and currents.   Depending on the seabed conditions, a variety of methods may be utilized to secure the boulders, including epoxy and grouted bars.

In 2015 and again recently you said you move the Balboa has the new site been chosen and what will it cost?

The Balboa will be moved to a recipient site approximately 1 kilometer to the north.  The cost of performing a detailed underwater archeological survey and the relocation cost of moving the Balboa is included in the cost of the project.

In other islands, watersports and diving still occur near the berthing piers. Do you feel the hype that all neighbouring corals will die is over-exaggerated?

Noting concerns from the public regarding the design assessed in the 2015 EIA, the project design has been modified to reduce the dredge area and volume.  In addition, a mechanical dredging approach will be used, and there will be no offshore disposal of dredged material (all dredged material will be placed in the land reclamation area).  These changes will result in significantly less impact on the surrounding area than estimated in the 2015 EIA study.

Also, whereas the 2015 EIA design included dredging in close proximity to Eden Rock, the revised design has moved the dredged area approximately 125m to the north; this will significantly reduce the impact of dredging on Eden Rock.

Furthermore, industry best management techniques will used throughout construction, in particular during dredging and land reclamation operations, to minimize the generation of silt plumes and their impacts on the surrounding marine environment.   The proposed approach includes mechanical dredging, real-time monitoring of turbidity and adaptive management of the dredge.  More specifically, turbidity will be continuously monitored with buoys at multiple locations, with the data transmitted to the dredge to allow adjustments to be made to the dredging operation to keep turbidity levels below pre-defined threshold limits.  The threshold limits will be defined through consultation with the DOE.  If the threshold limits are exceeded, the dredging will slow down or stop, or the dredge will be moved to another location. 

It is also important to note that the piers have been designed as open structures and therefore do not interfere with sediment transport in any direction, their design allows for the free flow of water, sand and marine life.

Why not build this facility at the Spotts dock which would cause a lot less environmental impact?

The Government has considered many possible scenarios and is satisfied that George Town is the best option for the environment. George Town is already a working harbor and its marine habit is already impacted from cruise and cargo vessels using the area over the past decades. Building the piers elsewhere on the island would require impacting a new environment and the construction of land based infrastructure.

Please explain how the coral recipient sites were determined. They do not appear to be as protected from currants and storms as the uniquely protected location they evolved in naturally.

Many projects throughout the world have included the successful transplantation/relocation of corals (Young et al. 2012) and this is considered as a good option (mitigation measure) for dredging projects, as well as restoration efforts after ship groundings.  The success of relocation is largely dependent upon site selection, with success dependent upon the selection of a recipient site characterized by similar conditions as the donor site.  In particular, high water quality, low nutrient input and low sedimentation and wave energy are critical factors (Young et al. 2012, Lirman and Schopmeyer 2016).

The recipient sites in Grand Cayman have been selected based on the similar characteristics they share with the donor (project) site; these similarities give the coral relocation effort the highest chance of success.

In addition to relocating corals that would otherwise by destroyed by the project, Verdant Isle Port Partners plans to implement a coral rescue triage nursery and long-term coral outplanting program.  These efforts will utilize the micro-fragmenting technique developed by Dr David Vaughan of Plant a Million Corals.  Over the 25 year life of Verdant’s DBFM contract agreement, these efforts are expected to significantly increase the overall cover and diversity of corals around Grand Cayman, with thus achieving the overall environmental objective of no net loss of biodiversity.

Compared to other projects do you find that this project has more or less dredging?

Given the relatively deep water in George Town Harbour, the dredging required for the proposed project is relatively small compared to similar projects in the region.   Of note, the Cayman Islands Government previously considered a number of alternative sites around Grand Cayman for a cruise berthing project.  As summarized in the EIA, the dredging required at these alternative sites was significantly greater than that required in George Town Harbour.

What has been the survival rate in previous attempts to move coral?

Many projects throughout the world have included the successful transplantation/relocation of corals (Young et al. 2012) and this is considered as a good option (mitigation measure) for dredging projects, as well as restoration efforts after ship groundings.  The success of relocation is largely dependent upon site selection, with success dependent upon the selection of a recipient site characterized by similar conditions as the donor site.  In particular, high water quality, low nutrient input and low sedimentation and wave energy are critical factors (Young et al. 2012, Lirman and Schopmeyer 2016).

In 2018, as a part of the National Environmental Science Program in Australia, a team of scientists reviewed 329 case studies for coral restoration, including 94 cases of direct coral relocation projects (Bostrom-Einarsson et al., 2018, Coral restoration in a changing world – A global synthesis of methods and techniques). The study found that overall, coral relocation via direct transport provided an average survival rate of 64%, with 20% of cases reporting over 90% survival of corals.

Verdant Isle Port Partners has brought together a team of renowned coral relocation and restoration experts, including Polaris Applied Sciences, Sea Ventures Marine Response Unit, ReefTech Inc, and Plant a Million Corals.

These organizations have been partners on large coral restoration projects since 2005 and have successfully managed more than 70 coral assessment and reef restoration projects throughout the Caribbean and beyond, including projects in Mexico, Florida, British Virgin Islands, Southeast Florida, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Grand Cayman and Hawaii.  Selected coral relocation projects include the following:

WHEN      WHERE                SURVIVAL

2006/10   Hawaii                 Better than reference

2011          Puerto Rico        Similar to reference, 2+ years

2012          Puerto Rico        Similar to reference, 3 years

2015          Qatar                  87% after 2 years

2016/17   Grand Cayman   89%, similar to reference, 2 years

2018          Mexico                Ongoing monitoring

2018          Puerto Rico        Ongoing monitoring

Polaris refers to 89% survival of tagged specimens and two repair projects. Where can the public see the full studies and reports carried out?

Polaris recently completed two large coral re-attachment projects in Grand Cayman, one in West Bay and the other at Eden Rock.  In both cases, shipping incidents dislodged and fractured large sections of the limestone reef and damaged thousands of corals.  Polaris restored both sites in 2016 and 2017.  There were approximately 3,000 corals involved in these projects and many large pieces of broken reef.  Coral fragments that are disturbed/broken by vessel groundings and dragging anchors and then re-attached would be expected to have a lower survival rate than those carefully removed as part of a pre-planned coral relocation project.  Regardless, a monitoring study of Polaris’s West Bay coral re-attachment project reported 89% survival of tagged specimens two years after the restoration effort as compared to 93% survival for unaffected coral colonies.  Additional detail is provided in the following technical paper:

Precht, W. Challenger G., Warrender T., Rogers K., Hudson H., McCoy, C., Chin P. and T. Austin. 2018 Cooperative Natural Resource Damage Assessment Leads to Successful Restoration of Injured Coral Resources. 71st annual conference of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, San Andres, Colombia | 5–9 November 2018.

Coral colonies that survive for a year or more in good condition following reattachment are likely to mimic natural survival patterns of unaffected corals in future years. The same coral species in the same vicinity relocated by the same teams provides the best evidence of likelihood of success for this project. 

Has Polaris performed any relocation in any sites in Cayman on healthy ecosystems?

Polaris recently completed two large coral re-attachment projects in Grand Cayman, one in West Bay and the other at Eden Rock.  In both cases, shipping incidents dislodged and fractured large sections of the limestone reef and damaged thousands of corals.  Polaris restored both sites in 2016 and 2017.  There were approximately 3,000 corals involved in these projects and many large pieces of broken reef.  Coral fragments that are disturbed/broken by vessel groundings and dragging anchors and then re-attached would be expected to have a lower survival rate than those carefully removed as part of a pre-planned coral relocation project.  Regardless, a monitoring study of Polaris’s West Bay coral re-attachment project reported 89% survival of tagged specimens two years after the restoration effort as compared to 93% survival for unaffected coral colonies.  Additional detail is provided in the following technical paper:

Precht, W. Challenger G., Warrender T., Rogers K., Hudson H., McCoy, C., Chin P. and T. Austin. 2018 Cooperative Natural Resource Damage Assessment Leads to Successful Restoration of Injured Coral Resources. 71st annual conference of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, San Andres, Colombia | 5–9 November 2018.

Coral colonies that survive for a year or more in good condition following reattachment are likely to mimic natural survival patterns of unaffected corals in future years. The same coral species in the same vicinity relocated by the same teams provides the best evidence of likelihood of success for this project. 

Low lying George Town residents will face risk from storm flooding once the natural coral reef defenses are destroyed. Sea walls are unsightly and no substitute for God’s natural protection.

The 2015 EIA study included measurements, numerical modeling and analyses of storm waves and surges under existing and proposed conditions (i.e. without and with the port improvements).  This included a flood risk assessment for George Town’s waterfront.  The modeling demonstrated that the proposed project (dredging, land reclamation and piers) will not increase the risk or severity of flooding along Harbour Drive or in George Town. A similar outcome is expected for the 2019 Verdant Isle Port Partners design and layout.

The EIA recommended that a wave/flood wall be constructed around the perimeter of the land reclamation area to reduce the frequency and severity of flooding of the port area due to wave overtopping during storms.  Verdant Isle Port Partners’ project design includes this feature.

What is the size of the piers?

The cruise berthing and cargo enhancement project involves the construction of two piers in George Town Harbour capable of berthing four cruise ships, and the expansion and redevelopment of our Islands primary cargo port.

The two cruise piers are 381 metres and 542 metres in length, and 22 metres wide.

The piers have been designed as open structures and therefore allow water, sand, and sea life to move freely beneath them. 

Who is responsible for ongoing maintenance of the port once the project is complete?

Verdant Isle is responsible for all maintenance of the port for the term of the partnership, approximately 25 years. This includes ongoing maintenance and repairs including any damage caused by weather or other events. 

When will the proposed port enhancement project begin, and how long will it take?

It is anticipated that work on the port redevelopment will begin in January 2020. We estimate the project will be completed by the end of 2022. 

Has there been an Environmental Impact Assessment made since the original assessment in 2015?

The original Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), as approved by the Cabinet of the Cayman Island Government, set forth the guidelines for the design development of this project. Verdant Isle’s proposed concept was developed not only within the parameters of this EIA, but additionally reduced the overall environmental impact on the area. 

Now that the Government has selected Verdant Isle as the Preferred Bidder, the results of the EIA will be reviewed and updated to reflect the revised design. Baird, the consulting group who led the original EIA study, will again lead this effort under the oversight of Schneider Engineering and Consulting, on behalf of Verdant Isle. The results of this effort will be reviewed by the Cayman Islands Government Department of Environment (DOE).  The Verdant Isle project layout/design is expected to reduce the adverse environmental impact of the project.  

Verdant Isle Port Partners are currently in the process of preparing an EIA Scoping Update that compares the 2015 EIA layout/design to the current 2019 Verdant Isle layout/design. It is anticipated that the EIA Scoping Update will be submitted to the DOE by the end of October 2019.  It is our understanding that the DOE will review and assess the EIA Scoping Update by the end of November and could provide recommendations for additional information. 

Have the plans for the port changed since those originally released to the public in 2015?

The original drawings (2015 Approved EIA Drawing Set) were developed by Baird & Associates. Baird was contracted by the Cayman Island Government to complete various studies, an Environmental Impact Report and concept designs for the cruise berthing and cargo enhancement project. Following completion of this work, the Government then contracted with international engineering and design firms, Royal HaskoningDHV and Hatch Ltd, to further develop the drawing set that was then used as the basis for bidding throughout the Request for Proposal (RFP) process.

The bidders for the Project were able to use this basis and the parameters established by the previous EIA as a guideline and could offer variations on the concept design within the boundaries of the project. 

The project will be carried out under a design, build, finance and maintain structure, which means that all final details of the project, including the design concept and financing, could not be announced until the preferred bidder was selected – as those details were part of the selection process and the bidders where under the bounds of a strict non-disclosure agreement, as part of the bidding process.

Since the announcement of Verdant Isle Port Partners (Verdant Isle) as the “Preferred Bidder” on 26 July 2019, the team has been working with the Cayman Islands Government and, in particular, the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands, to adjust and refine the submitted plans to better fit their specific requirements.  

An updated set of design drawings including the Marine Design and Master Planning were released to the public in mid-October. Project drawings will be continually advanced and developed in stages and will be made available to the public as we progress. 

Does the Verdant Isle partnership mean other cruise lines will be blocked out from utilising the port?

No. The proposed two piers can take four ships; there will still be tendering on days where there are more than four ships visiting Grand Cayman. The scheduling of the docking and anchoring is set by the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands. All lines will be able to utilise the piers.

Royal Caribbean Cruises, Carnival Corporation, MSC Cruises, and Disney Cruise Line have preference to berth at the piers pro-rata assigned by their loan commitment levels to the project.As per the berthing agreements, the four cruise companies have right of first refusal, which will be confirmed two years to 18 months in advance. Should the preferred line not like to use it on their assigned day, then it would be re-assigned by the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands on a first come, first serve basis.  

Will Verdant Isle Port Partners control the port after it’s built?

No. Control of the port remains with the people of the Cayman Islands through the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands, this includes:

  • Berthing fees, ship preferences and number of ships
  • Cargo operations
  • Customs, immigration and passenger cruise operations
  • Retail
Is the Cayman Islands Government providing any funding or guarantees for the project?

No. The project is being funded entirely by Verdant Isle Port Partners. There will be no risk to the Cayman Island Government, and the people of Cayman.

Is the Cayman Islands Government receiving financial contributions from cruise companies?

No. The Cayman Island Government is not receiving any financial contribution from the cruise companies.  

How will the project be financed?

Verdant Isle Port Partners is financing the project in its entirety. Financing will consist of equity capital provided by the four consortium members and third-party debt financing with a financial institution. There will be no risk to the Cayman Island Government and the people of Cayman.

How much will the proposed port enhancement project cost?

The port enhancement project is estimated to cost just under US$250 million. It will be financed entirely by Verdant Isle Port Partners, with no risk to the Cayman Islands Government and the people of Cayman.