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News from Cayman - March 2006

Travel & news discussion about the Cayman Islands

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News from Cayman - March 2006

Postby gotocayman » Tue Apr 04, 2006 4:42 pm

After more than 50 years, Barclays has announced that it is exiting the local retail banking market. Subject to regulatory approval, it will sell it's 47.3% holding in FirstCaribbean to its partner in the four-year-old joint venture, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC). CIBC is offering US$1.1 billion for Barclays share of the business. Barclays and CIBC combined their Caribbean businesses in 2002 to form FirstCaribbean, operating in 17 countries in the region.
However, Barclays will still have a presence on the island. Barclays Private Bank & Trust (Cayman) will continue to operate independently, with around 20 staff.

There has been a temporary change to the law on fixed-term work permits. Expatriate workers will be allowed a last nine-month extension on an expiring permit, enabling employers an extra opportunity to recruit replacements. The change in the law comes about after complaints by a number of businesses that their operations could be compromised by the sudden departure of critical personnel approaching the seven-year limit on permits. Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson said "Fixed-term Work Permits will not be granted as a matter of course - in each case the employer will be expected to put forward a compelling case as to why the relevant employee is essential to the company and why he or she cannot be replaced immediately". The change in the law also plugs a loophole whereby someone at the end of the seven years, appeals their departure and drags out the legal process over a year so that they can claim the eight year residencey required to qualify for permanent status.
The latest work permit figures show there are almost 18,000 people with work permits; 12,956 people on valid full work permits, and another 4,992 people on valid temporary work permits. It is estimated that about 8,800 people have temporary or annual work permits that are being processed. The make up of the expatriate work force by nationality has changed some since Hurricane Ivan. Jamaican's account for 8,118 permits (down from over 9,000 in September 2004). The next biggest nationality group is Canadian (1,522 - down 22 from 2004). Filipinos now make up the third largest group of work permit holders with 1,339 in total, up 220 from 2004. They are followed by the United Kingdom with 1,262 (down 54 from 2004), the United States with 1,246 (up 38 from 2004), and Honduras with 1,113 (up 91 from 2004).

A popular hotel with divers, Seaview Hotel, is to close. Seaview Hotel was badly damages by Hurricane Ivan and was deemed to be damaged beyond repair. The property has been purchased by an investment company and will be developed as a three–story, 23–unit luxury condominium complex to be called The Seaview Residences. The Residences are likely to be of interest to those working in the financial sector as it is within walking distance of George Town.

Another group has come out against the proposed captive dolphin swim programs. The Cayman Islands Tourism Authority (CITA) has polled it's members and a majority are against the schemes. Furthermore, a paper from the watersports sector of the CITA is urging the Government to put laws in place to prohibit captive dolphin facilities in Cayman. Unfortunately it may be too late. Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford said that any legislation that the Government might introduce with respect to dolphinarium facilities in Cayman could not, as a general principle of law, have retroactive effect. Government has acknowledged that there may be little it can do to stop the attractions. The Department of Agriculture has granted import permits for bottlenose dolphins, planning permission for construction has been agreed and the Water Authority has granted at least one discharge permit. Two separate schemes have planning approval: Dolphin Discovery (Cayman) Ltd. is to be located at the site of the old Turtle Farm in West Bay, as part of Boatswain's Beach (but privately run) and Dolphin Cove Cayman is to be located south of Calypso Grill in Batabano, West Bay, by the North Sound. I've seen one news report that there are three planned dolphin attractions, but haven't been able to get full details on the third operation.
Cayman continues to develop projects to protect Cayman's environment and biodiversity with the official launch of the Cayman Islands Darwin Project funded by a six-figure UK Government grant. Cayman's bid for the US$300,000 Darwin grant had been successful in the face of global competition. There are three elements to the Cayman Islands Darwin Project. The first is the creation of habitat maps for the marine and terrestrial environments using a combination of remote sensing and biological survey techniques. These maps will be used to establish the baseline for measuring future rates of change of habitat types. The second element of the project will aid the development of a biodiversity action plan for the Cayman Islands outlining a specific set of actions that need to be taken to preserve the diversity of life on the Islands. The third element of the Darwin project will be used to provide public education and outreach. A website is being set up for the project at http://www.caymanbiodiversity.com/
It has also been announced that the National Trust's Blue Iguana Recovery Programme has won a grant of £50,000 for the construction of a shrubland education centre at the Blue Iguana captive breeding facility.
As part of continuing conservation efforts, Cayman Turtle Farm has sent 20 of its captive bred farm raised turtles to Sea Life Centres in the UK. Curator for Marine and Research, Catherine Bell, explained the turtles on display in the UK and throughout Europe will promote the "Save Our Seas" programme with the aim to raise 500,000 Euros for the construction of a Sea Turtle Rescue and Wildlife Information Centre on the Greek island of Zakynthos. Zakynthos Island hosts 80 per cent of the nests of Mediterranean loggerhead turtles.
This month also saw Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts tell members of the Legislative Assembly there is a plan to develop agri–tourism in the Cayman Islands. Government plans to make use of facilities at the agricultural pavilion in Lower Valley. The site could be used to demonstrate Cayman cooking and crafting. Visitors could learn how to grow cassava or how to care for cattle. There could be nature programmes about Cayman's wildlife and trees and holiday festivals could be held on the site. From June, the pavilion will host 'Produce Saturdays' where local farmers will offer fresh produce for sale.
The Legislative Assembly has guaranteed the Cayman Turtle Farm Ltd borrowing of US$5 million to complete and open its new facilities by June 2006. The extra money is required because the site development suffered setbacks from two successive seasons of intense hurricanes, including Hurricane Ivan. Originally scheduled to open in January 2006, the project has been hit by an increase in the cost of raw materials, the slow logistical issues of shipment and delivery of material, and the restricted supply of both skilled and unskilled labour. By the June completion date the expanded tourist attraction of the 24 acre Boatswain Beach will feature a 1.3 million gallon snorkel lagoon; a fresh-water themed pool; a predator tank; an education centre; a free-flight aviary; an iguana exhibit; tidal pools; 18 independently operated retail kiosks; a historic Cayman street with local arts and crafts; a number of food and beverage outlets; a nature trail; and the Turtle Farm. The attraction has expectations of attracting 495,000 visitors per year (based on one in every four cruise passengers going to the site). The Turtle Farm has signed agreements with three cruise lines that will offer the Boatswain Beach project as a package. The farm expects each visitor to spend an average of US$55.

Cayman's motor sports park is scheduled to open this Easter. At this stage only a one eighth of a mile drag strip is ready, but it it hoped to extend this to a quarter mile by August. Businessman Robert Campbell is in discussions with big names in the world of US motor sports to help develop the 65-acre site with it's planned 1.2 mile circuit.
Emphasis at the new facility will be on safety and the use of safety gear. From Easter the track will be open daily, with a small admission fee. It will be supervised at all times. Cars will be technically inspected and drivers assessed in their ability to handle cars. Drivers will be expected to wear appropriate safety gear. It is also expected that drivers that have a conviction for speeding in Cayman would not be allowed to use the facilities. For further details contact [email] racecayman@yahoo.com

So far this year there have been eight fatalities in motor accidents. The police are stepping up a campaign to deal with speeding which has been a factor in some of the accidents.

Cayman Airways intends buying Sammy's Airport Inn and will be turned into administrative offices - the airline currently utilises nine separate locations since Hurricane Ivan destroyed it old offices on Owen Roberts Drive. In the interim period until the sale has been completed, the Liquor Licensing Board agreed that the Inn should have its probation lifted. This was imposed last year because of patrons dancing on Sundays, which is against the law in the Cayman Islands.

Tourism statistics for February have been released and are available at http://www.caymanislands.ky/statistics/. There were 25,004 air arrivals, up nearly 4,000 on January 2006. Even though this is an improvement, it is still over 6,000 below the pre-Ivan average for February. There were 180,675 cruise arrivals, down 31,000 on the January 2006 figure, and also below the February figures for 2005 and 2004. Hotels recorded a 71.9% occupancy rate - the highest February figure since 2000 and up from 58.7% in January. Apartments and guest houses reported occupancy rates of 59.7%, up from 43.5% in January.
However, the cruise business hasn't been without it's own problems this month. 240 passengers on board Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas, cruising from Florida to Mexico, Belize and the Grand Cayman Islands fell violently ill when the ship was hit by an outbreak of the Norwalk virus.
Fire broke out on Princess Cruises' Star Princess when on the way to Montego Bay after visiting Grand Cayman. Passengers were called to muster stations One passenger died from a heart attack and eleven passengers were injured 150 cabins were damaged by the fire. The cause of the fire is not know. The rest of the cruise was cancelled and passengers were offered refunds and discounts on their next cruise. The ship has been taken out of service to mid-May to allow for repairs/refit of the damaged cabins.

Robert
gotocayman
 
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Postby larem51 » Thu Apr 06, 2006 8:25 pm

Again,

Thank you, Robert, for the news.
larem51
 
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Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2005 11:53 am
Location: Midwest US

Postby filter14 » Fri Apr 07, 2006 5:06 pm

Yes, thanks Robert for continuing with the updates.
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Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2005 11:09 am
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