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News from Cayman - May 2006

Travel & news discussion about the Cayman Islands

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News from Cayman - May 2006

Postby gotocayman » Tue Jun 13, 2006 3:56 pm

As the second anniversary of Hurricane Ivan approaches, the National Recovery Fund is still campaigning for donations. When it was established in September 2004, it set itself a target to raise CI$15 million, believing this to be the monies required to cover the majority of the island's rebuilding. So far the fund has been responsible for the rehabilitation of the homes of 800 families. However, to date the fund has only raised CI$10 million. At least another 130 families are still in need of assistance, many of them requiring major and costly repairs or rebuilds to their homes.
The damage caused by Hurricane Ivan was widespread. 13,535 houses (83% of the housing stock) were severely damaged. The value of this damage has been estimates at CI$1.4 billion.
Information on the Fund and how to donate is on their website at http://www.caymanrecovery.ky/
Pedro St James Castle has finally reopened after being wrecked by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004. The Cayman Islands Tourism Attractions Board has overseen a CI$1.3 million renovation of the property including landscaping. CI$1 million came from insurance claims, with the remainder being paid by the Department of Tourism. Several new attractions have been added to the site, including a memorial to Hurricane Ivan made from stones washed up by the storm and wood from a tamarind tree that was blown down. The memorial has 12 stones placed in a circle (to represent the day of the storm), nine chairs (to represent the month) and four tables (to represent the year).
With the hurricane season about to start, here is the list of names to look forward to this year: Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sandy, Tony, Valerie and William. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has updated it's predictions for this season and are predicting a very active season. "For the 2006 north Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA is predicting 13 to 16 named storms, with eight to 10 becoming hurricanes, of which four to six could become 'major' hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher," explained retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. For the full press release see http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2006/s2634.htm

Cayman Airways have announced that they will retire one of their Boeing 737-200 planes in March 2007, reducing the number of their jets from five to four. President and CEO of Cayman Airways Mike Adam explained that the plane is scheduled to have a 'D' check in March - this safety check entails taking the whole plane apart for detailed inspection. Given the high cost of the work, it has been decided to sell the plane. The sale shouldn't have an impact on the routes or services that the airline provides; it's schedule is based around a fleet of four planes.

The Auditor General, Dan Duguay, has published a critical report on the construction of the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal. Criticism include: no project implementation strategy, flawed contractor selection process, overcharging by the main contractors (Misener Marine Corporation and Hurl stone Ltd), design and changes not properly authorized, lack of legal counsel on the contract, poor governance, etc. Duguay concludes that the the project could have been completed for at least CI $4.2 million less than the final project amount, which is estimated to be CI $18.5 million when completed. The terminal is due for completion this summer. The full 60-page report is available at http://www.gov.ky/pls/portal/url/item/1 ... 030B0AD07A
The Burns Conolly Group Limited, responsible for project managing the work have refuted main of the report's conclusions. Their press release stated: "The report, in the opinion of the Burns Conolly Group, contains numerous inaccuracies, assumptions and conclusions that do not appear to have been based on the full facts and circumstances surrounding this project". It also said "Regarding payments under the contracts, all were only made after approval by an independent Quantity Surveyor acting on behalf of both lending banks and the Port Authority,". "Any suggestion that this process allowed the contractors to overcharge for works is grossly misleading and inaccurate". Hurlston Ltd, one of the main contractors in the project also issued a press release: "The Special Report and subsequent public comment have created in the eyes of the public the impression that Hurlston Ltd. overcharged for the upland portion of the work". The press release continues that Hurlston were rewarded the contract after "a very rigorous and extensive tender and evaluation process". The press release concludes "In the opinion of Hurlston Ltd., it is most unfortunate that a good project, so important to the Cayman Islands, has been so unfairly criticised and politicised by a process that supposedly is intended to offer a fair and balanced review".
In response to these press releases, Auditor General Dan Duguay said he would not apologising to Burns Conolly Group Ltd or withdrawing the report. "There is no provision or mechanism to withdraw the report, and even if we did have the mechanism, I would not be withdrawing the report, because I feel it is fair and balanced". Burns Conolly Group had threatened to sue over the report, but Duguay replied "any lawsuit will be vigorously defended with all the resources we have because we feel it is a fair report". With regard to the press release from Hurlston Ltd, Duguay responded "my complaints are not with Hurlston. The Port Authority picked a contractor that was higher than the lowest bidder and did not explain why. We’re not saying that they had to take the lowest bidder, but if they were going to take a higher bidder, they should say why so that everyone can be sure there was value for money. My question is to the Port Authority is why did they take Hurlston’s bid when there was a lower bidder".

More cruise-related news. The latest tourism statistics are at http://www.caymanislands.ky/statistics/. There were 28,403 stay-over visitors in April (down about 3,000 on March 2006), but up almost 13,000 on the same time last year. Cruise passengers were also down in April by over 70,000 to 182,790. However this is over 16,000 up on the figure for April 2005.

Another gay cruise visited Grand Cayman at the end of the month. Carnival Cruises’ Inspiration was running a "Gay Days" cruise. The ship can carry 2,634 passengers.

Tourism Minister Charles Clifford has announced that the government will begin to enforce a policy of allowing a maximum of 9,200 cruise passengers a day by the end of this year. However, there may still be some days where this level is exceeded as some cruise companies make booking up to two years in advance. Existing bookings would be honoured.

Work on a palm garden has started at the Botanic Park. The garden will showcase palms from all around the world including Buccaneer Palm (Dominican Republic), the Zombie Palm (Haiti) and the Variegated Christmas Palm (Vanuatu). The palms will be planted to augment the local plants (Silver Thatch, Bull Thatch and Cuban Royal Palms). Work is also taking place at the park on a Heritage Garden and the Rankin House, an old style Caymanian house. Mr. Tennyson Bodden, a local craftsman specialising in old crafts, has been working on wattling on the cookhouse and re–thatched the roof and built a hut in the area used for growing crops.
Future plans for the park include a children’s educational garden, orchid garden, cactus and succulents garden, biblical garden and a bird watching tower.

Government has announced tax measures to raise CI$23.3 million for the year 2006–07. The bulk of the revenue (CI$17,7 million) will come from raising stamp duty on real estate (but not above pre 9/11 levels), raising the building permit fees and infrastructure fund fees, and increases in work permit fees and other general revenue fees. Postal rates are to increase: local postage rates are proposed to increase from 15 cents to 25 cents. Basic international rates are proposed to increase from 30 cents to 75 cents for International Group A (which includes the US); from 40 cents to 80 cents in International Group B (which includes the UK); and from 60 cents to CI$1 in International Group C.
Stamp duty will be six percent of the purchase price for non-Caymanians and companies and four percent for Caymanians. However, for both groups the duty will be 7.5 percent for those properties located along the West Bay Road corridor and in certain parts of George Town.
Work permit fee increases include executive secretaries (up from CI$1,650 to CI$2,500); professional managers (from CI$4,950 to CI$7,500); professional managers in tourism (from CI$4,070 to CI$6,000); skilled construction workers (from CI$1,210 to CI$1,500); and unskilled construction workers (from CI$275 to CI$375). The work permit fees for domestic, manual and unskilled labourers stays unchanged at CI$150.
There are also increases in the licence fees for boats over 18 foot long, and for jet-skis (up from CI$100 to CI$200 for private use).
The Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson's paper to the Legislative Assembly "A Key to Success: Responsible Financial Management" that has the full details of the proposed changes is available at http://www.gov.ky/portal/page?_pageid=1 ... ema=PORTAL. You can also see the text of the speech by the Leader of Government Business, Hon. Kurt Tibbetts entitled "Keys to our Future: Leadership, Compassion, Prudence and Vision" which outlines how the budget is to be spent at http://www.caymanchamber.ky/press/LOGBB ... 062007.pdf

The existing Immigration Law and Regulations are currently under review, but given the concern that has been expressed by some sectors of the economy at the problem the seven year limit to work permit causes, Mr. Tibbetts gave some indications of the changes that may be included in a new law. Speaking in the Legislative Assembly he said: "the Government recognises that the policy must be measured in its application so as to ensure that we continue to enjoy the economic prosperity for which these islands are well known." "...steps must be taken to ensure that employers continue to have access to sufficient expertise and manpower in order to have business continuity." "Although we intend to retain the current procedure that allows for individual applications for exemption to be made to the relevant boards, the Government has taken the decision to create a more robust tool to address this concern by creating a new provision that would vest in the Governor in Cabinet the power to designate particular categories of employees in particular industries or sectors of the economy as exempted". He explained that this would allow Government to respond to changes in local and global employment markets by adding/removing categories as required. He also said that the issue of acquiring residence needs to be addressed; "... unless there is some meaningful correlation between exempting and acquiring permanent residence, few employers will be able to recruit the calibre of individual needed to fill vacancies in their workforce".

A brush fire in the East End that had been burning for more that a week threatened the Salinas Reserve, which is home to numerous species of native wildlife, including the Cayman Blue Iguana. The Mosquito Research and Control Unit spray plane was utilised to fight the fire, dumping eleven loads of fresh water to douse the area.

Next time you visit Cayman you may have your papers scanned electronically and have your photo taken. Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson said that the equipment should be installed in he next few months. After discussion with other BritiSh Overseas Territories, the immigration service has decided not to fingerprint visitors and only scan machine-readable passports and take digital photos. The installation of the equipment will help the Immigration Department move to a paperless environment.

Nautilus Cayman Ltd has been awarded the annual Princess Cruises' "Tour of the Season" Award for its Undersea and Reef Snorkel Tour for the second year in a row.

Caribbean Utilities Company Ltd (CUC) has placed an order with MAN B&W Diesel AG of Germany, for the purchase and installation of a 16 MegaWatt diesel–generator and auxiliary equipment. The new equipment will be installed at CUC's North Sound plant and will be commissioned in summer 2007. The project cost will cost about US$18.4 million. Richard Hew, CUC President and Chief Executive Officer, said "It is quite apparent that residential and commercial development on Grand Cayman is continuing to grow at an impressive pace. This growth has presented us with a significant challenge to restore generating capacity in time for this summer's peak demand, which is expected to surpass the pre–hurricane level of 85 MW. Additionally, with many residences and commercial buildings under construction and expecting service within a year beyond this summer, our 2007 generation expansion is necessary to enable us to meet new demand and continue to serve our existing customers reliably".

President of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association Karie Bergstrom announced that stiffer penalties and enforcement are to be implemented on tourist accommodation not in compliance with licensing regulations. Ms. Bergstrom said that there were several loopholes in the 1974 Tourism Law that were to be tightened up. These include owners of condos operating their own rental business without the apartment being licensed as tourist accommodation. Licenced accommodation is inspected on a regular basis and issues including health, safety and fire are checked. Inspections are carried out by the Department of Tourism, Department of Environmental Health and the Fire Department to ensure that Cayman offers a quality product to visitors. Ms. Bergstrom pointed out that 64% of visitors to the Cayman Islands are repeat visitors and word of mouth was one of the best marketing tools, so inspections and licensing are important.

Who would think that sand could be so expensive! Last October there was a shortage of sand on the island. Anthony Watler needed some building work carried out on his property damaged by Hurricane Ivan, especially as the Planning Department had served a notice on him to take down his temporary accommodation. So Watler hired Horace Reid to help build and repair his house. When they couldn't find the sand they needed, they drove their truck to the beach and took the sand from a pile on the other side of the road to the beach. The sand they took was valued at CI$46. Under laws to protect the marine environment, it is offence to remove sand from the shoreline, but the shoreline is 500 feet wide and so can cross a public highway. Watler and Reid were each fined CI$250 for removing the sand without the written permission of the Central Planning Authority. Watler was fined a further CI$500 for not complying with the Planning Department enforcement notice and Reid was fined a further CI$2,330 for driving without a licence, without insurance and without registration and warned that if caught again for driving without a license or insurance he would be locked up. Total bill for the sand: CI$3,330.

The Harquil Bypass/Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension from the Hyatt Regency Hotel to the Courtyard Marriott Hotel is now scheduled to be completed by the end of July 2006. The project relies on a road bridge (apparently the first to be built in Cayman) over the canal at the Ritz–Carlton. The construction of the bridge is the responsibility of the Ritz-Carlton, who will hand it over to Government (in effect the National Roads Authority) who is responsible for building the 1.6 miles of road. However, by the end of June other elements of the project will have been completed; two lanes from the Hyatt to Palm Heights, four lanes from Palm Heights to the Ritz–Carlton, four lanes from the Ritz–Carlton to the Courtyard Marriott, and the reconfiguration of the Governor's Harbour roundabout.

The Conch Shell House, a popular tourist attraction, has been purchased by George and Susan Craig. The Craigs are using the front of the house as a showroom of their new business, BlueEyes Granite, offering travertine floors, granite countertops as well as installation services. The rest of the house has been donated to Cayman HospiceCare that offers palliative care to the community.

The visible work on the Owen-Roberts Airport expansion project could begin soon. Phase 1 will include the expansion of the parking lot and improvements to the roads system could start by 1st July. The tender for the main part of the construction should go out in the autumn. The aims of the expansion project include passenger boarding bridges, separate international and domestic passengers, separate arriving and departing passengers, increased retail space and the ability to handle larger aircraft. It is hoped that the whole project will be completed by October 2008.

Robert
gotocayman
 
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Joined: Sun Dec 11, 2005 4:34 pm

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