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News from Cayman - 2003
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The Ritz-Carlton have signed a contract with Greg Norman Golf Course Design for the design and construction of a nine-hole golf course. It should be completed by next Autumn, along with the rest of the development. Ritz-Carlton have also signed an agreement with La Prairie, the Swiss-based skincare and beauty company, for a full-service luxury spa. The 20,000 square foot spa will feature 17 treatment rooms in an oasis setting designed to de-stress and rejuvenate, and will offer a comprehensive menu of beauty and relaxation treatments. One of their subcontractors, TCC Cayman, has pulled out of the project. There have been reports that some of the Honduran construction workers have been asked to leave their lodgings and return to their home country. In other hotel news, The Hyatt has been sold for $40.75 million. It hasn't been announced who the new owners are, but they are a local company. The hotel opened in 1987 and in under a 20-year management contract to the Hyatt Corporation. When the Hyatt was last on the market, the asking price was $67 million. Two other hotels are publicly on the market; 309-room Marriott Beach Resort and the 278-room Treasure Island Resort, which is operating in receivership.
From 1st January 2004, there are changes in the process for US Nonimmigrant Visa Applications for Cayman Islands Residents. It will now be necessary to complete the new Electronic Visa Application Form (EVAF) online for submission in person or by post. From 1st January 2004 hand-written and typed applications will no longer be accepted from Cayman Islands residents of any nationality. With the adoption of the online form, visa processing should speed up to about two weeks from the current four to six weeks. For further details see http://usembassy.state.gov//kingston/wwwhpr-december-03-03.html
A number of film stars were on the island this month for the World Premier of a new film "The Ideal Husband" that is scheduled for release next year. The thriller stars Tracy Nelson, Michael Riley, Andrea Roth and Michael Calabro who all attended the gala ceremony. Executive producer Louis A. Massicotte, brought the premier to Cayman to help raise funds for the Islands's 2004 Olympic team. Following the premier, a reception was held at the Verandah Restaurant. Guests of Honour included previous Cayman Olympian's and the 2004 team: Andrew Mackay, Kareem Streete-Thompson and Cydonie Mothersill.
Government has published it's Annual Report for 2002. For the first time the report is being published on CD-ROM as well as a printed document. The report is available from the Government Information Service and costs CI$40 for the printed report, or CI$15 for the CD-ROM.
The Department of Tourism (DoT) and the Royal Cayman Islands Police (RCIP) announced that a portion of Harbour Drive would be closed from 8:15 am to 4:15pm during the peak cruise-ship season for the safety of tourists (up to 10,000 cruise passengers arriving!) and residents starting on Monday 15th December. The road would be closed between Goring Avenue and Fort Street. This measure was introduced at very short notice, and caused mayhem and confusion down-town. Even some of the tourist busses and vans had problems getting to the docks to pick up cruise ship passengers. The situation was made worse then the following day the ban was revoked, but then re-introduced on the third day! Some West Bay businesses complained that they had no trade on the days of the road closures, and that is the situation continues, it could force them to close. The Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce joined the protest campaign and after a meeting between the RCIP, Chamber of Commerce, DoT, Public Works Department (PWD) and the Port Improvement and Beautification Committee managed to halt the road closure, as it was having an adverse effect on residents, overnight-stay tourists and businesses. To manage the situation, the RCIP will have six officers to control traffic at pedestrian crossings. The PWD will investigate measures to control pedestrians (extra crossings, railings to stop pedestrians crossing at uncontrolled points), and work on a publicity campaign with the DoT to encourage residents and visitors to use other routes to minimise traffic along Harbour Drive during peak cruise ship hours.
Red Sail Sports continues it's work with the Association Of Handicapped Divers (IAHD), with three instructors completing the Instructor Crossover Course. The course shows instructors how to deal with a wide range of disabilities in the water and the best ways to deal with entry and exits. Children from the Lighthouse School attended to give the instructors hands-on experience with dealing with the disabled. Red Sail Sports are looking at developing a program so that Lighthouse School students continue to benefit from the pool/water therapy sessions.
There will be a new watersport attraction in Cayman in the New Year. Celebrity Cruises are bringing in an extreme 80-foot racing yacht, the former "Lodka Sport" now renamed the "Celebrity Cruise". It will give visitors the opportunity to 'race' to Seven Mile Beach against a similar boat for "Royal Carribean" cruise visitors. The 3.5 hour trip will cost $105 per person, and will take up to 20 guests. Bookings are through the Celebrity Cruise website at http://www.celebrity.com/
One of the Cayman Islands's top law firms, Boxall's, is to merge with Guernsey-based Ogier & Le Masurier. The merger represents the first trans-atlantic merger of offshore firms, and will take effect from 1st February 2004 to create one of the world’s largest offshore practices, with more than 370 lawyers and staff. The Channel Islands practice will continue to operate as Ogier & Le Masurier, but the Cayman business will be known as Ogier & Boxalls. Ironshore Corporate Services Limited, Boxall's administration services ancillary, will become Ogier Fiduciary Services (Cayman) Limited. For more details see http://www.boxalls.com.ky/ and http://www.ogier.com/.
Enron's bankruptcy examiner, Harrison J. Goldin, has criticised the company's auditors KPMG and PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) for turning a blind eye to problems at Enron in relation to two deals that the auditors helped set up in Cayman. LJM Cayman LP and LJM2 Co-Investment LP were set-up by Andrew Fastow, Enron's former chief financial officer, to distort Enron's financial statements. Goldin criticised KPMG for their audits of LJM and that they knew Fastow had benefitted and had "provided substantial assistance to Mr. Fastow in his breaches of his fiduciary duty to Enron". Goldin also concluded that PWC "committed professional malpractice and was grossly negligent" that lead to Enron sustaining "significant monetary damages". It isn't clear how much involvement there was from the Cayman Island's offices of the two firms criticised. Cayman has also been in the news over what is being dubbed the European Enron scandal. Italian food and dairy giant Parmalat admitted a document showing 3.95 billion euros ($4.91 billion) held by Bonlat Financing Corp, a Parmalat unit in the Cayman Islands, had been declared false by the Bank of America. Pamalat are also under investigation for their investment of $600m in Epicurnum, a mutual fund registered in the Cayman Islands. Parmalat is facing bankruptcy in the US and in Italy Parmalat is Italy's eighth-largest industrial group and had revenues of 7.6 billion euros last year from selling juice, milk and biscuits in 30 countries from South America to Asia. Parmalat had a market capitalisation of 1.8 billion euros before the crisis broke, but since then their share price tumbled before being suspended, and their bonds are worth a quarter of their face value. The company's founder, Calisto Tanzi, and two chief financial officers are under investigation. Samuel Bulgin, Cayman's Attorney General, said he would ask the police to investigate the dealings in Cayman. The Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, the tax haven's financial regulator, which oversees about 4,000 mutual funds, said Epicurum was not registered, and therefore not monitored, because it had less than 15 investors.
The ninth annual Parade of Lights took place in the Harbour at the beginning of the month. The event was sponsored by Cayman27, the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and the Department of Tourism, with fireworks provided by CIBC Bank and Trust Company. Seven boats took part, with Sunset Divers winning the first prize of CI$2,000 with their boat the Manta bedecked with a 16ft moray eel, Christmas tree and animated Santa Sleigh pulled by dolphins. Divetech came second, winning CI$1,000 for their boat their Ata Tude decorated as "Candy Land", and Red Sail Sport's Coral Spirit took the third prize of CI$500 for their "Christmas is for Children" theme.
A working party established by the Department of the Environment (DOE) is planning to submit proposals to cabinet to protect the welfare of stingrays at Stingray City and Stingray Sandbar. With about 5,000 visitors visiting daily, the rays have changed significantly from those 'in the wild'. Wild rays are solitary creatures, rarely seen in schools, and tend to forage for food in the evenings and have a distinct breeding season. The rays at Stingray City and Stingray Sandbar are fed almost continuously, and breed all year round. No details of the proposals have bee published, but they are expected to be wide ranging, with possible new legislation early in the New Year.
All spawning areas for Groupers have been closed for fishing for a period of eight years, in a move aimed at preserving stocks for future generations. Some areas of the Caribbean have already seen the Grouper disappear because of over-fishing. Grouper take eight years to reach maturity.
Following the announcement by the US Department of Agriculture of a possible case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), the Cayman Islands Department of Agriculture has placed a temporary ban on the importation of live cattle, goats and sheep and any bone-in meat or processed meat products from these animals from the US. However, fresh (chilled or frozen) boneless meat from these animals will still be allowed.
Another round of granting of status! This time almost 400 people have been granted status by the Cabinet, bringing the total for the year to almost 2,900. The Immigration Board have made grant to another 300 people. Together with a quota of nearly 700 grants under consideration under the new immigration rules that come into force in January 2004, this will bring the figure to nearly 4,000. On top of this, allowing an average of 1.5 dependents per successful applicant, the true figure may be closer to 10,000. There have been protests that some of the people on the Cabinet list no longer live in Cayman, or have only been on the island for a couple of years and that some of the grants smack of nepotism and political gerrymandering. The list includes three judges and the recently appointed Attorney General. The immigration bill and granting of status could be one of the major issues in the elections in 2004.
A new park was opened in George Town just before Christmas. The Neals Godfrey Park, located on Eastern Avenue, Greenwood Drive, next to the Power of Faith Church features a volleyball pit, a half court for basketball, play area and picnic tables.
Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC) and the Cayman Islands Government have reached an agreement on the price rise imposed in August 2003. CUC have agreed to reduce their basic electricity rates by three percent from 1st November 2003. The Government has agreed to cancel it's proposed legal action against CUC. Both parties are entering negotiations on some of the differences, including the duration of CUC's exclusive licence (due to expire in January 2011) and the rate-setting mechanism. They have set a deadline of mid-December 2003 for the completion of these talks.
A virus outbreak on Cable & Wireless' servers in Barbados meant that many businesses were without e-mail access for a couple of days at the start of the month. Cable & Wireless (Cayman) have now moved the e-mail service back onto there servers in Cayman. This has come at a bad time for C&W. The sector has just opened up to competition, and under the deregulation timetable and agreement, C&W's internet prices have increased. However, Cable & Wireless have launched the Hiptop® in Cayman, a a wireless all-in-one device that combines a fully featured mobile phone with a variety of applications, including an HTML Web browser, an embedded email account, AOL Instant Messenger, a personal organiser, games , etc. - viewable on a colour display with full QWERTY keyboard. Cable & Wireless is the first operator to launch a GSM/GPRS network in Cayman. The first of the new Telecomms providers have fallen by the wayside. CayTel has decided not to pursue it's plans to provide services in Cayman, as it felt the size of the market in Cayman couldn't support the number of licences granted. Grand Tel Ltd, (who were in partnership with US-based CellularOne) have also decided not to continue with their license application.
Northwest Airlines ( http://www.nwa.com) have announced a new seasonal daily service between Detroit and Grand Cayman. The service will start on 12th February 2004 and end on 3rd April 2004. Cayman Airways have taken delivery of the Boeing 737-300 that will be used on the Chicago route. The airline has promotional fares on the new route from $319 return for travel from 17th December 2003 to 11th February 2004, but these must be booked by 15th December 2003. For further details see http://www.caymanairways.com The national airline is also launching a twice-daily service to Little Cayman via Cayman Brac on 17th December 2003 using a newly-leased 19-seat Twin Otter (De Havilland DHC-6-300) prop plane. One-way fares are US$75, and one-day round-trip tickets cost US$90.
Cayman will feature in a major film next year. Shooting of 'Haven', a crime drama staring Orlando Bloom, Gabriel Byrne and Bill Paxton, has started in Cayman.
Renowned local artist Gladwyn K Bush, otherwise known as "Miss Lassie", died on Monday 24th November 2003 at her South Sound home. She war born in 1914, and only took up painting at the age of 62 after a spiritual experience. Her "markings" were inspired by her dreams and are mostly biblical based. She was awarded an Member of the British Empire (MBE), and earlier this year was honoured with a Lifetime Achievements Award by the Quincentennial Committee. There is some more information about "Miss Lassie" at http://www.artscayman.org/misslassie/index.html and some samples of her work at http://www.artscayman.org/store/index.html. There is a description by Holly Winter who met "Miss Lassie" in June 2003 at http://www.useless-knowledge.com/columnists/hollywinter/article77.html.
The much publicised Aqua Wedding Ceremony didn't turn out to be quite as popular as the organisers had hoped for. Promoted by the Department of Tourism as part of Cayman's Quincentennial celebrations, only 18 couples donned their wedding and dive gear to take part. With laminated copies of the marriage vows, and underwater slates on which to write, the ceremony was lead by Reverend Lawrence, with his words being relayed to those underwater through a sophisticated stereo system. After champagne, the participants returned to the Hyatt for the official ceremony, as under Caymanian law, the wedding vows have to be uttered to the participants.
A minor fire at the main hospital was put out by the installed sprinkler system, thus saving much greater damage. The fire was started by a patient in the mental health unit, and did about $500 worth of damage to mattresses and bedding. The Fire Service's Fire Prevention Officer is acclaiming the success of the sprinkler (which cost about $30), and which saved the hospital potentially millions of dollars.
The date for Cayman's General Election next year has been leaked as being scheduled for November 17th 2004. It isn't clear if the election will be based on the existing district constituencies, or on single-member constituencies. It had been broadly expected that the election system would move towards a single-member constituency, but the leading United Democratic Party (UDP) now seem to be back pedalling and wanting to maintain the existing scheme for most of the island, but implement the single-member constituencies in the George Town area only.
The United Kingdom has reiterated its position that the Cayman Islands should comply with the European Union's (EU) Directive on Taxation of Savings. In a letter from the UK's Paymaster General, Dawn Primarolo, to the Leader of Government Business, Hon McKeeva Bush, Ms Primarolo warned that the UK may use it's powers to legislate directly for the Cayman Islands. The EU Directive would mean that all EU citizens would be liable to taxes on interest earned in accounts held in other EU countries. If Cayman is forced to comply with the directive, it will mean either having to exchange information with EU member states on their resident's interest income for tax purposes, or a temporary withholding tax until implementing information exchange. In May 2003 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) Court of First Instance ruled that EU could not impose an obligation on Cayman to implement the proposed Directive. In addition, the court ruled that the UK was not legally required as a full member of the EU to impose the directive on the Cayman Islands, but the question of whether the UK could constitutionally impose the Directive on the Cayman Islands via an Order In Council was something that depended on the legal arrangements between the UK and the Islands, and was outside the ECJ's remit. The Leader of Government Business, Hon McKeeva Bush, said that the Cayman Islands Government "will not support anything that will destroy our financial services industry". Cayman would also expect to be recompensed for any lost of business as a consequence of implementing the directive. Further discussions are due to take place between Mr Bush, the Financial Secretary, Hon George McCarthy, and the Paymaster General in December 2003. The Islands are threatening further legal action as Bermuda has escaped the EU net because it was omitted by accident from a list of Crown dependencies!
The Government's plans to build a new tendering dock for cruise ships in West Bay is meeting with some opposition. The planned pier to be constructed at the start of North West Point Road is to be part-funded by the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) (see News for August 2003 below). An anonymous source told Cayman Net News that none of the landowners in the area where the dock is to be built are in favour of the project, or want to give up their land. They are also angry that there has been no information from Government. It may be that the Government would have to compulsory purchase order the required land.
A new public park has been officially opened in North Side. The Jarold Smith Park (named after the 90-year old resident who previously owned the land) is located in Hutland, across from Chisholm market. It has been developed as part of the Government's "Growing Communities" initiative, with backing from the Dart Foundation.
Once again the current discount on stamp duty has been extended, this time to 11th January 2004. The rates are 5% for stamp duty and 50% discount for infrastructure and building permit fees.
The saga of the three Afghans continues. According to Radio Cayman, the men are seeking damages for being illegally detained in Northward prison between August 2000 and May 2001, and again for almost a month after 11th September 2001.
The Cayman Islands Government has established a new Bureau to encourage inwards investment into the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands Investment Bureau is located in the Cayman Corporate Centre in Hospital Road. Satellite offices have been established in London and New York. The Bureau will also help local businesses by making recommendations to Cabinet on how to streamline processes and reduce bureaucracy.
The National Trust for the Cayman Islands is seeking sponsorship for new born Blue Iguanas from it's Blue Iguana Recovery Program. This year has seen 17 hatchings of the endangered reptile at the Botannic Gardens. US$600 will sponsor one animal for a year. Sponsors will receive sponsorship packages and regular newsletters about the progress of their iguana.
The tourism arrival statistics for October 2003 have been released at http://www.caymanislands.ky/statistics/ Stay-over visitors were up at 18,879 from 11,336 in September 2003. This is almost 3,000 below the figure for October 2000, but is up on the same period in 2001 and 2002. The occupancy levels for hotels was 42.7% (up from 33% in September 2003), and for apartments/condos etc was 24.4% (up from 14.1%). To put this in context, pre 9/11 typical hotel occupancy rates for October were averaging 57% and for apartments/condos the equivalent figure was just under 30%. October's increase is not unexpected as it takes into account the extra visitors attracted by Pirate's Week. Cruise ship arrivals continue to rise - 159,589. This is a 40% increase on September 2003. This is also the highest October cruise ship arrivals figure since the new method of calculating the statistics was launched in 2000.
Finally, for the philatelists among you, a little pamphlet on "The History of the Cayman Islands Post Offices" has been privately published, in a strictly limited edition. Not only does it feature the history from the 1890's to the present day of the buildings/locations used, but also the individuals who held positions as Post Master/Mistress or Postal Agents. The booklet is interspersed with reproductions of Cayman Island stamps and franking marks. It is available directly from the publisher, Ivan Burgess. For more details contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
In common with many other airports, security procedures are being tightened at all of Cayman's airports. Checked-in bags will now be X-rayed, and to avoid inconvenience and delay, the Civil Aviation Authority are advising passengers to remove all batteries from any checked-in items and carry the batteries in their hand luggage. United Airlines has announced plans to fly directly from Chicago to Grand Cayman. The weekly Saturday service will run from 20th December 2003 until 24th April 2004. Cayman Airways has announced their winter schedule, which will run from 26th October 2003 to 27th January 2004. Changes include:
- Chicago: Twice weekly non-stop service begins on 17 December.
- Ft. Lauderdale: Additional flights on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday afternoon.
- Havana: The addition of a Wednesday midday flight.
- Tampa: A daily service Thursday to Monday.
- Kingston: The addition of Thursday and Saturday flights during the winter peak period.
- Montego Bay: An additional Tuesday flight.
- Cayman Brac: Five round trip flights a week. The re-introduction of an overnight Wednesday evening flight from Grand Cayman to Cayman Brac with the return to Grand Cayman on Thursday morning.
For further details, check out their web site at http://caymanairways.com/ You know the warnings about not smoking when on board a flight? One passenger from the States ignored the warning and was caught. The pilot of a Cayman Airways flight on the way to Grand Cayman smelled the cigarette smoke, and when he sent a flight attendant to investigate, Kenneth Carroll, 50, emerged from the toilet in a cloud of smoke. He was arrested on arrival, and pleaded guilty in court. He was fined US$937 and ordered to pay his court costs.
The Caribbean Tourism Association, representing 34 countries in the region, is considering a proposal to charge a US$20 tax on each cruise passenger making port calls. In response, the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (representing the major cruise companies) has called the proposals "outrageous".
The long-running saga of the three Afghan asylum seekers may finally have been resolved. The have been granted 'limited leave' to stay, but the Chief Immigration Officer still has powers to review their situation should the position in Afghanistan change. However, the Attorney General has lodged an appeal against the Immigration Appeals' Tribunal on the grounds that they mis-interpreted the 1951 UN Refugee Convention that the Tribunal based it's 'limited leave' decision.
WestStar TV, one of the companies recently granted a licence by the Information, Communications and Technology Agency (ICTA), has announced plans to offer an Internet Service from 1st November 2003, and a local telephone service in 2004. AT&T Wireless have also now received their licence to provide mobile voice and data services from 1st February 2004. AT&T will be installing GPRS Edge Mobile Technology, allowing for mobile roaming from the US and 100 countries around the world. Digicel have also started to recruit and will be offering mobile, fixed wireless and internet services, which are due to start early next year.
The Police are testing a new scheme to improve traffic flows along West Bay Road during the evening rush hour. From 16:30 to around 19:00, traffic travelling south towards George Town is being diverted off by the Galeria Plaza roundabout onto the Harquail Extension. Traffic travelling north from West Bay Road and the Harquail bypass will now have two traffic lanes, merging into a single lane by the roundabout at Galeria Plaza. There will be no north entry onto the Harquail extension. Extra police are on duty to direct traffic. Outside rush-hour times, normal traffic flows will be allowed, with the centre lane on West Bay Road utilised for turning only. The effectiveness of the scheme has yet to be assessed.
If you are thinking of visiting George Town on 16th December 2003 - don't! A record eight cruise ships with over 20,000 cruise ship passengers are scheduled to visit on that day! The latest tourism figures for September have been released. Over 113,000 cruise passengers visited the islands last month - up 63% on the same time last year. Stay-over arrivals were three more than the same time last year at over 11,000. With pressure on President Bush to revoke the travel ban on American's to Cuba, Caribbean tourism destinations are worried that Cuba may attract visitors away from the Cayman Islands and other traditional holiday spots for US tourists. Cuba as a travel destination would be attractive to many Americans as the flight times would be shorter, has a wider variety of attractions and better value for money. The Cayman Islands Tourism Authority are already in discussion with Cuban tourism associations to try to establish a multi-destination tourism packages.
Scientist from University of Michigan Medical School have discovered two mutations in a gene called ATCAY that may explain the neurological disorder known as Cayman ataxia, found nowhere else in the world. This inherited condition leaves sufferers with poor muscle coordination, uncontrollable head and eye movements, difficulty in speaking and walking and some mental retardation. Scientist have known that the condition originated from one of the early settlers to the island. Scientist from the University of Iowa managed to narrow the search to a region of between 50 and 100 genes on one chromosome. Now, after comparing genes in 'jittery' mice showing similar neurological problems, the two mutating genes have been identified. Work is now being carried out my structural biologist to try to understand the associated amino acids, enabling the development of ways to prevent or treat the disorder. For further details see http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-10/uomh-ndi100903.php
A draft of the new Immigration Bill has been issued. One of the major changes will be that residents will have to have been on the island for 8 years before they can apply for Permanent Residency. After a further year they will be able to apply for Naturalisation, and once that has been completed, they can then apply for Status. However, work permits will only tend to be renewed to a limit of seven years, unless your employer decides that you are indispensable and your loss would seriously harm the company or Cayman. This month Government announced that 540 grants of Caymanian Status were made "to mark the Islands' Quincentennial Year". They have also directed the Immigration Board to make Status grants to those that have worked in the country for the past 20 years. This will bring the number of grants of Status to approximately 2,500 applicants over the last two months last month, on top of which 200 more applicants are expected to be approved under the current 10-year residency rule, and 110 applicants under the Naturalisation rules. Allowing for dependents, over 5,000 new citizens will have been granted this year. The whole issue of Status has been a major talking point on the islands over the last few months. There have been rumours that Status has been conferred on some individuals who have overstayed. With so many new citizens, there are concerns that the nature, character, heritage and traditions of the island will be lost or taken over by this large influx of new cultures. Details of the proposed Immigration Bill can be found on the Government web site at http://www.gov.ky/servlet/page?_pageid=2512&_dad=portal30&_schema=PORTAL30&_mode=3
Did you know that the Cayman Islands has the second-highest rate of prison population, only beaten by the USA? For the full list of the top 100 countries with the highest prison population rates, see the web details posted on the web site of the International Centre for Prison Studies at http://www.kcl.ac.uk/depsta/rel/icps/worldbrief/highest_to_lowest_rates.php. I can't get the figures to tally. The population of Cayman is currently under 40,000 and the latest (2001) Government Year Book says the prison can accommodate about 250 (but only had 228 inmates), so at worst this would give Cayman a 'score' of 625, putting them in third place behind the US and Russian Federation.
The Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA) and Royal Cayman Islands Police (RCIP) have warned that counterfeit Cayman Islands currency is in circulation. The forged CI$25, CI$50 and CI$100 notes do not have the turtle watermark or the security thread.
I guess that the news a few months ago that the Marriott had been sold was an early indication of the state of the overnight tourism sector. This month Treasure Island has gone into receivership, owing the Cayman Island's Government in excess of CI$1m in tourist taxes. The receiver hopes to keep the hotel running whilst it is put up for sale. There was also an announcement that the Hyatt was up for sale. Against all this, the Ritz-Carlton has announced plans to develop a marina.
CUC's exclusive license is now under the spot-light. Following a recent 3% hike in their prices, Government is intending to bring forward legislation to open up the sector to competition.
Nine telecommunications licences have been granted by Government, ending Cable & Wireless' monopoly. The new licencees are: Irish Digicel, AT&T Wireless, Cellular One, CaymanTel, Aviation Communications, Blue Sky, GrandTel, Weststar TV and TeleCayman. TeleCayman has said that it expects the cost of long-distance calls to drop by 50% once they have access to the Maya-1 fibre cable. AT&T Wireless has started preliminary work to bring advanced voice and data networking to Cayman, including providing roaming services for visitors from the US and Europe.
The US Department of Homeland Security has postponed the deadline for the introduction of machine-readable passports for visitors to the US to enter under the Visa Waiver scheme. From the new date of 26th October 2004, all visitors to the US must either have a passport with a machine-readable strip, or a visa.
Cayman Airways have finalised plans for their Chicago service. The new twice-weekly service on Wednesdays and Sundays will start on December 17th 2003.
The latest tourism arrivals figures have been published for July and are available at http://www.caymanislands.ky/statistics/. Both air and cruise passengers showed a slight increase over the figures for June, but air arrivals are over 9% down on July 2002, and cruise passengers are over 4% down on the same period last year.
Road widening works by Grand Harbour have completed, with two lanes now travelling eastwards as far as Marina Drive. It is expected that the road widening will improve traffic flows, especially in the evening rush hour.
Unfortunately crime appears to be on the increase. There have been a string of thefts from cars, where rocks or bricks have been used to smash windows to steal valuable s left on car seats. There have also been a number of armed robberies at restaurants,bars and businesses including Cable & Wireless. Seven of the robberies have been committed by team of two suspects, with two committed by a single suspect.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have signed contracts for the expansion of the Gerrard-Smith International Airport Terminal in Cayman Brac. The plans are to expand the arrivals hall with a larger back age reclaim area on the ground floor, with office space on the upper level. The building work is expected to be completed in time for Christmas 2003.
Cayman Airways has been given permission to acquire another Boeing 737. The new jet will be used on their new planned non-stop route to Chicago, starting in December. The airline is also considering new routes to New York, Boston, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Los Angeles. The new jet may also have a first or business class section.
The Cayman Islands Port Authority has signed an agreement with the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA). The agreement will provide a US$26m loan, repayable by the FCCA over 15 years, for the development of new cruise ship facilities in George Town. Construction is expected to last about nine months and due to commence in September 2003. There is still talk about developing cruise ship facilities in West Bay.
Cayman could be in for a rough hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) updated outlook for the current Atlantic hurricane season indicates a 35% chance of a normal-activity season, 5% chance of below-normal and a 60% chance of above-normal activity. Based on this, they are predicting 12-15 tropical storms, with 7-9 becoming hurricanes, and 3-4 becoming major hurricanes. Based on past above-normal hurricane seasons, it is likely that these hurricanes could pose a threat to the United States and/or the Caribbean Islands. For full details of the press release, see http://www.cpc.noaa.gov/products/outlooks/hurricane.html Renowned Hurricane Forecaster, Dr. William Gray, and his team at Colorado State University have predicted above average activity for October, traditionally the most dangerous month for hurricanes for Cayman. They will by updating their predictions at http://tropical.atmos.colostate.edu/forecasts/
July was a fairly quiet month for news! The latest arrival statistics have been issued, and show that June was a better month than May, but still down on previous years. Air arrivals accounted for over 24,000 visitors (just under 10% lower than June 2002), and cruise ship arrivals were over 116,000 (down 4% on 2002). Occupancy levels for hotels were 49.5%, and apartments were 37.3%. Full details can be found at http://www.caymanislands.ky/statistics/.
As part of the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector, 14 firms have letters of intent to the Information, Communications and Technology Agency (ICTA), the body responsible for regulating the industry. Formal applications for licences have to be lodged by 10th August. The firms that have publicly submitted their letters include AT&T Wireless, CaymanTel and Digicel.
The ICTA is now responsible for the .ky domain after the US Department of Commerce officially transferred the administration of the domain to them. This follows an administrative and legal wrangle that has lasted about five years.
Cayman-born Tanya Streeter has taken her ninth world record in the sport of freediving. This time she reached a depth of 400feet (122 Metres) in the "variable ballast" category, descending on a sled and then surfacing using fins only. The following day she set a new record of diving 115 feet (35 metres) without fins in a new category of "constant weight without fins". Tanya currently holds five world records in freediving - diving to depths with only one breath of air.
To celebrate Cayman Airways 35th Anniversary on 7th August, the airline is running another sale with reductions of 35%. Be quick though, as the sale ends on 7th August! For more details see http://caymanairways.com/news/35years.html
A number of counterfeit US$100 bank notes have been reported to the police. The forgeries carry the serial number CB12654556B and have no metal strip and no watermark.
A committee examining beach erosion along Seven Mile Beach has released an interim report. The committee has considered "engineered beach stabilisation structures" but has decided that there is no scientifically proven system. They have proposed "beach nourishment". In this, sand will be mechanically placed in position. Further studies are planned to make recommendations on suitable sand sources, transportation and distribution of the sand, as it is likely that these exercises will not be one-off events, but part of a planned program. Currently it is not envisaged that sand retention devices (groins, breakwaters, etc) will be utilised along Seven Mile Beach. There are also recommendations that the building line allowed should be based on the historic vegetation line, rather than the high-water mark, which can vary enormously from one year to the next. The Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) has warned that continuing erosion along the southern end of Seven Mile Beach is hitting occupancy rates. CITA said that as potential visitors hear about the lack of beach, they are choosing to book with other properties or other destinations. Condo owners who purchased their properties as investments and for short-term rentals are starting to consider their options.
There has been wide coverage in the press on the prospect of the Cayman Islands introducing a lottery. A National Lottery Review committee has already been established, but there is a strong campaign against the introduction of a lottery by the churches. Many argue that there is already illegal gambling on the island in the form of numbers and the many raffles that are run by fundraising organisations. The money raised would be focused on education and other good causes. Others point out that bringing gambling to the islands will bring down the wrath of God, with Cayman at risk of hurricanes, and a possible tsunami should a heavy earthquake occur. My view is that if the islands allow a lottery, they will find if very hard not to allow casinos. West Bay Road already looks like a Florida strip, who wants it to turn into a mini Las Vegas?
An analysis of spending by visitors to the islands conducted by Deloitte & Touche makes interesting reading. Of the estimated US$530m earned from tourism in 2001, 86% of the total was attributable to stay-over visitors, spending an average of US$214 a day. Cruise ship passengers represented 14% or earnings, spending about US$88 per day.
Maritime Trails have been established on Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands to highlight sites of significance in Cayman's maritime history. Each stop on the driving tour is indicated with new Maritime Heritage Trail sings. On Grand Cayman, nineteen locations have been identified, ranging from Rum Point, Pull-and-be-damned Point, Pedro St. James and Wreck of the Ten Sails, to Hog Sty Bay and Old West Bay Historic Anchorage.
Cayman Merchants Association (CMA) are calling for a change in the Customs Duty Laws. They want to see tariffs on consumer goods increased by between 25 and 30 percent, except for those imported by licensed businesses. Currently, individuals pay the same level of duty as businesses, but businesses have their business expenses to pay including licence fees, energy costs, staff health insurance, property insurance and garbage fees, many of which have increased my between 20 and 180 percent in recent years. The CMA believes that a two-tiered duty system would help the local economy by making it less attractive for residents to import their own goods. The CMA has the general backing of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, who last year called for a change to the CI$350 duty-free allowance for returning local residents.
Cayman Airways has announced that it has filed with the Civil Aviation Authority and the US and Jamaican governments to cut its overall fare structure by an average of 30 percent. As approvals are automatic, tickets at the new rates are now on sale. The fare reductions follow on from a series of seat sales, and it is hoped that the reductions will boost visitor numbers to the islands as the new rates may be more affordable.Government and Cable & Wireless (C&W) have agreed a timetable for the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector.
|10th July 2003||Main agreement signed|
Domestic line competition permitted
|1st November 2003||Competitive Internet Service Providers (ISPs) permitted|
Cable & Wireless local calling rates changed to
|1st December 2003||C&W reduce its existing International Direct Dial rates by an average of 40%|
Business line rentals change to CI$30 per month
|1st January 2004||Residential line rentals change to CI$9 per month|
C&W introduces a Light User Scheme
|1st February 2004||Domestic mobile competition permitted|
|1st April 2004||International competition permitted |
Residential line rental rates increase to CI$12 per month
The Dart family will be submitting a planning application for the first phase of their West Indian Club by the end of the year. The 240 acre development site stretches from Seven Mile Beach to North Sound. The first phase, Waterfront Village, will include shops, restaurants, offices, residential apartments and entertainment and will be located to the east of the northern extension of the Harquail bypass - now you know why the road is already landscaped!
Cayman is trying to establish itself as the region's centre for handicapped divers. As part of an initiative between Red Sail Sports and the International Association for Handicapped Divers (IAHD), with sponsorship from Sunset House, the Bank of Butterfield, CUC, the Hyatt and the Department of Tourism, a course was recently held to teach dive instructors how to train people with multiple disabilities. Unlike previous failed initiatives, this time an on-island pro-trainer (able to train other dive masters) has been appointed to continue the training of other dive masters. IAHD intends to make annual visits to Cayman to update the pro-trainer on the latest techniques and developments. It is expected that this initiative will make the islands more attractive to stay-over disabled visitors, and will also help the local handicapped community with new leisure opportunities.
Cayman continues it's tough stance on drugs. Jeffrey Copley was sailing his boat from Trinidad to Texas when he encountered problems with the engine. As he was passing by the islands he sought permission to land to purchase transmission fluid. Having anchored, he borrowed a kayak from a neighbouring boat to land and then went to visit Immigration, who let him do his shopping. When he returned to Immigration, he was sent to Customs, where they informed him they wanted to search his boat. When asked if he had any drugs he replied in the negative. A drug dog discovered a cigarette butt that lead to the discovery of 31 grams (just over an ounce) of ganja. Even though the magistrate accepted that the drugs were for his personal use, under the Misuse of Drugs Act Copley was found guilty of importation of drugs, and therefore his vessel (valued at about US200,000) was forfitted. Copley was also fined CI$1,500.
There appear to be a number of schemes in the offing for a "Swim with the Dolphins" experience in Cayman, even though there are petitions against any captive Dolphin programme being established in Cayman. One firm has already submitted a planning application, but the one with most publicity "The Living Sea Ltd" has been giving details of their scheme. They claim to have spent CI$500,000 locally on feasibility studies, water analysis, buying property, and drafting plans. Their nine acre plot is located just north of Morgan's Harbour and has both sea and canal frontage. They haven't yet submitted any plans, as they are keen to make sure that they can answer any questions they may be asked by the authorities. They are currently giving consideration to issues such as water depth and quality, and even evacuation plans in the event of a hurricane. The Living Sea has been working with the Roatan Institute for Marine Services based in Honduras, which already has a dolphin attraction. The full development cost of the project is in the range $10m to $15m.
The Legislative Assembly has approved the budget for the fiscal year 2003/2004 starting on 1st July. The budget is for an expected government spend of C I$303.6m, whilst earning CI$309.4m, thereby giving a projected surplus of CI$5.7m. Inflation is currently running at 2.4%, with this expected to rise to 2.8% during the year. The growth forecast for the economy is expected to grow to 2.3%, up from 1.2% in 2001/2002 and 0.6% in 2000/2001.
Other bits and pieces: All of the airports in Cayman are now no smoking zones It you are visiting Cayman via the US, note that from October 2003, your passport must be machine to be able to enter the US under the visa-waiver scheme. Note that children will no longer be allowed to enter when they are listed on an adult's passport - they will need to have their own passport. For more details, check out http://travel.state.gov/vwp.html.
The highlight of the month were the some of the Quinncentennial celebrations. Prince Edward unveiled a monument to the teachers, doctors and activists who have contributed to the island's history over the last 500 years, and was also present for the first Seafarer's Festival. The regatta featured sailboats of all sizes from tiny dinghies to racing yachts and multi-hulled boats.
The Executive Council approved $30m funding for further improvements to the Turtle Farm. The next phase of the redevelopment due to start in July and finish in 2004 will relocate the rest of the current facilities to the new site across the road. To make the site more attractive, the new facility will include tropical landscaping, an aviary, a snack bar, an improved gift shop, as well as an Education Pavilion featuring computer terminals with interactive displays. The Turtle Farm Managing Director, Kenneth Hydes said the new pavilion "... will contain everything from basic information to scientific studies." Phase Three will also feature a revamping of the turtle husbandry facilities, including a new hatchery, wet and dry labs, and holding tanks with better water flow.
Future development plans include expanding the Turtle Farm into a marine theme park, including a snorkel lagoon, stingray tank, a shark/predator tank as well as a river ride where visitors will use inner tubes to ride through a fast flowing water channel. "Blue Hole", a cave system on the site, will also be enhanced/featured in the attraction.
Continental Airlines launched their new route from Houston to Grand Cayman. Flights will be on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The Marriott has now been sold. Previously owned by the current owners of the Westin and the Holiday Inn, part of the reason for the sale was the low occupancy rates and severe beach erosion. Cayman Islands Hotel, which is owned by the LaSalle Bank (the forage mortgage holder) has given the management contract to PCI Managment Ltd. Willy Giger, General Manager of the Marriott, said that the resort would hour existing commitments and was committed to expanding the services to guests under the Marriott franchise.
For the philatelists among you, a new set of stamps has been issued. These feature children's games of old played in Cayman. The 15-cent stamp features skipping and the 20-cent stamp depicts maypole dancing. The 25-cent stamp shows a gig, a peg top spun by winding cord around the top and throwing it. Hopscotch is featured on the 30-cent stamp. The CI$1 stamp features marbles. The issue of stamps appears to have sparked interest in some of these older games. Gigs are the latest school fad, but the toy shops have run out of these tops, so if you are visiting the island to see friends with young children you could win lots of young friends by taking some with you!
Are you engaged and wanting to get married under water? To coincide with the quincentennial celebrations, the Cayman Islands Tourist board are trying to find 500 couples to get married or renew their wedding vows in the largest underwater ceremony (thereby gaining entry into the Guiness Book of Records). For further details see http://www.caymanislands.ky/aqua_vow/
From the beginning of the month the Holiday Inn has started to offer an all-inclusive package. The package will include all meals and drinks with the exception of premium brand spirits, as well as non-motorized water sports activities.
More news about the Afghan refugees that have been held on Grand Cayman since August 2000. Part of the problem has been that the Cayman Islands didn't have any legislation to cover the case of those seeking political asylum. New rules that will cover the procedures, appeals etc, have now been approved. Acting Attorney General Sam Bulgin added that one of the reasons for the delay in processing their application was the lack of information about how they arrived on the island and their true identity. A date to consider their appeal is expected soon.
With the continuing fears about SARS, a Public Health Department official will be at Owen Roberts airport to assist immigration staff when any Air Canada flights from Toronto arrive. So far the islands have are SARS free.
Planning permission for the construction of a marine research institute on Little Cayman to be run by The Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) has been given. Ground breaking is due to start on 10th May 2003. No final date has yet to be set as many of the tenders have still to be finalised and issued. CCMI hope to make use of local contractors for the project.
The Turtle Farm has come up with a new logo to coincide with it's 35th Anniversary, but for some strange reason it doesn't yet feature on it's web site!
Created by Tower Marketing and Eyewaves Design, the colours are meant to represent the beautiful skies and clear waters of the Cayman Islands.
The tourism industry has taken another knock with the war. Staff at the Marriott Beach Resort have recently had their weekly working hours as much as 25%. Speculation is building that more drastic measures are on the cards the the low (summer) season. The hotel has experienced severe beach erosion and a significant reduction in occupancy over the past year.
King Carl XVI Gustaf, the King of Sweden, visited Grand Cayman towards the end of the month in his capacity as honorary president of the World Scout Foundation. His visit was part of the 46th World Baden Powell Fellowship Event and was hosted by the Cayman Islands Scouting Association.
Construction work has started on the expansion of the George Town library. When completed it will triple the current library's space.
After much pressure, the British-appointed Attorney General, David Ballantyne, has resigned, having agreed a GBP230,000 (Approx US$330,000) pay-of. His position became untenable after the collapse of the Euro Bank trial, when it was discovered that Mr Ballantyne endorsed to use of "agents of the UK government". Politicians and law officers had refused to work with Ballantyne following the disclosure of his involvement in the case.
Plans have been announced for the construction of a pier and loading facilities for cruise ships in the West Bay area. With estimated costs of between $5m and $8m, construction could start later this year, with a target completion date of the end of 2004. The new dock will be located near the start of the road leading to the Turtle Farm. Even though the project will include a 700' finger pier, cruise ships will still have to tender passengers to shore as the water isn't deep enough to allow ships with a draught of 50' to 60' to dock.
There is a new tourist attraction on Grand Cayman. The recently opened Butterfly Farm, located across the road from the Marquee Cinema Complex, has over 50 different species from all around the world.
The Hon. Roy Bodden, Minister for Education Human Resources and Culture, has announced final details of the proposed new Employment Law. Highlights of the legislation include: the Civil Service will now be included in the scope of the 2003 Employment Law all employees will be entitled to written contracts maternity and paternity benefits increased the establishment of a Minimum Wage Advisory Committee pay statements to include employer details, name and payroll number of the employee, gross earnings for the period, all deductions and reasons for deductions, net pay after deductions and dates for which pay is tendered to be given to all employees at each pay date extended powers for the Employment Tribunal to handle any employment-related complaint The Green Paper for the new Employment Law is expected to be released next month.
The fall-out of the Euro Bank trial continues! A full transcript of the Chief Justices ruling is now available at http://www.quinhampson.com.ky/pdf/LegalUpdateEuroBank.pdf The Cayman Islands Government believe that the UK should pay the trial costs (currently estimated at ($25m - $30m). A motion of no confidence in the Attorney General was passed in the Legislative Assembly, though the Attorney General cannot be constitutionally removed by the Government. The AG issued a statement on the 14th February to defend his position. Baroness Amos, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister with Responsibility for the Overseas Territories, visited the island for a day. Topics discussed included the ending of the Euro Bank trial and the relationship between the Cayman Islands and UK Governments. She said that she thought the British government was "not at all" responsible for the collapse of the Euro Bank trial. When questioned about the Attorney General she also said "I think we have agreed on a way forward", but refused to give further details. Following her visit, the Leader of Government Business, the Honourable McKeeva Bush , has demanded that Brian Gibbs, (thought to be in hiding in the UK), should be extradited back to the islands and stand trial for his actions. Mr Bush said "A great wrong has been committed in this country. We have called on Mr Gibbs to be extradited to the Cayman Islands and for him to stand trial for the crimes committed against these islands."
Baroness Amos also delivered copies of the draft Cayman Islands constitution for further discussion.
Cayman Airways has announced that it will start flying to Fort Lauderdale International airport from April 6th. The non-stop flights will be in the morning on the Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday, with the Saturday flight departing in the afternoon. Cayman Airways is offering an introductory price of $169 round trip for travel originating in the month of April. See http://www.caymanairways.com/ for more details.
The Marriott are claiming a success with the "Reef Balls" placed before Christmas. They now have about 30 feet of beach - a vast improvement as before the work started the hotel had no beach at all!
Cydonie Mothersill of the Cayman Islands has been doing well in some athletic indoor championships in Europe, taking third place in the women's 60m race at Lievin, France, and taking first place in the women's 200m at the Norwich Union indoor meet in Birmingham, England.
The main news item of the month has to be the collapse of the Euro Bank trial. On 14th January, the Chief Justice, Mr. Anthony Smellie, instructed the jury to return "Not guilty" verdicts against and all four defendants – bankers Donald Stewart, Brian Cunha, Ivan Burges and Judith Donegan – of all charges. This followed after the Attorney General, Mr. David Ballantyne, had indicated that no more evidence brought in the case.
The trial followed a three-year investigation into the collapse of the Euro Bank Corporation, which was suspected of laundering money for organised crime in the US. The defendants, all former bank employees, were alleged to have aided a Californian conman who staged at £15m credit card fraud.
The trial started in June last year, in a purpose-built computerised court room costing nearly CI$300,000. Much of the last month of the trial had been held "in camera" (without the jury present) whilst legal arguments were presented. The judge became worried that his telephone was being bugged, although he had no evidence to back this up.
Brian Gibbs, a former Scotland Yard detective, and director of the Cayman Island's Financial Reporting Unit (FRU) since 1990, was responsible for preparing much of the evidence for court. During the trial, it emerged that Gibbs had sent some documentation to London to MI6 (the UK equivalent of the CIA). He had been one of theer agents since 1991, reporting suspicious transactions to them for a salary of £1,000 per month. When the defence requested to see some of the documents that Gibbs had sent to London, MI6 blocked the request (without the judge's knowledge). This decision was endorsed by David Ballantyne, and it was agreed after a meeting between Balante, Gibbs and MI6 that any material released would be made to look as if it had been in the FRU's files all along. During the trial a witness, Edward Warwick, made some comments about meetings/conversations he had had with Gibbs. The upshot was that the Chief Justice ordered Gibbs to make a statement. Gibbs was then cross examined by the defence attorneys, and four statements and several days later the "truth" slowly emerged.
Gibb's London controller discovered that the Cayman Islands police were going to search Gibb's home to investigate Smellie's bugging allegations and ordered Gibbs to destroy any paper work he may have had that would reveal his London connection.
During the trial a witness, Edward Warwick, made some comments about meetings/conversations he had had with Gibbs. The upshot was that the Chief Justice ordered Gibbs to make a statement. Gibbs was then cross examined by the defence attorneys, and four statements and several days later the "truth" slowly emerged.
The Chief Justice made his ruling in a 47-page report in which he said Gibbs "deliberately failed to disclose and destroyed evidence which he knew to be highly relevant to the trial."
The director of the FRU has now resigned and left the islands because, as the Governor Mr. Bruce Dinwiddy explained, "because of a potential risk to his personal safety". This has lead to the Leader of Government Business, McKeeva Bush, to retort "the statement that Mr. Gibbs' personal safety was ever at risk in the Cayman Islands is completely untrue in addition to being unwarranted and highly irresponsible in respect of the reputation of this country." There are calls for the Attorney General to be sacked, and for an investigation into the way FRU and Attorney General's offices are run. The Cayman Islands government was ordered to pay the court costs of the defendants, so far totalling over CI$2.3m.
A full copy of the Chief Justices FINDINGS OF FACT ON THE ABUSE OF PROCESS APPLICATION is available at http://www.offshorebusiness.com/KYC/Documents/jan1403eurobankabuseofprocess.htm.
The four defendants are now enjoying their freedom. For the last three-and-a-half years they have been banned from leaving the island, going any where near the airport (even to meet friends), or even take a boat ride. Even a tennis tournament that took place during the downpour (see below) didn't dampen the spirits of the defendants and supporters during the celebrations!
Continental Airlines has announced that it plans to start flights from it's Houston hub to Grand Cayman on 2nd May 2003. There will be four flight a week, on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Cayman has had a very wet January, with over nine inches of rain falling in one six-hour spell, leading to widespread flooding and damage to homes and property. As this happened out of the hurricane season, there were no long-term advanced warnings and so there was little preparation for the bad weather.