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News from Cayman - 2006
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The Cayman Islands Monetary Authority's Year in Review (1st July 2005 - 30th June 2006) has been published and is downloadable (in Adobe .PDF format) from their Web site at http://www.cimoney.com.ky/uploadedFiles/Publications/Speeches/2005-06YearInReviewFINAL.pdf
The report records that during the 2005-06 fiscal year the number of active mutual funds regulated by the Authority grew by 20 percent to 7,845 funds at 30 June. Captive insurance licences (held by entities writing non-domestic business only) increased four percent to 737. In the banking sector, while the total number of banking and trust licences declined by six percent (19 licensees) to 296, due mainly to continuing consolidations worldwide, the assets and liabilities of licensees continued to increase. Total international assets booked through banks in the Cayman Islands stood at US$1,413 billion at 30 June this year, a 12 percent increase over the same date last year. Liabilities at 30 June totalled US$1,373 billion, a 10 percent increase over 30 June 2005.
The Authority collected a total of $54 million in licensing fees on behalf of the Government as at 30 June 2006, compared to $47 million for the previous fiscal year. Total income for 2005-06 was $17.5 million and expenses totalled $11.7 million, resulting in a net income of $5.8 million. This compares to a net income of $2.4 million for fiscal year 2004-05.
The Year in Review notes CIMA's cross-border assistance and involvement on regulatory issues, including the processing of over 100 requests for assistance from overseas regulatory authorities and the negotiation of memoranda of understanding and other information exchange agreements with authorities in Canada, Brazil and the USA.
The Immigration Department has opened a new call centre to deal with questions about work permits, residency applications etc. The number to call is (345) 949 8344.
More than 18 months after it was built, Cayman's first modern abatoir has opened near the Department of Agriculture in Lower Valley.
Although the facility has stood since April 2005, structural problems with the interior walls and floors demanded a retrofit which delayed normal operations until September 2006. Since that time the department has successfully processed a number of animals as part of their pre-opening evaluations.
In his remarks at the official opening, Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts acknowledged those farmers who continue to engage in traditional practices of meat processing especially during the "Christmas beef" season. He assured them that government would not outlaw their tradition of slaughtering "under the tree" but this practice could only continue for private consumption. With the abattoir now open to the public, all meats sold through supermarkets and restaurants, must be processed through the new plant and inspected by the Department of Environmental Health.
Mr Tibbetts, an avid chef, welcomed a new era of sanitary and hygienic meat processing. "I believe that given the opportunity to observe the professional operation of this facility, most farmers will understand why it's necessary to aspire to these high standards." "In today's world, consumer confidence is paramount in the sale of food products, particularly meats. This abattoir will ensure a high level of food safety and hygiene and allow us to promote and sell our meat products with a level of confidence and certification never before possible."
Recognizing that the timeline for the abattoir project extends back over twenty years, Mr Tibbetts acknowledged the contributions of Melbourne Watler and his family who donated the land on which the abattoir stands, and former Minister of Agriculture, Gilbert McLean whose administration built the abattoir.
A change in the law now allows for 'Alternative Sentencing'. Alternative Sentencing aims to allow an offender to live as normal a life as possible, while ensuring compliance with a Court Order. The new legislation provides a wider range of options in ensuring that offenders are punished but allows judges and magistrates latitude to take account of individual circumstances in the context of rehabilitation. "We recognize that it is incumbent on Government to ensure that persons who are involved in criminal activities are not simply convicted and warehoused somewhere at Northward without hope," the Attorney General, the Hon. Samuel Bulgin, QC, said.
Alternative sentencing will be less expensive than incarceration of prisoners, the Attorney General said. He noted that it costs $53,000 a year to keep one person in prison for a year. In contrast, the use of electronic monitoring, which will be an important new tool in the alternative sentencing basked, allows an offender to live as nearly as possible a normal life, ensures compliance with an appropriate Court Order, and costs much less.
"We have seen comparisons which state that three months of an electronically monitored curfew are nearly five times cheaper than three months in custody," the Attorney General explained. UK statistics show that, on an average, it costs £1,300 to monitor an offender who has been released from prison on Home Detention Curfew for 90 days compared to £6,500 for the same period in custody.
Amendments to the Prison Law are expected to follow shortly to modify sentences that result in prison time for less serious offences. These changes will allow subjects to be initially imprisoned but will enable an early release, upon the condition that the offenders concerned can be monitored electronically to see if they can comply with the conditions prescribed for the remaining period of the sentence.
In addition to electronic monitoring, a number of other sentencing tools become available to the judiciary with the introduction of the new law. These include:
- Curfew orders - these prescribe the times that the sentenced offender has to remain confined in certain specified places;
- Intermittent sentences -- these are conditional sentences and suspended sentence supervision orders, all of which can enable the sentenced person to spend a part or all of his sentence living in the community;
- Exclusion orders - these can specify places that the offender has to stay away from;
- Community orders - these are the means by which an offender has a chance to make reparation to the community for his or her crimes.
New and innovative concepts that the law proffers to the judiciary now include:
- Restitution Centres - these are special imprisonment domains where the offenders can work and use their prison earnings to compensate their victims;
- Fine Option Programmes - these allow the subject to work, imprisoned or not, with the option of applying the resulting payments to the fine the offender is sentenced to pay; and
- Victim Impact Statements - these are made by either the victim or the prosecution and may be taken into consideration by the court before pronouncing sentence.
Amendments revising the Immigration Law (2006 Revision) came into force on Thursday 21 December.
The 59-page law contains a number of changes to the existing Immigration Law, 2003. The areas of the law that attracted the changes included work-permit term limits, permanent residency, a new category of "key employees" and the ability of the Chief Immigration Officer to grant Caymanian Status to certain categories of applicants.
A number of amendments to the draft bill that was tabled on 13 September in the House resulted from public input to the discussion draft, the Leader of Government Business, the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts, said. Amendments also resulted from glitches identified over the past three months as well as improvements considered necessary by the Cabinet Committee on Immigration Review.
Explaining the need for speed in passing the bill into law before the end of 2006, Mr. Tibbetts noted that a number of important amendments that would benefit employers and employees are closely linked to the fixed term work permit provisions and the fact that a large number of persons are rapidly reaching the end of their term limit. With the revised law coming into effect quickly, there would be the opportunity of applying for key employee status. "One of the fundamental intentions behind the amendments to the law is to provide certainty for employers and employees". A delayed implementation of the revised law would run contrary to this intention, Mr. Tibbetts commented.
A copy of the revised law can be downloaded from http://www.gazettes.gov.ky/pls/portal30/docs/Folder/SITE83/GAZETTES/ES2006/ES272006.PDF
The Chief Immigration Officer has decided to grant three Afghan asylum-seekers, who arrived in 2000, exceptional leave to remain in the Cayman Islands, the Chief Secretary, the Hon. George McCarthy, said. The immigration status now granted means the individuals will be free to accept gainful employment, subject to being granted work permits, thereby achieving self-sufficiency. The three men, who have received Afghani passports from the Afghan Consulate in New York, will also be free to leave Cayman using their passports.
Government has so far spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars to support the three men. Investigating Immigration officers believed they arrived in Grand Cayman from Cuba by air on 20 August 2000 on fake Pakistani passports. They had claimed at that time they had travelled from Turkey by boat intending to reach Canada where they planned to seek refugee status. They were detained on 22 August 2000 at the house of a local resident. The three sought refugee status in December 2000. In June 2001, they won an appeal to the Grand Court against being kept in custody while their applications were being processed.
In October 2001, the Chief Immigration Officer rejected their applications for refugee status. They appealed this decision to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal. One determination of the Tribunal was that the appellants were free to make applications for refugee status which, if received, had to be considered by the Chief Immigration Officer in accordance with the criteria set out under the Immigration Law, which was appealed to the Grand Court.
One of the individuals subsequently sought political asylum in December 2003 under the then Immigration Law, with the other two taking similar action in January 2004 under the Immigration Law (2003) now in force. The Chief Immigration Officer rejected their applications stating there was no basis to apply under these laws. Mr. McCarthy told the House that the three persons have given an undertaking that, if granted exceptional leave to remain, they would not seek any further financial support within three months of the grant. One of them has expressed a strong desire to leave Cayman if and when that becomes possible, he added. The Chief Immigration Officer took a number of factors into consideration before granting the three men leave to remain in the Cayman Islands. The factors considered include: - the current deteriorating political situation in Afghanistan, eliminating any possibility, in the foreseeable future, of repatriating the three Afghans, whose religious sect makes them natural enemies of the Taliban; - the ongoing financial burden to the Cayman Islands Government for the upkeep of the three men; - the ability to leave the Cayman Islands freely on their Afghani passports, raising the possibility of other countries being able to now grant them visas; - no evidence whatsoever to support the speculation that the three individuals may have been, or are, involved in any terrorist organisation; - exceptional leave to remain may be revoked at any stage if the political situation in Afghanistan improves to the extent that the three may be repatriated.
Mr. McCarthy noted that the Chief Immigration Officer also considered other options to the grant of exceptional leave. These included: 1) the grant of full refugee status resulting in the right to remain in the Cayman Islands indefinitely, and 2) leaving them in the situation of temporary admission without the right to work, in the case of which their support would become government's responsibility.
Also tabled in the LA Wednesday morning was a Special Report to the Legislative Assembly by the Complaints Commissioner looking into a complaint made on 2 November 2005 by one of the three asylum seekers regarding his asylum rights. The report, tabled by Education Minister, the Hon. Alden McLaughlin, states the Office of the Complaints Commissioner had examined a complaint by the asylum seeker against the Chief Immigration Officer's refusal to grant asylum and determined the complaint was well founded. The report adds that in view of the Chief Immigration Officer not acting upon the recommendation of the Complaints Commissioner, the matter was being brought to the House as a special report.
The Governor, Stuart Jack, announced that His Royal Highness Prince Edward will be visiting the country in February 2007, his third visit in three years. His visit will will take in all three of the Cayman Islands and will also devote time to realising the potential of Cayman's youth, and protecting Cayman's environmental heritage for future generations. Prince Edward is the third and youngest child of HRH Queen Elizabeth II. He has held the title of Earl of Wessex since 1999 and is currently seventh in the line of succession to the British throne.
Did you know that the only official outlet for the Cayman flag is the National Museum? In a recent debate in the Legislative Assembly, the Chief Secretary, Hon George McCarthy, explained "The Cayman Islands National Museum is responsible for the sale of Cayman Islands flags." "The flags are sold in various sizes and include the blue ensign, the land flag, and the red ensign, the marine flag. The Government recognises the Cayman Islands flag as a symbol of sovereignty. As such, a single official point of sale was designated for the Cayman Islands flag and the Coat of Arms." Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), Alfonso Wright complained that he attended a number of events where the National Anthem was played, but there were no flags. "The flag is an important part of what we are about and we need to see the flag more often," he said. Mr Wright said "I don't think the flag should be grouped as a bulk item, amongst other items, where it is being sold," and said that he would not want to see the flag sold in supermarkets. Mr McCarthy has been tasked with looking at increasing the distribution options for the flags, but he added that he would also ensure that "wherever the flag is displayed it is done with the appropriate dignity."
Since Hurricane Ivan, there have been increased sightings of scorpions on Cayman. As the hurricane and rising waters wrecked their habitats, they have moved to new homes - often those already inhabited by humans! There are three species of scorpion found on Cayman: heteronebo caymanensis – an endemic species unique to Cayman; the most common, centruroides; and isometrus maculatus. There are no records of deaths from scorpion stings in the Cayman Islands, but scorpions should always be treated with respect, as even a non–fatal sting can be very painful. They like dark nooks and crannies - so give your shoes a shake before putting them on!
It may become more difficult for long-term visitors to drive in Cayman. Speaking at a press briefing, Infrastructure Minister Arden McLean said that many accidents over the years had been caused by foreign drivers, especially those more used to driving on the right. McLean said "I don't say they drive badly but many of them do not have an understanding of our roads." "You should not be able to immediately transfer your licence when you get here. We can't do it when we go elsewhere. "
Tourism and Commerce Minister Charles Clifford added "It can be somewhat challenging for them (expat drivers) to adapt. We have to be careful about how we approach the situation. We would need legislation that is capable of being enforced." McLean concluded "It was bad enough years ago. It is worse now. On my watch, mechanisms are going to be put in place."
There were three road deaths in the month, bringing the total for the year to 14. A 21-year-old man who was found in a vehicle that was submerged in water in a dyke road off of the Harquail by-pass. The day before, two teenagers were killed in a road accident close to Public Beach on West Bay Road.
14th December was the first National Earthquake Awareness Day. This date was the second anniversary of the of the 6.8 magnitude earthquake that shook Grand Cayman in 2004. Director of the office responsible for management of hazards, Dr Barbara Carby, warned that earthquakes can happen here at any time.
"Globally the trend is that we tend to use the anniversary of events to focus on the hazard. There is a threat of future earthquakes occurring due to our location," she said. "The science of earthquake forecasting unfortunately is not as advanced as that for weather systems, so we can't actually predict them." "Each resident of the Islands must take responsibility for his or her situation."
She advised that occupants of buildings including furnishing and equipment that could become dangerous flying or falling objects which can cause injury.
Her advice is that, if an earthquake is felt, the best thing to do is to get under something sturdy such as a desk or table or if that is not possible, a door jamb. "Also, corners are usually reinforced. Stand in a corner, brace yourself against the shaking. After the shaking, go outside to a safe place, away from power lines, buildings, walls, or anything that could fall and injure you."
She also sees a wider protective and preparedness public role in earthquake readiness: "Government will have a plan, similar to the hurricane plan, setting out arrangements for rescue, medical care, control of secondary hazards (such as fires and hazardous material spills), shelter, inspection of buildings, etc."
She said that, especially for earthquakes, there must be plans for demolition of damaged structures which may pose a threat.
Earthquake sensors are to be installed in Cayman over the coming months.
New rules are to be introduced to manage Stingray City and Stingray Sandbar. According to press reports, the Marine Conservation Law has been amended to provide the framework for regulating watersports activities in the Cayman Islands, particularly at the Stingray City and Sandbar sites. Minister of Environment Charles Clifford said "Given the importance of these types of areas to our tourism product and our environment, and by extension, to our quality of life, it is clear that regulation is now required to ensure that our natural environment is preserved and protected, not just for us… but for generations to come." Under the new regulations, likely to be implemented in the first quarter of 2007, Stingray City and the Sandbar will be designated as Wildlife Interaction Zones in the Marine Parks Regulations.
"Among other things, it is proposed that in the Wildlife Interaction Zones, no one be permitted to remove a stingray or any other marine life from the water, or to fish or take any form of marine life by any means." The regulations will also limit the amount and type of food fed to the stingrays, and control wher boats can anchor inside the Wildlife Interaction Zone. All tourist boats entering the Wildlife Interaction Zone will need to be licensed, and the new rules will control the number of boats visiting the attraction at any one time.
The introduction of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) that requires visitors and returning residents entering the US to have passports has been postponed, but only until 23rd January 2007. You can see the latest details at the US Department of State website at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cbpmc/cbpmc_2223.html
Some interesting figures on the level of imports last year have been released.
The total value of goods imported in the Cayman Islands in 2005 amounted to SI$990.4 million (US$1.2 billion), of which nearly three quarters of a billion dollars worth of imports were from the US. The increase in imports is attributed to the reconstruction of the Islands in the aftermath of devastating Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.
Total imports rose by 36.4 per cent over 2004, with a pronounced increase in the importation of building materials and vehicles. In 2003 3,354 vehicles were imported (value $29.8 million). This rose to 5,172 in 2004 ($60 million). Last year this jumped to 8,407 vehicles, valued at just under $100 million.
Cayman's main trading partner continued to be the United States of America, accounting for 76.5 percent or $757.8 million of the Islands' total imports last year. A distant second in overall imports for the year was Netherlands Antilles with 8.6 per cent valued at $85.6 million. The Netherlands was followed by Japan, with $10.5 million or 1.1 per cent; the UK and Jamaica, each with $6.9 million or 0.7 per cent; and Canada with $6.3 million or 0.6 per cent.
Six sharks have died whilst being held in quarantine tanks at Botswain Beach. All fish that are brought to the attraction have to be held in separate quarantine tanks for 30 days before being released into the attraction tanks. In this case there was a problem with the life support system that impacted the water quality. Commenting on the incident, Tourism Minister Charles Clifford said it was to be expected that some fish would die due to natural attrition. What is worrying the anti-dolphin campaigners is his comment "We do expect that some of the dolphins will die at the facility, just as they die in the wild. It will happen".
With stiff competition from other destinations for tourist visitors, Cayman has been trying to improve its service. In September and October, officials of the Department of Tourism and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association have been giving training to over 200 taxi drivers, dispatchers and tour operators in courses entitled "Discover Cayman" and "Standards of Excellence". The taxi and tour operators have now been issued with a uniform and Tourism Minister Hon Charles Clifford said that the staff are expected to wear the uniforms when on duty. Staff in other tourism sectors will also receive frontline training to increase professionalism.
There is more pressure on the Department of Environment to act on controlling Stingray City. At the end of last month, a divemaster was attacked and bitten by an eel at the dive site associated with Stingray City. Members of the dive had been given scraps of squid to feed to the rays and it appears that the eel was after these. At least two dive companies have stopped visiting this location and others have told staff not to feed or touch the eels. In response to these reports, Director of the Department of Environment, Gina Petrie said that amendments being considered to the Marine Conservation Law would prohibit the feeding of stingrays in the area. Under consideration is the creation of "Wildlife Interaction Zones" where the amount and type of food would be controlled as well as who carried out the feeding.
A report titled Economic Impact of Cruise Tourism on the Caribbean Economy was unveiled during the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association Conference held in Cayman at the start of the month. Figures showed that Cayman was fourth for direct cruise tourism expenditure during the 2005–2006 cruise year. The US Virgin Islands led all destinations with $362 million, followed by St. Maarten with $246 million, Cozumel with $214 million, and the Cayman Islands, with $180 million. Cayman was second in the list for numbers of cruise visitors with 1.67 million visitors behind Cozumel which had 1.71 million visitors. On average cruise visitors spend $82.73 in Cayman, ninth in the list with the highest level of income in the US Virgin Islands ($179.69 per passenger). Cruise lines spent an estimated $29.4 million in the Cayman Islands primarily on port fees and taxes. Cayman Islands cruise passengers had an average household income of $100,700.
The start of the month saw a double murder at the East End of the island. According to reports from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, (RCIPS) two men received fatal gun shot wounds in the early hours of Thursday 2 November. The victims were Brenard Dale Scott, aged 36, and Roy Renold Pierson, aged 48, both of East End. It is believed that the victims, brothers, had become involved in a dispute over drugs. A 21 year old has been arrested by the police.
Fortis Inc has acquired an additional four million shares of Caribbean Utilities Company Ltd. for US$48.9 million, bringing its stake in the Cayman power provider to 54 per cent. The Newfoundland company also has holdings in Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Belize and Turks and Caicos Islands.
Red Sail Sports has taken delivery of a fourth catamaran, the Spirit of Calypso. The 65 foot boat was built in the Virgin Islands by Gold Coast Yachts. Features of the catamaran include two pontoons in the back for easy boarding after snorkelling, teak drink tables and an extra spacious interior, additional seating areas throughout with comfortable cushions and a built-in power supply for live music during special sailings. The catamaran will increase capacity for adventurous Stingray City Sails, as well as spectacular Sunset and Dinner Sails. For more details see the Red Sail Sports website at http://www.redsailcayman.com/.
In the New Year it may be possible for cruise passengers and stay-over visitors to make day trip tours to Cayman Brac. Gerry Dilbert, Owner and Operator of Reality Tours is arranging to ship a 27-seat minibus over to the sister islands, and is in talks with Cayman Airways Express. Day trippers will be offered a variety of activities, including diving and snorkelling, cave exploring, hiking, bird watching, as well as visits to points of interest, such as the Brac Museum and the Heritage House. Pricing has yet to be finalised. Mr Dilbert hopes to be offering the day trips on at least five days per week. It was also announced that a technical team from one of the large cruise lines will visit Cayman Brac in December to look at the possibility of having smaller cruise ships, those with 200 - 800 passengers, visit the sister island on a regular basis.
The first phase of the Countryside Shopping Village in Savannah has opened to the public. Foster’s Food Fair IGA, A.L. Thompson's Home Depot and Cayman National Bank and the main tenants in the 6.5 acre project. Eleven stores and four offices will open during the Countryside project's first phase, with another 10 businesses to follow with the completion of the second phase scheduled for January 2007.
The Links at Safe Haven isn't expected to reopen until March 2007 at the earliest. The driving range and putting area will open Wednesdays through Sundays for members only, from 1st December. The Links are waiting the results of an insurance appeal which has been lodged in the Jamaican courts. The appeal may be heard sometime in December. If successful US$2.5 million in funds held in escrow will be released. Davey Ebanks, general manager, said $3.5 million had already been spent on the irrigation system and other improvements. However, once the funds are released it will take at least three months to gear up for an opening; golf carts have to be delivered, cart paths constructed and staff hired.
It'll be party time this New Year! In a press statement by the Hon. Charles E. Clifford, Minister of Tourism, Environment, Investment and Commerce, it was announced that the Cabinet has approved that properties which are prohibited from playing live music on Sundays under the Music and Dancing (Control) Law will be able to operate and play live music from 12:01am to 3:00am on 1st January 2007. What that means is that the policy allows those establishments that are already permitted to serve alcohol on Sundays, to be able to continue to do that and they will now also in addition to serving alcohol be allowed to play live music after midnight on New Year's Eve 2006.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative regulations have changed slightly. From 8th January 2007 all travellers entering the US (including US citizens) from Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda by air will be required to hold a passport. The US State Department website has a document at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cbpmc/cbpmc_2223.html that shows the implementation shedule for the new regulations. This indicates that cruise passengers will have an extra year before they need a passport. However, local press reports say that the need for US citizens to have a passport when cruising has been pushed back to June 2009 by the US Congress - see http://www.caycompass.com/cgi-bin/CFPnews.cgi?ID=1016915 and http://www.caymannetnews.com/cgi-script/csArticles/articles/000065/006543.htm.
The Postal Service has issues a new set of definitive stamps based on some of Cayman's birds. These stamps will replace the last definitive set - Transportation to the Millenniuam - that have been in circulations since September 2001. The new issue shows eleven endemic and one indigenous species and is based on some of the work by by Patricia E. Bradley and Yves-Jacques Rey-Millet in their book "Birds of the Cayman Islands". Two of the land birds illustrated in this series of stamps are listed internationally as threatened - the Cayman Parrot and the Vitelline Warbler.
The stamp denominations are Bananaquit .25¢, Vitelline Warbler .50¢, Grand Cayman Parrot .75¢, Caribbean Dove .80¢, Caribbean Elaenia $1, West Indian Woodpecker $1.50, Thick-billed Vireo $1.60, Northern Flicker $2, Cuban Bullfinch $4, Western Spindalis $5, Loggerhead Kingbird $10 and Red-legged Thrush $20. Self-adhesive stamps will be available in three denominations .25¢, .75¢ and .80¢.
Patricia Bradley said she was pleased about the issue. "This is a celebration of Cayman's land birds. It will focus attention on the most visible of the nation's fauna." Postmaster General Sheena Glasgow said "Cayman Islands stamps have always been known for their beauty. This issue is no different. A lot of work has gone into the design of the issue which adds to it beauty." "I would like to thank Mrs. Bradley for all her help and Yves-Jacques Rey-Millet for letting us show his beautiful photographs," she said.
The Postal Service has also released their new stamps for Christams. The theme this year is virtues - Faith 25¢, Hope 75¢, Joy 80¢, and Love $1. One letter in each word is a design that illustrates the message in the word. Faith is represented by the three Magi, whose faith in the star led them to the Christ child. Hope is illustrated by a prophet speaking words of hope about the coming of the Messiah. Joy is shown by an angel celebrating the news of the birth of the baby Jesus. Love is depicted by Mary holding the infant Jesus in her arms and radiating love for him.
The stamps have also been adapted as Christmas cards. For more information contact the Philatelic Bureau at mailto:email@example.com
Government will soon grant 'exceptional leave to stay' to the three Afghanistan nationals who have been here for six years, making it possible for them to depart the Cayman Islands. Currently the men are classified as 'unlanded immigrants.' Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson explained that changing their classification clears the way for them to travel off the Cayman Islands. "No country is going to take them once they remain in the 'unlanded status'," he said, and added that countries would reject them even as 'in-transit' passengers.
The men, Ali Shah Yusufy, Mohamed Raza Hussani and Nek Nazary, surfaced in Grand Cayman in 2000 and there was uncertainty about their origin. Mr Manderson told the Committee that a court established that they were Afghans, and had arrived here from Cuba on Pakistani passports. The men had applied to the Immigration Department for refugee status but this was rejected. They appealed and the Immigration Appeals Tribunal (IAT) upheld their petition in 2003 allowing them 'limited leave' to remain on the island. Further the IAT ruled that the Afghanis cannot be sent back to their homeland. Government has since appealed the IAT rulings. Mr Manderson explained that although the Afghanistan situation had changed from what it was when the country was ruled by the Taliban, conditions in the area from which the men originate, Ghanzi, continued to be oppressive. He said the three men here in Grand Cayman and other Afghanis who are from Ghanzi but currently reside elsewhere report that their relatives are still being persecuted there. He also reported that the UK government is not returning Afghanis from that area. "They cannot be returned even if we wanted to return them," he said.
Mr Manderson said this dilemma led him to the question: "Do we grant these persons 'exceptional leave to remain', which is allowed in law, or do we leave them as 'unlanded immigrants' and they remain in this position for another six years?" It has cost government just over $200,000 for their upkeep over the years. Mr Manderson said that at least two of the men wanted to leave the Cayman Islands. One of these two is studying medicine and hopes to attend university overseas. The men have been issued travel documents through the Afghan embassy in New York. Should they decide to stay here after receiving the grant of 'exceptional leave to remain', the Afghanis would be allowed to apply for work permits.
Mr Manderson explained that although they were here since 2000, measurement of the time spent on Grand Cayman for the purposes of the immigration seven-year term limit begins when the work permit is granted. This, he said, is so because throughout their time here the men have not been legally and ordinarily resident as stipulated by the Immigration Law 2003.
Government has approved a further loan of US$US$8.8 million (CI$7.4) for the Cayman Turtle Farm Boatswain's Beach expansion. The new funding, to be obtained as a 10-year loan from a local bank, is to finance the farm's operational and capital expenses in order to complete the Boatswain's Beach project. This is the third guarantee that Government will be granting the Turtle Farm; in December 2003, the Finance Committee authorised the issuing of a Government Guarantee for US$36.6 million for the Turtle Farm in support of a loan through a direct obligation private placement bond. An additional guarantee was also provided in the amount of US$2.2 million to facilitate the farm's necessary short-term loan liquidity lines of credit. In March 2006, the House approved an additional government guarantee of up to US$5 million (CI$4.2 million) for the Farm to meet additional direct construction costs and to meet current operational needs due to a delay in the grand opening of Boatswain's Beach.
The opening was originally slated for completion in January this year, but is now scheduled for completion in November under it's new Botswain's Beach branding. In addition to the Turtle Farm, features of this 24-acre facility include 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 and a historic Cayman street with local artisans, 18 independent retail kiosks and a nature trail.
The Farm has signed agreements with three cruise lines which are offering passengers a Boatswain's Beach package. Negotiations are in progress with two other cruise lines.
Mr. Michael Adam, the CEO of Cayman Airways, has announced his at the end of the year. MR Adams has worked for teh airline for 35 years and took the role of CEO in 2001.
Mr. Adam stated: "I have been privileged to spend a career in a field that I love, and I look forward to passing the leadership baton so Cayman Airways may continue to build on its successes."
Speaking on behalf of the Board of Directors, new Chairman Angelyn Hernandez said: "Mike Adam has been an integral part of the Cayman Airways family for many years. It is a milestone change for the national carrier. Mike is a gentleman, a person of immense integrity, loyalty and commitment. He has led the airline with these qualities and while change is difficult and Mr. Adam's daily presence will be missed, the airline is committed to embracing future opportunities."
The Board has appointed Capt. Thom Guyton as the acting CEO until a permanent successor is named. Capt. Guyton is currently the manager of Cayman Airways Express and the vice president of Cargo. The position of CEO will be advertised locally and overseas and persons within the company will be eligible to apply.
Speaking on these changes, Ms. Hernandez said that the airline is presently undergoing strategic reform as a result of the recent efficiency audit. There will also be changes as a result of contracts expiring and Immigration limitations. The reengineering of the airline will involve a great deal of hard work in the years ahead but will also present new opportunities for the development of local staff.
The captain and manager of the "Sunrunner" that capsized at Stingray City in April with over 50 cruise passengers onboard are to be charged.
Minister of Tourism, Environment, Investment and Commerce, Hon Charles Clifford announced a moratorium on any more captive dolphin entertainment parks being established in the Cayman Islands. However, the decision will no effect the two existing planned attractions. They will still need "to continuously satisfy the ongoing regulatory requirements, including those governing water discharge, land use, public health, animal welfare, and, environmental impacts." Talking about a number of changes in this area, he added that the revised policy "aims to create a more robust regulatory environment, which will govern both new applications as well as the operations of all captive dolphin facilities which may operate in the Cayman Islands."
A draft of the Immigration Bill has been published for public consultation. A copy of the new bill (53 pages in Adobe PDF format) entitled "A BILL FOR A LAW TO AMEND THE IMMIGRATION LAW (2006 REVISION) TO INTRODUCE NEW CONCEPTS AND TO REDEFINE EXISTING ONES TO WIDEN THE POWERS OF THE CHIEF IMMIGRATION OFFICER TO VARY THE COMPOSITION OF THE BOARDS AND FOR INCIDENTAL AND CONNECTED PURPOSES" can be downloaded from http://www.immigrationlaw.gov.ky/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/CABHOME/DRAFTBILL/IMMIGRATIONAMDMTBILL2006-07_0.PDF There is a shorter 12 page explanatory notes paper (also in Adobe PDF format) at http://www.immigrationlaw.gov.ky/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/CABHOME/DRAFTBILL/IMMBILLEXPLANATORYNOTECOVER.PDF Comments should be sent to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm Cayman time on Friday, 13th October 2006.
Some of the things I noticed looking through the legislation and press reports:
- The Governor now has the power to instruct the Work Permit Board and the Business Staffing Plan Board that expatriates in certain professions are 'key employees' and therefore exempt from the seven-year term limit
- Reducing the time an expat has to off the island before resetting the clock on another period of employment form two years to one year
- Extra powers of the Chief Immigration Officer, the Boards, etc including the ability to revoke a work permit, permanent residence or the right to be Caymanian. Powers to senior immigration officers to impose fines on immigration offences
- Scrapping the rule that people had to be over 55 to be permitted to gain residency as "wealthy retirees", recognising that people are retiring at earlier ages (and with dependents) - now called Residential Certificate for Persons of Independent Means
- Appeals process expanded and redrafted
- Residential Certificate for Entrepreneurs and Investors scrapped
- Changes to the rules on Spouses of Caymanians being able to work
- Should be easier for key workers to apply for permanent residence
- New provisions in relation to persons who have reached the end of their term limit but who are married to another work permit holder, a Government employee, etc
- Employees no longer able to work between the expiry of the temporary work permit and the outcome of the application for an annual work permit
- All firms with more than 15 employees must produce a Business Staffing Plan. Those firms will have any applications for work permits refuse if they haven't completed their Plan within the mandated timeframe
- New offence in relation to unlawful employment
- New provision for dependants of Caymanians to be granted permission to reside in the Islands for a renewable period of up to three years
- New provision for persons who have no right to be in the Islands or who obtained permission to enter by deception to be removed without the need for a deportation order
Divi Resorts have announced that Divi Tiara Beach Resort in Cayman Brac closed on 23rd September. Mark Steward, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Divi Resorts, said "While the decision to close Divi Tiara was a hard one, it was one that will benefit the company in the long run and will allow us to concentrate our efforts on expanding the Divi Resorts brand in Caribbean destinations with greater opportunities for development. Certain economic realities of continuing a dive-oriented resort on Cayman Brac also influenced our decision. Factors included airlift issues, which have affected Divi Tiara's dive guests in particular as they need to bring additional gear for their sport; increased competition from the growing number of niche market dive destinations throughout the Caribbean; and weather which in the past years has pushed up insurance costs." Divi Resorts has eight other properties around the Caribbean in St. Croix, St. Maarten, Barbados, Bonnaire and Aruba. Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Charles Clifford, said that his department was working with the Department of Employment Relations to address staff concerns over their welfare. The Department was also working dive wholesalers and travel agents who book dive travel to the Sister Islands, and the resort in particular, to support guests who already have reservations, and to ensure that Cayman does not lose business to competing destinations. He also countered the allegation of inadequate airlift provision stating that Cayman Airways Express provides more than 2,950 air seats per month, as opposed to 2,400 seats in 2004, and 1,800 seats in 2002 and 2003, in addition to those provided my the main Cayman Airways Jet service. The average load factor on the Cayman Airways Express service is 72%, so there is spare capacity. Furthermore, he pointed out that Cayman Airways Express regularly adds extra section flights to accommodate groups to the Sister Islands when the airline cannot accommodate groups on the regular schedule. These extra section flights are added at the normal fare rather than charging higher charter rates for the extra sections. In all Cayman Airways Express has the capacity to provide up to 4,850 roundtrip seats per month to the Sister Islands. Air fares have dropped from $156 in 2003 to the current average of $119. The minister also indicated that there were problems with the renewal of licensing of the resort, based on the resort not meeting minimum Hotel Licensing Board standards. "Divi may not fully disclose all or even the real reasons behind its decision to close the Divi Tiara property but one thing is clear. They had not maintained the necessary standards for competitiveness and at times were found dangerously close to being 'unfit' for occupation. This marked lack of commitment to re-investing in the property's refurbishment and upkeep is likely to have impacted the Divi Tiara's guest satisfaction, repeat business and daily room rates."
Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson said a new IT system at the Immigration Department was making it possible for his staff to look at trends in the expatriate population of the islands. He presented an interesting statistics; the average professional expatriate stays in the Cayman Islands only four years, well inside the seven year term limit on work permits. In the post-Ivan year from September 2004 to September 2005 (the busiest period in the department's history), 21,000 temporary work permits had been issued as opposed to only 13,000 between September 2005 and August 2006. The time to process temporary work permits had improved during the last year from three weeks to two to three days.
Infinity Communications and Wave7 Optics announced that construction of a high-capacity FTTP (fibre to the premises) network, which will deliver a "triple play" of Internet, digital television and telephone services throughout the Cayman Islands, is now underway. The network will incorporate the most-advanced fibre optic technology, and is expected to be available to more than 24,000 households on Grand Cayman by the end of 2008. Infinity will deliver fibre optic services to both residential and commercial customers, specifically corporate and banking firms. Infinity's digital cable television services will include video-on-demand, high definition TV, pay-per-view and advertising programming. Internet data services will include ultra high-speed data internet access with available speeds of up to 1000 megabits per second (Mbs). Enhanced internet data services include website hosting, virtual private networks, video conferencing and interactive gaming. Infinity’s digital voice services will offer both local and international calling capability with unlimited calling plans, providing customers with unprecedented call quality and value.
The Cayman International School moved into it's new building in Camana Bay this month. When the whole complex is completed, it will include a gymnasium, swimming pool, five different playgrounds for children of siffernt age groups, soccer and basketball courts. Director of the school Gregory A. Hedger said "We take pride in our rigorous academic programme, strong community experience and the fact that every child knows that he or she is cared about unconditionally". Formerly known as the Faulkner Academy before being taken over by International School Services (Cayman) Ltd in 2002, the school will be able to take children from 2 years old to 18. Already the school has increased in student enrolment from about 67 to 220. The school's new US$20 million facilities will offer approximately 57,000 square feet of space spread across the 13.2-acre campus. The school's motto is "Building Character, Knowledge and Service". The school is seen as a key development in Dart Realty's 300 acre Camana Bay project to develop a new town to the east of the Harquail Bypass. This month also saw some of the first residents to move into the area. The Town Centre, featuring Caribbean-inspired architecture, courtyards, streets and walkways, is scheduled to open in late 2007. There is a new website for the development at http://www.camanabay.com/
The Cayman Islands Investment Bureau has produced some guides on establishing a business in Cayman. Called "Business Roadmaps", the guides trace the steps that an investor or entrepreneur must take from concept to the licensing of a business operation. The first set of roadmaps examines the process involved in three central tourism-related businesses: Tourist Accommodation (available at http://www.investcayman.ky/files/accommodation.pdf), Restaurants (http://www.investcayman.ky/files/restaurant.pdf) and Water Sports Operations (http://www.investcayman.ky/files/watersports.pdf).
The new Royal Watler Cruise Terminal has opened.
The National Recovery Fund has done rather well this month. Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin announced that $7.1 million in relief funds for the Cayman Islands had been approved by the European Union, with an initial payout of $3.7 million by the end of October. Also the Dart Foundation have donated a further $500,000 fulfilling the pledge made earlier in the year by Arianna Dart when she gave US$500,000 to the NRF. At that time she promised the extra money if the local corporate community matched the first donation by the end of 2006. Vice chairman of the fund, Conor O'Dea said "Despite the fact that Hurricane Ivan happened two years ago, we continue to see so many needy cases that require our help. This tells us that the re-building effort is a crucial continuing effort and we encourage everyone in the community to recognise this through ongoing support of the fund." Fund Executive Director Mark Laskin added "There are some 25 additional new homes that we have approved for rebuilding and this enables us to get going. It means that many more families will soon have better accommodations, which is the essence of our work at the Fund."
The arguments over the proposed dolphin experience continue. In response to the comments by Tourism Minster Charles Clifford that he didn't think such facilities would negatively impact the environment, the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) have issues a statement. In it they point out that Dolphin Discovery operation in Antigua was shut down in December 2004 due to major environmental problems. The statement continues "Never have we ever stated or suggested that we are opposed to these facilities because it would create competition. Our position was that the dive visitor/Eco/Nature/Adventure tourist will not come here due to the country's support of this type of attraction. CITA have documented many countries that have closed dolphinariums due to the negative environmental and/or tourism effect, and banned any further import." "Dolphin attractions are being closed down on a regular basis in other nations; Dolphins in captivity is against our country's goal to create and sustain a destination of 'all things Caymanian'; Dolphin excrement is a real threat to our marine environment, one that could cause irreparable damage to our reefs; Captive dolphin parks will create negative international PR and have the potential for causing eco–minded, adventure and nature tourists to avoid Cayman." The CITA statement also quotes research from the Global Coral Reef Alliance in Mexico stating "the types of algae found and their spatial distributions, in conjunction with the turbidity and the movement of the water, suggest that there are excessive nutrients, especially phosphorus, that are coming directly from the dolphin cages. These are likely due to a mixture of dolphin excrement and the rotting of uneaten food. Excess nutrients carried by the currents from the dolphin cages appear to be causing serious coral reef overgrowth by weedy algae (eutrophication), especially by cyanobacteria, in the reefs to the south of the Chancanaab dolphin cages." CITA stated it stands on its research, without fear of competition. In response, a Dolphin Cove representative said "We have here a body charged with representing the tourism industry at loggerheads with a project that is investing US$10 million." He also challenged the survey that CITA had carried out of it's members earlier in the year as being too small a sample to be significant. At the time, CITA defended itself by saying that the sample size of 61 out of a total membership of about 170 was statistically significant and of those responding to the survey, 74% were opposed to the idea of captive dolphin facilities in the Cayman Islands, 13% were in favour and the remaining 13% were undecided. The arguments continue.
Next time you are on the roads in Cayman be careful as the police have a new weapon (two actually) - unmarked police cars. These will be used to catch traffic violations including speeding, careless drivers, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You have ben warned!
Representatives from several different radio stations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding after lengthy discussions with the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association (CMEA). Under the agreement, the radio stations agree to play on average at least one record by a local musician an hour. There are exceptions to this agreement; Barefoot Man George Nowak explained that where the music genre of a particular radio station was not well represented by live musicians on Cayman, the radio station would not have to abide by the rule. The first radio stations to sign-up to the agreement include Z99, Rooster 101, Ocean 95.5, Radio Cayman, Gospel 88.7 and Heaven 97.7.
Construction of the 'East-West Arterial', an alternative highway that will evenually link East End and George Town is due to start soon. The first phase of three miles, which is expected to take a year to construct, will go between Savannah's Hirst Road and Prospect's Mangrove Way. When the whole project is completed, it will have two lanes in each direction, but to start with there will only be one lane each way, with the space inbetween for future expansion.
Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville has not opened acress from the cruise ship terminal in George Town. The property has a souvenir shop, seating for 650 people and two bars. An open-air swimming pool with a water slide will open soon.
The Esterly Tibbetts Highway has finally opened - part time! Because of safety fears due to lack of lighting the new road will only be open between 6:00am and 7:00pm with a speed limit of 25 mph. The new road runs from the Galeria roundabout to Raleigh Key near the former Indies Suites.
According to one celebrity news website, British actor Orlando Bloom (Haven, Pirates of the Caribbean) is looking to buy a retreat in Cayman. "I'd love to have a place there. The temperature is beautiful and the people are delightful." After spending some time with local fishermen he added "I didn't know anything about the Cayman Islands and now I know I love life there. Making Haven there was like a working holiday." Haven, written and directed by Frank E. Flowers, is the first major motion picture shot entirely in the Cayman Islands. The website for the movie is at http://www.havenmovie.com/
The Cayman Islands Postal Service has started to introduce Post Codes. Even though all mail (apart from express mail) is delivered to Post Office Boxes, Post Codes should now be included in the address. Post codes have a format KY9-9999 where KY1 indicates Grand Cayman, KY2 for Cayman Brac and KY3 for Little Cayman. Of the last four numbers, the first two identifies the post office and the last two numbers identifies a section of post boxes at that post office. This means it will no longer be necessary to include the Post Office code after the box number. The recommended format for an address is:
Recipient's Name PO Box number Grand Cayman Post_code CAYMAN ISLANDS
For example PO Box 1000 GT has a post code of KY1-1102, PO Box 100 STB has a post code KY2-2101 and PO Box 50 LC has a code KY3-2501. Full details of the postcodes, including a postcode finder and Postcode Addressing Guide can be found at http://www.caymanpost.gov.ky/ Postmaster General Sheena Glasgow explained that postal addresses are read from the bottom during sorting. "Now [Postal Service employees] have to read one less line," she said. "There's less information to process with postcodes." The postcodes will also allow mail to be partially sorted at the Airport Post Office facility prior to shipment to other post offices.
Unique postcodes in Grand Cayman will range from KY1–9000 to KY1–9999 will also be offered for sale, allowing individuals or companies to have their own individual code. Ms. Glasgow said that they are also looking at offering mail delivery to businesses with unique postcodes, with a simultaneous pick–up of outgoing mail. Costs for these new services have yet to be finalised.
The Cayman Islands' legislation to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism has been officially recognised by Jersey in the Channel Islands. The Jersey Financial Services Commission recently added the Cayman Islands to its list of countries and territories considered to have an equivalent anti–money laundering framework as Jersey's. The move is of significant benefit to Cayman–based financial institutions and their clients that do business with financial institutions in Jersey. It allows Jersey's customer identification procedures to be satisfied if the client has met Cayman's customer identification requirements. This potentially saves time and resources that would otherwise have to be spent processing and supplying know-your–customer documentation to Jersey in order for business transactions to be done there. The listing of Cayman comes after months of discussion between the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA) and its Jersey counterpart as well as CIMA's lobbying at international forums such as the Overseas Group of Banking Supervisors for reciprocal recognition of equivalent anti–money laundering/counter terrorist financing frameworks among jurisdictions, states a press release.
Leading industry publication "The Banker" has given a ringing endorsement to the Cayman Islands as an international financial centre and outlined the upbeat prospects for the jurisdiction across a range of sectors. A special report on the Cayman Islands in the July issue of the magazine set out Cayman's strengths in hedge funds, which it described as the "undisputed jurisdiction of choice", as well as being a leading location for captive insurance and structured finance special purpose vehicles. Cayman's banking, trust and corporate services sectors were also recognised, as were the developments and growth at the Cayman Islands Stock Exchange. The report also portrayed how Cayman has strengthened regulations to deter criminal activity and improved overall supervision, as well as winning praise for the lengths it has gone to meet, and even go beyond international standards. A common theme, running through the articles on banking, hedge funds and captive insurance in Cayman was the flexibility of the legal and regulatory framework and the open and regular dialogue between the government and the private sector.
Three prominent figures in the dive industry have come together to speak out against the introduction of captive dolphin facilities in Cayman. President of the Women Divers Hall of Fame and marine environmentalist Martha Watkins Gilkes and pioneer underwater film producer and photographer Stan Waterman joined up with renowned local underwater photographer Cathy Church to speak out against captive dolphin facilities. A new website http://dolphinfreecayman.org/ has been launched to help publicise the campaign. Ms. Gilkes warned "a lot of divers are very eco–tourist minded and they could possibly boycott coming to Cayman, and that's a strong word and I'm not saying I'm encouraging or threatening it, because I live in the Caribbean and I would hate to see any of our islands boycotted, but divers are very environmentally astute and aware and we are all aware of the terrible stress coral is in worldwide from global warming, pollution and abuse by man." "I would like to suggest that the Minister of Tourism should carefully consider the potential damage to the tourism product if they go ahead with this sort of development." Mr. Waterman added "As one of the first inculcated into what we call the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, I know all of the people who have been asked to join that organisation and I myself will contact all of them and suggest that they back this block to the dolphin development here." Ms. Church noted that a majority of the board behind the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame ceremony in January 2007 had decided that Botswain's Beach wouldn't be used as the venue because of the possibility of a dolphin facility being set up there.
Minister for Tourism and the Environment Charles Clifford responded that he doesn't believe the environment will be negatively impacted by the proposed captive dolphin facilities. He also believe that there will be a negative impact on the dive industry. "I don't anticipate any impact on the dive industry other than perhaps on the commercial side, as a dolphinarium will admittedly introduce further competition in the market but we do operate a free market economy and that will not change. Our dive industry is and has always been important to our tourism industry and economy and the Government will continue to put significant support behind it as it has from the birth of our tourism industry."
A two–week old male Antillan manatee found off the shore of West Bay has now been was to be flown to Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. The manatee has been named "4B" after the initials of the four men who spotted and rescued him – Mark Bothwell, Barry Bush, Brett Burell and Craig Burke. According to Janice Blumenthal, Department of Environment Research Officer, "As he is so young we think his mother became lost in a storm and gave birth to 4B in Cayman. It is most likely that his mother came from Cuba. We are not sure how he has become separated from his mum but we are urging everyone to be vigilant and let us know if they spot her." The air ambulance, a Lear Jet 25 volunteered by Trinity Air Ambulance, had to be slightly modified to make it possible to fly the manatee. It is the first time that Trinity Air Ambulance have been asked to evacuate an animal. The emergency air–lift came after a US CITES permit was rushed through after concerns regarding 4B's health. Ms. Blumenthal added that Lowry Park Zoo features a Manatee and Aquatic Centre where 4B will receive specialist care from trained manatee experts and veterinarians. "They have one of the best manatee rehabilitation centres. They are skilled at caring for injured and orphaned manatees."
At a meeting of the People's Progressive Movement national council, Minister for Education, Training, Employment, Youth, Sports and Culture, Alden McLaughlin said "Either Cayman sticks with some form of rollover or in five years other people will be in control of this country". Under the rollover policy and the seven year term limit, employees on work permits that have been here that length of time are "rolled over", must leave, and cannot return to Cayman to work for two years, unless designated an exempted employee. Mr McLaughlin said that some of the areas under consideration for review of the Immigration Bill include the provisions for exempted persons and permanent residency. "The government understands that there's a growing resentment among our own people about feeling overwhelmed in their own country," he said. "We chose to have that growth but we have to strike a balance and find a means to reduce the numbers of people living here long–term".
Cabinet Minister Charles Clifford commented recently that the rollover policy may in future also apply to government employees; these are currently exempted from the seven-year term limit. "I do believe that it will be a fundamental error if we do not apply the provisions of the rollover policy to Government employees". "For us to attempt to put this in the current legislation, would have delayed [the current draft Immigration Law amendments] at least six months, perhaps much longer".
Realtor Paul Aiken has set up a blog for people to air their concerns, and recent postings have focused on the rollover policy. The blog is at http://cayconcerns.blogspot.com/
There have been several reported sightings of a female hammerhead shark in shallow waters off Seven Mile Beach. It is believed that the shark may be pregnant and Assistant Director of the Department of the Environment (DoE) Tim Austin spoke to reassure people that this doesn't pose any significant threat. Hammerhead sharks are not naturally aggressive. "The female sharks come into the shallow waters during the summer months to give birth,and then go back to the deeper water." "Because of the very nature of these sharks and the clarity of our water, the chance of an attack is very low," said DoE Research Officer John Bothwell. A Marine Enforcement officer was sent out to view the shark and confirmed it was a large hammerhead with a fat, pregnant looking belly.
Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford told the Caymanian Compass that he efficiency audit recently conducted on Cayman Airways by Lufthansa Consulting is not to be made fully public. He said disclosure of the full report "would not be in the best interests of Cayman Airways as it would give their competitors inside information on the company and make it even more difficult for them to compete". Lufthansa Consulting is now engaged in the Strategic Direction Phase, which he expects to receive shortly. "Once the Ministry and Board have agreed on this plan, the implementation will then be the responsibility of the Board and management". The 1,011–page report highlighted 67 quick wins, some of which are already being implemented, 49 action plans, 168 projects and 840 initiatives. Mr Clifford "We do believe that complete implementation (of the recommendations) will take 12 to 24 months and thereafter we need to ensure proper maintenance of the new systems, processes and procedures".
The Board of Cayman Airways has also been restructured. The minister announced "The total number of directors was reduced in order to bring the membership more in line with international governance models". The directors no longer have individual areas of responsibility. Instead, they are collectively responsible for the National Flag Carrier, Mr Clifford noted. "This change allows the new board to focus as a team on the areas of good governance, policy and oversight," he explained. "I trust that the new board, management and staff of the airline will receive the community's full support as we strive to build a stronger, more sustainable airline that continues to contribute to the economic welfare of all three Islands." Angelyn Hernandez has been appointed chairman of the board, replacing Bobby Bodden. Ms. Hernandez, a lawyer by profession, joined Quin & Hampson in 1992 and was made a partner in 1995. Cayman Airways has completed it's purchase of the Sammy's Airport Inn for CI$2.85 million for use as its corporate office in Grand Cayman.
The minister also announced that the airport won't be moving - there has been proposals to re-site it in the East End. "The Government has very carefully considered this matter and for a number of very cogent reasons has decided to redevelop the Owen Roberts International Airport instead of relocating this key piece of infrastructure to another part of the island."
Tower Marketing have published some of the results of the largest consumer research survey yet conducted in the Cayman Islands. They looked at incomes in three ranges: "low income" (less than CI$2,000 per month), "middle income" (CI$2,001 to CI$4,500 per month) and "high income" (over CI$4,501 per month). About 40 per cent of total respondents earned CI$2,001–CI$4,500 a month, of whom 67 per cent were Caymanians and only 33 per cent were expat. There was less difference between the two groups in the higher end of the middle income bracket, with Caymanians and expats comprising 53 per cent and 47 per cent respectively in the CI$3,001–CI$4,500 a month income range. Of the roughly five per cent of the sample earning incomes in the higher income range defined as being above CI$4,501, 57 per cent were Caymanian and 43 per cent were expat. "The post–Ivan construction and development boom seems to have paid off, as respondents working in these sectors represented 37 per cent of the total sample who were in the high income bracket," Carolyn Lawe Smith of Tower Marketing said in the release. Of the roughly 20 per cent of residents in what the Omnibus Survey defines as the "very low income bracket" – those with monthly earnings of less than CI$1,500 – the survey found that work permit holders made up almost three-quarters, while Caymanians comprised only 26 per cent. Tower Marketing expect to carry out a second survey in about five months' time.
Some more information from the Annual Report for 2005 mentioned last month has been highlighted in the local press. Average per-capita income is now $39,801, up from $38,173. The construction industry sector grew by 36.4 per cent to reach $990.4 million in 2005, compared with $725.9 million in 2004 - apparently this surpassed the tourism sector.
Did you know that if you are a Cayman Island's Government employee, you have to retire at 60? Many private sector firms also follow this rule. Now, some experts are warning that the mandatory retirement age may have to be reconsidered. According to the Director of Employment Relations, Walling Whittaker, "Over the next 10 years, the outflow of Caymanians from the workforce will be higher than the inflow of young Caymanians entering the workforce." "A lot of people at 60 are still healthy, have tremendous experience and talent and they want to continue working, but they are forced out the door too early. We already have a shortage of Caymanians in the labour market and it is just going to get worse as more Caymanians reach 60. The challenge is to re-examine the mandatory retirement age as a country." Director of Child and Family Services, Deanna Lookloy added "I see many people who are in their late 50s and early 60s who are looking for jobs and no one will employ them because of their age." Ms. Lookloy added that the mandatory retirement age should be raised to be more in line with people living longer and healthier lives. Last year's Labour Force survey revealed that nine percent of the Caymanian workforce is over 60; in ten years time the figure is likely to be nearer 19 percent.
The Permanent Residency Board will sit again soon now that the Cabinet has reviewed the regulations and points system. Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said the new Regulations will also weigh investments in Cayman against earnings. "Speaking generally, it's not that the entire point system has been done over and revamped. There were four or five areas that needed some tweaking and needed to be changed."
From 1 September 2006, Cayman Islands employers will be required to obtain police records from that Honduras' Direccion General de Investigacion Criminal, for any Hondurans that require a work permit application.
Roman Dolejs, Chef de Cuisine of the Grand Cayman Marriot Beach Resort's Solana Restaurant, has won the prestigious annual Chef of the Year 2006 award at the Cayman Islands Culinary Awards of Excellence Competition.
Cayman Net News has launched a weekend edition of their newspaper. Weekender features seven sections including a TV and Entertainment Guide, Woman Today, Teen Cayman, Lifestyle, International News and Local News. This is the first Saturday/Sunday newspaper for Cayman.
The audit of Cayman Airways Ltd (CAL) by Lufthansa Consulting has been completed and a report of over 1,000 pages has been given to Government. Commenting on the report, which hasn't been made public, Hon Charles Clifford, Minister of Tourism, Environment, Investment and Commerce said it contained 49 action plans, 168 projects, approximately 840 initiatives and 67 'quick wins'. The original scope of the report included Human Resources, Information Technology, Marketing and Sales, Route Planning and Scheduling, Operations, and Purchasing and Supply. During the exercise, it was broadened to include Finance, Ground Handling and Marketing, Promotion, Product and Branding. Mr Clifford revealed that the report highlighted "a number of high-level deficiencies". These included a lack of company strategy or business plan that looked forward more than a year. There was also little communications between departments; "In terms of management practices there is a silo mentality, whereby departments seemingly act without due consideration for ... their counterparts". However areas concerned with safety in the audit, namely Flight Operations and Maintenance & Engineering "received very strong commendations". "It is also noteworthy that these areas are subject to ongoing audits from regulators, such as the Civil Aviation Authority, and no doubt, this process of constant review and direct accountability accounts for the consistently high standards of safety and performance" Mr Clifford said. One of the areas identified for improvement was "a failure to collect charges for excess baggage", so next time you are flying with Cayman Airways, check the weight of your bags! The report is now being used as a basis for consultation between the Cabinet, the CAL Board, the airline's management and staff.
Leader of Government Business Hon Kurt Tibbetts confirmed that the Pink Hibiscus Mealybug (PHM) has now been found in West Bay. There is also speculation that a third area in Bodden Town may have been infested. Mr Tibbetts added "Regulations will be introduced to control the movement of plants in and out of the infested zones, in order to reduce the spread of the bug". To reduce the chance of the Sister Islands being infected, their is a ban on movement of cuttings and fresh produce from Grand Cayman to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
Members of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) are still campaigning for the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) to be delayed. The WHTI requires all travellers entering the US (including US citizens) from Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda after 1st January 2007 to have a valid passport. Members of CTO are worried that this policy will have a serious effect on the tourism business in their countries. According to statistics from the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA), only about 40 percent of Americans visiting Cayman have a passport. Another relevant statistic is that Americans are the largest nationality group to visit Cayman, accounting for 40% of visitors. At a recent meeting the Secretary General of the CTO, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, said that reimbursing new US passport holders could be an option. One resort in Anguilla has already launched a package that has a heavy discount for those that make the resort their first destination in their new passports.
A Hurricane Pet Shelter is in the planning stages. When constructed, the shelter would accept dogs, cats and rabbits and is also considering taking hamsters. Land directly adjacent to the prison has been donated for the project by Prison Director Dwight Scott. Kathleen Bodden–Harris, Co–Director of the Hurricane Pet Shelter, said "Mr. Scott stated his support of our project and the possibilities of further involvement to promote reform and rehabilitation within the prison system". The new shelter's location has 12 kennels, which were going to be used to house the prison's guard dogs, but the dog handlers decided it would be safer to keep the dogs inside the prison compound. The kennels survived Hurricane Ivan with minimum damage. A hurricane-proof building has been ordered and is in storage. Mrs. Bodden-Harris is appealing for funds for the project. CI$30,000 is required for the materials necessary for the foundation and erection of the building. Once operational, pet owners must pre–register their animals with the shelter to ensure they can get access to the shelter once a hurricane warning is in place.
If you are wish to donate (and live in the Cayman Islands), write a cheque to the Cayman Islands Humane Society (note on the cheque that it is for the Hurricane Pet Shelter fund). Mail the cheque to the Humane Society at PO Box 1167 GT, or drop it by the Society's office on North Sound Road.
US citizens wishing to make a tax–exempt donation to this cause can mail cheques to: Friends of the Cayman Islands Humane Society Tax ID#/ EIN# 522376265 7012 Union Avenue Cleveland, Ohio 44105
Grand Cayman got hit by another earthquake on 12th July. The magnitude 4.5 tremor had an epicentre 30 miles east of George Town at a depth of 6.2 miles. There were no reports of damage or injuries.
A local resident was imprisoned for 15 months for taking marine life from a Marine Park off Seven Mile Beach. The George Town resident (for some reason his name hasn't been disclosed) was caught in June with 21 conch and one lobster. At the time he was on bail, having previously committed a similar crime. This is the longest prison sentence delivered for marine offences to date, but the Department of Environment (DoE) say that such offences will be vigorously prosecuted in the future.
The National Hurricane Plan has been updated and is now available online at http://www.caymanprepared.ky/portal/page?_pageid=1143,1708627&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL. There are lots of sections, covering roles and responsibilities, communications, economic impact assessment, initial clearance and debris management, search and rescue, medical relief, mass fatality management, etc., as well as separate sections for the Sister Islands. One part of the evacuation plan has been highlighted in the local press: "The current policy is that all persons ordered to evacuate such areas shall do so for the safety and preservation of lives." "Persons failing to evacuate as ordered face arrest, possible conviction and penalties." Of the plan, National Hurricane Committee Chairman Donovan Ebanks said: "[it] looks to address various shortcomings that Ivan exposed. It still doesn't mean it's a foolproof plan… but it brings it up to addressing the major shortcomings."
Speaking at a recent seminar in Cayman, Dr Pablo Suarez of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Centre on Climate Change and Disaster Preparedness warned that climate change will affect the tourism sector in the Cayman Islands. He warned that "coral reefs are dying in part because of changing ocean conditions that may affect tourism." With more construction taking place, "you have more properties exposed to hurricanes and other extreme weather events". Dr Suarez called on Caymanians to play their part in preventing the worsening of climatic conditions. "One option is to reduce pollution, avoid changes in the atmosphere so that the climate does not get worse. In addition to reducing pollution we should think of adaptation, getting ready for a climate that will get worse."
The berthing facility for cruise ships has taken another step forward. Tourism Minister Hon Charles Clifford said the "The project to establish berthing facilities in Grand Cayman has begun. The initial phase, an environmental impact assessment, has just started. The Port Authority and the Ministry are working with the Department of Environment and an international environment firm to ensure that best practices are observed in the plan, design and build of the facilities." Public consultations on the project are due to begin in September. The minister went on: "Berthing facilities will take Cayman from the yesteryear of cruising and will allow us to provide a safer, standardised and enjoyable experience to those who call on our shores. When you have berthing facilities disembarkation and embarkation are simplified and shortened." The project will include berthing facilities for up to four ships. With the new facilities planned, the cap on the number of daily cruise visitors is also to be reviewed.
A group of officials from the Cayman Islands government and the private sector recently made a visit to a US company marketing technology that uses saltwater to generate energy. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) technology is based on using the temperature differentials in deep ocean water (approximately 40 degrees F) and the surface water temperature (approximately 80 degrees F) to drive turbines. This process produces steam, fresh water and electricity. Minister of Communications, Works and Infrastructure Arden McLean said "A major benefit of this technology is that it provides a source of renewable energy. With the current price of oil, there is potential for big savings on energy costs. Additionally, as no fossil fuel will be used, the emission of greenhouse gases is eliminated." If built, Caymans proposed plant is land–based and would be able to provide 10 megawatts of electricity and 3 million gallons of fresh water per day. One of the major issues that needs to be addressed is if the utility companies involved, Caribbean Utilities Company and the Water Authority and/or Cayman Water Company, need to agree to purchase the power generated and the water produced.
The first–ever Bachelor of Science degrees have been awarded by the University College of the Cayman Islands. One of the graduates, Erica Bush, in her Valedictorian address said This is the first Bachelor of Science degree graduating class. We have earned the right to be remembered. We are the ambassadors of the University College of the Cayman Islands and are part of the beginning of a promising future in the level and quality of education provided in the Cayman Islands." At the degree ceremony, over 170 degrees were presented including 64 Associate Degrees, 55 Vocational Degrees and 51 Professional Degrees.
Atlantis Submarine has recently started up night time tours offering a fun adventure that the entire family can enjoy. The tours depart just after sundown from the Atlantis Submarine offices on South Church Street, George Town. The night–time tours are offered Tuesdays and Thursdays. Tours cost US$89 or US$49 for children. For further details, check out their website at http://www.atlantisadventures.com/destinations.php?site=5 or contact them by e-mail at mailto:contact-cayman@GoAtlantis.com
Walker's, one of Cayman's largest law firms, has taken over Crills Advocates, a Jersey-based provider of institutional offshore and domestic legal services. The firm will now be able to offer Jersey legal and administrative services in jurisdictions around the world including Cayman, London, Dubai, the British Virgin Islands, and Hong Kong. Grant Stein, Walkers’ Global Managing Partner, said "Jersey is a key jurisdiction for many structured finance products and investment funds promoted in Europe. As a result, Jersey is a market which complements our Cayman Islands' structured finance practice and market–leading hedge funds practice, and should be a core focus for Walkers."
Preparation site work has begun on a new condominium community called Lakeside. The 195 units will be built around a man–made lake just north of the centre of Seven Mile Beach on the Harquail bypass. The community will also feature two pools and an oversized feature pool, clubhouse and a gymnasium, extensive landscaping and ample parking. The construction of the condos will feature six–inch–thick solid concrete/steel walls coupled with Styrofoam layers which will offer greater insulation leading to lower utility bills. To be able to withstand hurricanes and storm surges, the buildings will feature standard seam roofs, and floor level will be set at seven feet above sea level - two feet higher than required to meet planning approval.
You either loved it or loathed it, but the Glass House government administration building will be demolished. The space will be turned into a public park. However the demolition won't take place for a couple of years as planned replacement offices won't be completed until then. When it is knocked down, Because of fire code issues, the Governor's Office moved from the Glass House last summer. The government has now decided it would not be cost efficient to make the renovations necessary for continued use. It has also been decided not to sell the Tower Building property. Some of the site will be turned into additional parking area for the Legislative Assembly and the rest into a public green area. Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin said "We have no plans for the property, but we're cognisant of the fact that 20 years from now, we might need it." Government did go out to tender for the job of demolishing the Tower Building, but only one response was received, and that was deemed unacceptable.
Two "message in a bottle" stories this month: Back in 1987 Tortuga Rum, Sunset House and Cayman Airways launched twelve bottles containing vouchers for a one–way Cayman Airways ticket to Cayman to claim a case of Tortuga Rum, with a stay at Sunset House. Four prizes were claimed within 18 months; these bottles were found at South Padre Island in Texas. In April 2003 Texas police officer John Reed found a fifth bottle whilst fishing near Conn Brown Harbor in Aransas Pass, Texas. Not having any plans for a holiday at the time, no arrangements were made but Mr Reed confirmed that the vouchers were still valid. As he is now getting married, he has decided with his fiancée Stepahnie to visit Cayman for their honeymoon. Their prize has now been upgraded by Cayman Airways to two roundtrip tickets and Sunset House has extended the stay from three to five nights. The Department of Tourism (DoT) are providing ground transportation for them, along with a special horse–drawn carriage ride, to Grand Old House for dinner (courtesy of the restaurant). The couple are also to receive dinner at Café Med (from Mr. Hamaty - owner of Tortuga Rum) and a DoT gift basket containing local products and crafts. The bottles that were launched back in 1987 had been coated with liquid plastic and sealed with a special epoxy glue to safeguard the vouchers inside. Each contained a message typed on the Tortuga Rum Company's letter head: "12 Tortuga bottles were released today, Saturday 13 June, 1987, off the shores of Grand Cayman Island, British West Indies at exact position latitude N1920.5 longitude W8127.5 by the personnel of Cayman Airways, Sunset House Hotel, and Tortuga Rum Company. Best wishes to the finders from all of us! Please return your bottle and state date and location found to claim your prize ...". Somewhere there are seven bottles with vouchers still to be claimed! Back in 2004 when visiting Cayman to get married, Erik and Nicole Landrowski of Illinois went out fishing with friends on the day before their wedding. They launched a bottle with a message in it that was found this month on a beach at Westward Ho!, Devon, UK. (Little known fact courtesy of Wikipedia - the English town of Westward Ho!, named after the novel by Charles Kingsley, is the only place name in the United Kingdom that officially contains an exclamation mark. There is a town in Quebec called Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, which officially contains two exclamation marks in its name.)
An American couple visiting Cayman to celebrate a wedding anniversary had a longer stay than they expected. Lee DeShawn Young and his wife were charged with possession and importation of an unlicensed .22 Ravenarm handgun. Young pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to seven days imprisonment and fined CI$3,000. Young had stored the gun in a suitcase and then forgot it was there when they flew from Detroit, Michigan, to Miami, and then from Miami to Grand Cayman. During this trip the handgun was not detected. It was only when they were returning home that it was detected by the X-ray machine operator screening checked-in baggage.
The US Transportation Security Agency (TSA) has announced that pre-check-in baggage searches are no longer required for flights into the US from Owen Roberts Airport in Grand Cayman. However baggage will continue to be x-rayed post check-in. This should speed up pre-flight preparations, but airlines are still advising passengers to arrive at the airport two hours before departure.
After extensive renovations post Hurricane Ivan, George Town Library has reopened. The library has a collection of 24,000 books and work is continuing to replace the reference and biography collections which were completely destroyed. The restored library facility now boasts a new standing-seam roof, new shelving and new wheelchair ramp access. The floor has been raised six inches. Learning technology enhancements are also anticipated, including ADSL links for transferring electronic files and a complimentary 'Hotspot' Internet connection which will be provided by Cable and Wireless for library patrons.
Breaker's Lagoon in Boatswains Beach has now opened. For an entry fee of CI$28 for adults and CI$16 for children under twelve, visitors will have access to observe the turtles swimming in the breeding pond or stop by the touch tanks. Visitors can now enjoy a refreshing, cool dip in the new fresh water tidal lagoon. In September the park will also introduce such additional features as a snorkel lagoon filled with thousands of reef fish, a predator tank, a Caymanian streetscape with local artisans, musicians and storytellers as well as a couple of food outlets.
In April's news I mentioned that a Cayman company that went into liquidation was sueing Barclays Bank. The Commercial Court in London held that Barclays Bank wrongfully provided facilities for Architects of Wine Limited to convert cheques through a London branch of Barclays after the bank accounts of Architects of Wine Limited were frozen in the Cayman Islands amid allegations of widespread fraud and US regulations intervention. Chris Johnson, managing director of liquidator Chris Johnson Associates Ltd, said "We are particularly pleased by the decision, especially as it is so hard to find a UK legal firm which is willing and able to sue a clearing bank." Architects of Wine Limited was selling wine securities – which it was not licensed to do – and then transferring receipts to offshore accounts. As they emptied the coffers, processing some of the money through London and later Italy after its Cayman Islands accounts were shut down, the company continued to solicit additional funds from investors, ostensibly in order to protect and further appreciate the original ill-fated investments. Mr. Johnson concluded this is a significant win against a major international financial institution and would set the stage for a wider effort to recover some US$25m lost by several hundred defrauded investors almost all of whom are physicians resident in the United States.
"The Cayman Islands' Annual Economic Report 2005" has been published and is available as an Adobe Acrobat document at http://www.eso.ky/file.php?path=docum45.pdf. Highlights of the report are:
|GDP growth in real terms (%)||0.9||6.5|
|GDP per capita (in CI$)||38,173||39,801|
|Nominal GDP (CI$ million)||1,688.8||1,924.5|
|Of which Caymanians||22,131||31,787|
|Unemployment rate (% of labour force)||4.4||3.5|
|Inflation rate (%)||4.4||7.0|
|Inflation rate excluding housing (%)||3.3||2.2|
|Total imports (in CI$ million)||725.9||990.4|
|Total imports (% of GDP)||43.0||51.5|
|Overall fiscal balance of the central government (CI$ million)||-41.7||-1.7|
|Overall fiscal balance of the central government (% of GDP)||-2.47||-0.09|
|Outstanding debt of the central government (CI$ million)||145.3||172.9|
|Outstanding debt of the central government (% of GDP)||8.6||9.0|
|Total money supply (M2, in CI $billion)||5.75||5.14|
|Cruise ship passengers (in thousands)||1683.3||1799.0|
|Stay-over tourists (in thousands)||259.9||167.8|
|Mutual fund licences||5,932||7,106|
|Banking and trust licenses||322||305|
|Stock exchange listings||857||1015|
|Building permits (CI$ million)||142||336.8|
|Planning approvals (CI$ million)||470||570.7|
|Property transfers (CI$ million)||339.2||450.8|
|Total fixed and mobile telephone lines||96,293||110,656|
A new issue of stamps, "Cayman's Aquatic Treasures", has been released. The six-stamp issue is the first series in over ten years to feature marine life, and also reflects the new postage rates. Postmaster General Sheena Glasgow said "Although the Quincentennial stamp issue included a couple of fish, this commemorative issue is dedicated to our islands' marine life. Our collectors have requested marine life for quite some time now. So I expect Cayman's Aquatic Treasures to be a very popular issue". The stamps are based on underwater photos taken by Richard Brooks and Elisa Buller who were both employed by Little Cayman Beach Resort at the time the issue was put together. The stamps feature the Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) 25¢, Grey Angelfish (Pomacanthus arcuatus) 25¢, Queen Angelfish (Holocanthus ciliaris) 60¢, Diamond Blenny (Malacoctenus boehlkei) 75¢, and Juvenile Spotted Drum (Equetus punctatus) $1.00, with the Caribbean Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus) on the First Day Cover. The series also includes postcards and self-adhesive postage stamps. First Day Covers with stamps are CI$3.65 and the souvenir sheet costs CI$2.85. For further details contact the Philatelic Bureau at mailto:email@example.com
Law firm Appleby Spurling Hunter is to merge with Jersey firm Bailhache Labesse. In 2004, local law firm Hunter & Hunter merged with Bermudan firm Appleby Spurling & Kempe. The new firm which will start business on 1st September 2006, will be known as Appleby Hunter Bailhache and have nearly 600 staff and over 40 partners. The firm will have offices in Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and Jersey as well as a presence in the major financial centres of London and Hong Kong. In other corporate news, Wilmington Trust, one of America's largest personal trust service providers, has announced that it has acquired PwC Corporate Services (Cayman) Limited (PwCS), a provider of company administration and bookkeeping facilities in the Cayman Islands, from the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCooper.
Speaking at a workshop set up to help local businesses get more benefit from cruise operators, Director of Tourism Pilar Bush said that the Cayman Islands has to work harder to give tourists value for money. "Cayman is not perceived to be good value for money. We need to take this on board as a country. We are challenged with this perception. This does not mean things have to be cheap. It means we have to add value". Referring to the results of a travel survey, she said that 94% of visitors to the Caribbean were aware of the Cayman Islands. Cayman outperforms competitors as a family destination, but is deemed to be a less romantic destination that some Jamaican resorts. However, Cayman scores highly for water sports, diving and shopping, but received lower ratings for nightlife, restaurants and culture. "The perception is that this is not an interesting culture. We know this is not true, we are just not packaging it right." Bush suggested that local businesses looking to cater to cruise ship guests could consider moving into the performing arts, locally made arts and crafts and unique retail outlets.
Hardly had the hurricane season started than a depression settled over the islands. According to local weather stations, Tropical Storm Alberto dropped over 19 inches of rain at Sunset House, 17 inches of rain in the East End and 11 inches on Crewe Road. The bad weather also meant that the Queen's Birthday Celebration and Garden Party were postponed. This compares to an average monthly rainfall for June of under 7 inches. The heavy rain lead to some localised flooding; one wave of bad weather brought over 2.5 inches of rain in just over an hour and wind speeds around 50mph caused damage to at least one power pole.
At a recent seminar to discuss storm surges across the Caribbean, Cayman Island's meteorologists said that the expect the islands to be affected by four hurricanes every five years if current weather conditions continue. Even though the islands may not suffer a direct hit, there was a good chance that the country would feel the effects from the hurricanes. In 2005 Cayman didn't suffer a direct hit, but felt the force of hurricanes Emily and Wilma. The Meteorological Office has also adopted a new modelling tool to deal with storm surges. TAOS - The Arbiter of Storm - has been specially tailored to Cayman's needs. Senior Meteorological Services manager Fred Sambula said that the tool gives "pictorial information on possible impacts and predicts how storm surges affects the coastline". Sambula added that he believes TAOS is superior to other modelling tools as it only needs a small amount of data to predict when storm surge, winds, and waves are likely to become a problem.
The largest cruise ship in the world made it's maiden visit to Cayman this month. Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas can carry up to 4,375 passengers, but on this cruise only had 3,600 passengers. Royal Caribbean is adding two more ships of similar size to it's fleet in the coming years.
An American property developer, Stanley Thomas, has paid US$100 million to buy 300 acres of land just north of the Cayman Islands Yacht Club and Salt Creek. He has also bought 1500 feet of Seven Mile Beach property (this compares with the Hyatt's 200 feet frontage and the Marriott's 330 feet). Real Estate experts are saying that this has the potential for development of a massive five-star standard resort to include an 18-hole golf course, marina, residential frontage and beachfront villas. According to Kim Lund, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Cayman Islands' monthly report into the Real Estate sector, (see http://www.caymanlundteam.com/journal_may06.php) "One does not invest about US$100 million dollars in land without planning to develop it and realize a return." "At this stage, it is still too early to determine what will happen with this accumulation of properties until a master plan has been completed. However, with the amount of investment already made to acquire these properties, some sort of development, not unlike the Hyatt and Ritz-Carlton will likely take place in the near future, but on a larger scale."
The Department of Agriculture is working to contain and eradicate the pink hibiscus mealybug (PHM), a serious plant pest that has been discovered in George Town. Samples sent to the Florida Department of Agriculture's laboratory confirmed the outbreak. The pest feeds on plant sap and also releases toxic substances that may injure or slowly kill the plant. Signs that a plant has been infected include white, cotton-like masses on the plants, stick secretions that attract ants. In the mid-1990s, PHM caused economic losses in excess of $3.5 million a year in Grenada and $125 million a year in Trinidad and Tobago, according to US Department of Agriculture reports. Department of Agriculture's Assistant Director Adrian Estwick said that plans developed in 1996 to deal with the threat including cultural, classical biological, chemical, and legal controls to combat the pest would be implemented. "With cultural control, the department will focus on removing and destroying heavily invested plants; classical biological control refers to importing and releasing natural enemies of the PHM." "Chemical control involves the responsible use of pesticides in specific cases, mostly nurseries, to work toward zero tolerance for PHM. Lastly, legal controls could include quarantines of nurseries and garden centres if they become infected, as well as the implementation of laws governing within, as well as inter-island, movement of plants." One of the steps being taken is the importation of a wasp, Anagryrus kamali, from Puerto Rico. The US Department of Agriculture has agreed to send 5,000 wasps a week to the Caymans for the foreseeable future. These will be released in the affected areas, along with thousands of parasitic beetles with the hope that, within a year, the mealybug will have been 90% eradicated. The Department of Agriculture (DoA) have issued a presentation (in Adobe Acrobat format) about the mealybug with photos showing infestation and the DoA's strategies for containing and eradicating the pest and informing residents how they can help at http://www.gov.ky/pls/portal/url/item/17EDED469BECAD1DE0408D030B0A4E52
Last year Treasure Island Resort was bought and the new owners said that it would not be trading as a hotel, but would be available for long-term leases. Well, they have now changed their minds, and some 50 of the 290 renovated rooms will be made available as a tourist hotel. A further 30 odd rooms will be constructed in the area above the lobby in the next nine months. Subject to completion of central building work (a new entrance lobby, etc), approval will be sought from the Hotels Licensing Board towards the end of the year in time for peak season.
The current rollover policy has come under criticism from new quarters. Some of the members of the Council of Associations, a body representing professional associations in a number of private industry sectors, have written to the the Chairman of the Immigration Review Team recommending a number of changes to the policy on the seven–year term limit for work permits and Permanent Residency. The letter was backed by the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, the Cayman Islands Bankers Association, the Cayman Contractors Association, the Cayman Islands Insurance Association, the Cayman Islands Bankers Association, the Cayman Islands Fund Administers Association, the Cayman Association of Architects, Surveyors and Engineers, and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association. Whilst accepting the term-limit protected interests for Caymanians, the Council said "there is genuine concern and fear of the future of certain business sectors because of the ability to attract and maintain professionals and skilled workers which are in short supply locally and globally". One recommendation is that businesses should be able to specify a percentage of key staff and key posts that should be exempted from the term policy. They also believe that the points system for Permanent Residency should be reviewed. A copy of the press release is on the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce website at http://www.wliinc2.com/cgi/foxweb.dll/wlx/cs/wlxenews?cc=CICC&action=DISPLISTDET&docid=353 President of the Cayman Islands Society for Human Resource Professionals, Samantha Bennett, said the rollover policy is one of the most important issues that local Human Resource professionals are facing. Ms. Bennett added "Someone may be perfect for a job that you can't find a Caymanian for, but you have to consider how long they have been here on the Island. If the candidate is close to seven years - then you have to consider if it makes sense to bring this person on for a year, if you are going to have to look for someone else within 12 months. This is not just about skills or training Caymanians anymore. This is not just about applying to Immigration for work permit renewals. There are additional factors." She added that some HR managers are examining employees resumes to see if there has been a six month break in their residency that would effectively mean that the seven year clock has been reset. Many businesses are now looking at succession planning, but valuable staff are being lost: "some people are still feeling cornered and are moving away when it gets close to their seven years or they stop trying to better themselves, because they know they will be leaving". One employment agency on Cayman, BrightStaff, is now offering a service to find jobs overseas for those have hit the seven year limit on their work permit in the financial sector. BrightStaff President Kathleen Jackman said "Many professionals are considering leaving the island as a result of the term restrictions set out in the roll over policy. As some employees were not fully aware of their window of opportunity for applying for permanent residency, the need to identify career opportunities off the island may be very immediate." BrightStaff's Quality Assurance Manager Cheryl Farquharson added "The hedge fund industry in the greater Toronto area is growing rapidly and for Cayman's professionals wanting to repatriate or move to Canada, there are a variety of opportunities. Toronto clients are stressing their desire to specifically recruit individuals from the Cayman Islands who have gained valuable experience in the offshore hedge fund industry." BrightStaff are also recruiting for financial positions in New York, London and Bermuda with leading financial services firms.
Wild dogs have killed two Cayman Blue Iguanas, mauled a pregnant female and a fourth iguana is missing (feared dead) from the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. The dead iguanas, Slugger and Sapphire, were both part of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme and had been born in 1997 and released into the park in 1999. Fred Burton, director of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme said "They were not tame, but they were not afraid of people. They were like ambassadors. Thousands of visitors admired them and took their pictures, which are now all over the world." Several dog traps have been set. Mr Burton added that "If we succeed in catching the dogs, we'll have to put them down". He added that unfortunately irresponsible pet owners are making their job harder. "Well–meaning people are bringing animals to the park and abandoning them, thinking park staff will be kind to animals. We have found kittens, full–grown cats, puppies and green iguanas and we have absolutely no option but to trap them and remove them. They have no place here and they're damaging the native wildlife we're trying so hard to protect." Should you wish to donate to the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, then you can through their website at http://www.blueiguana.ky/
Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford has announced that George Town Harbour has been chosen as the site of the berthing facility for cruise ships. The project now enters the design phase, with plans to be drawn up. Mr Clifford added that the recommendation of the National Tourism Management Policy to limit cruise visitors to 9,200 per day will have to be revised to take into account the improved infrastructure.
Caribbean tourism officials are campaigning for the postponement of the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which is supposed to take effect 1 January, 2007. Under the scheme, US citizens would have to possess a valid passport when re–entering the US from a Caribbean destination. However, a recent survey of cruise ship passengers showed that only 45% had passports. Vincent Vanderpool–Wallace, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, said "The reason for a further postponement must be that the pick up of new passports by US citizens has been nowhere near the numbers that we would like to see". "We recognize that we have an added problem, which is that so many people have been so accustomed for so long to waking in the morning and deciding to go to the Caribbean because they didn't need a passport, that there has to be an extensive campaign to let a lot more people know about this new requirement." "We've done surveys of US travellers to the Caribbean who currently hold valid passports and although the numbers seem to vary with each survey, some results show that up to 70 per cent do have passports. However, I will not be comfortable until at least 90 per cent of the US market has passports." Rick Webster of the Travel Industry Association added "Things are confusing. One possible outcome is people won't travel. There could be tens of thousands of people who decide not to travel because they're concerned about what documentation they'll need." Mr Webster also advises Americans "If people are planning any type of travel after January of 2007, get a passport. Run, don't walk".
The Information and Communications Technology Authority (ICTA) had launched a public consultation document on Unsolicited Electronic Messages (Spam). The paper seeks to discuss and obtain feedback on the various policy issues which are raised when considering anti-spam legislation. The objective is to ensure that any anti-spam legislation enacted in Cayman Islands is an effective tool as part of a multi-pronged attack on spam. The 17-page discussion document (in Adobe PDF format) can be downloaded from http://www.icta.ky/docs/SPAM/CD%202006-2%20Bulk%20Distribution%20of%20Messages.pdf. Closing date for comments is 18th August 2006.
Cayman Airways Express' two new De Havilland Twin Otters have been christened; the Cayman Brac Adventurer and Little Cayman Explorer. The addition of the two planes means that there will now be six daily inter-island round trips.
As a result of a survey of Post Office users earlier in the year, the Cayman Islands Post Office is making plans to open on Saturday by the end of summer. More that 1,500 people completed the survey, and 69 per cent of respondents want the Post Office to open on Saturday. The alternative, extended weekday hours, was selected by 53 per cent of respondents. The Airport Post Office is the most used facility with nearly 40 per cent of respondents; General Post Office came in second with almost 30 per cent; and Seven Mile Beach was third, with 26 per cent. The tasks that most respondents were unable to complete during regular hours are purchasing stamps (about 31 per cent), followed by dealing with parcel post (27 per cent) and using Registered Mail (about 29 per cent). 876 respondents said they do not want home delivery and 1010 people (over 66 per cent) said they would not be willing to pay for that service. Postmaster General Sheena Glasgow said that she was not totally surprised by the results. "The results show areas of both strength and weakness. Initiatives such as Saturday openings and customer service training for front line staff will be addressed by the end of the year. The introduction of stamp vending machines is being considered". Also under consideration is a service whereby a customs-cleared parcel can be delivered directly to a customer's home or office. A larger facility at Savannah is also in the planning stage.
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/14029DEF82F94BECE0408D030B0AD07A 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=1142,1660295&_dad=portal&_schema=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/LOGBBudgetSpeech20062007.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.
The Performance Freedive International Team were in Cayman for "Cayman 2006 - SINK FAZE" this month to make attempts on more Freediving records. Czech freediver Martin Stepanek set a new world record in the Constant Ballast discipline (swimming down to depth and back to the surface with fins and a ballast weight) with a dive of 106 metres (348 feet) in a dive lasting 3 minutes 55 seconds. A few days later he increased this to 108 metres (352 feet) in a time of 3 minutes 50 seconds. He also set a new world record in the Free Immersion discipline of 106 metres (348 feet). Free Immersion requires the diver to pull down a cable to depth and back up, without fins. Mandy-Rae Cruickshank set a new Canadian National record in the women's Constant Ballast category with a dive of 80 metres (262 feet) in a time of 2 minutes 36 seconds. Dr. George 'Doc' Lopez set a new United States record in the Free Immersion category with a dive of 51 metres (167 feet). For more information and videos of the events see the Performance Freedive International website at http://www.performancefreediving.com/news/news_2006.htm. The record holders also have their own websites at http://www.avex.cz/martin_stepanek/news.php (Martin Stepanek) http://www.mandy-rae.com/ (Mandy-Rae Cruickshank) http://www.deeperblue.net/bio.php/148 (Dr. George 'Doc' Lopez)
Last month I mentioned that the Turtle Farm had sent 20 turtles to Sea Life centres in Europe. This has met with protests from various conservation groups and international Non-Governmental Organisations condemning the UK government for approving the shipment that the protest groups consider to be illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) - an international treaty prohibiting the cross-boundary trade of certain endangered species, including all sea turtles. In 2002 the UK government tried to get the Turtle Farm registered as a "captive breeding" facility under CITES; this would have allowed the Farm to trade turtle meat and shells internationally. However, as part of the registration process, the Farm had to prove that all of it's breeding stock was obtained legally. The government of Costa Rica protested and showed that some of the Farm's stock was likely obtained from Costa Rica without documented legal authority. A letter signed by leading conservation groups, including the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, the Ocean Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare has been sent to the Belgian Minister of the Environment, the Secretary General of CITES, the UK Minister for Nature Conservation and Fisheries and Sea Life Centres. See the letter at http://www.medasset.org/pdf/CITES.pdf
The Ministry of Tourism has decided to reschedule the Pirate's Week festival. The new dates are now 9th November through to 19th November. It appears that several factors have led to the change; many events were cancelled or rescheduled in 2005 because of the bad weather - October is one of the rainiest months in the Cayman Islands. Pirate's Week also clashed with Fantasy Fest in Key West held during the last week of October. The Ministry hope that by changing dates they may attract visitors from the festival in Key West. The schedule for 2006 is now on the official web site at http://www.piratesweekfestival.com/
Arianne Dart chose a gathering of high-level contributors to the National Recovery Fund to announce a surprise donation of US$500,000 and the promise of a second, similar amount should corporate donors match her gift.
A Cayman company that went into liquidation last year is now sueing Barclay's Bank in the UK. Architects of Wine Limited (AOW) sold wine investment contracts. The liquidators, Chris Johnson Associates, have discovered that AOW had a bank account held in Cayman by Barclays' affiliate FirstCaribbean International Bank into which payments from investors were deposited. However, following a Cease and Desist Order issued by the State or Arkansas in May 2004, FirstCaribbean's correspondent banks in the US, of which Barclays' New York branch was the principal one, refused to accept any further transfers on behalf of AOW. Around the same time Architects of Wine (UK) Limited, a separate subsidiary of the same parent company, Paradigm, requested Barclays to open a US dollar account in addition to its sterling account. Cheques in excess of US$1 million made payable to the Cayman business were deposited into the US$ account of the UK company. The lawsuit claims that the cheques made payable to AOW and deposited into one or the other AOW UK accounts were at all times property of AOW and that the collection of those cheques by Barclays amounted to a wrongful conversion of AOW property. In addition to the US$1.31 million, AOW is claiming interest on the money, costs and further or other relief.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts has said that there is the potential for an outbreak of Dengue Fever in Cayman this year. Dengue Feever is spread by the bite of specific species of mosquitoes, usually the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Assistant Director Dr. Alan Wheeler of the Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) said Aedes aegypti has reappeared on Grand Cayman. "We've eliminated it several times, but it keeps coming back. Hurricane Ivan created the perfect conditions for it. It will take a while to get it under control." The mosquito eggs can lie dormant for up to two years - all it needs is a little rain to hatch. Mr. Wheeler said Aedes aegypti is now here in sufficient numbers to cause the potential for a Dengue Fever outbreak, but he thinks it would probably only be an isolated outbreak. The MRCU have completed pre-season sprayings. Aedes aegypti will only breed in clean, fresh, non–salty water. Common places for breeding include buckets, children's toys, old tyres and in blocked gutters. Mr. Wheeler said it is important for home owners to make sure there are no places where fresh water can accumulate and offer a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The MRCU's plane that was damaged in an accident in February has been repaired and returned to Cayman. Work on calibrating equipment and software will now resume. The plane is expected to be operational in time for spraying before the start of the rainy reason.
Philip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray of Colorado State University have issued their forecast for the 2006 hurricane season. There has been no change to their figures since their report in December 2005. They are predicting 17 named storms, nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes of Category 3 or above this year. This compares to an annual average of 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 major hurricanes for the period 1950 - 2000. Their report is available online at http://tropical.atmos.colostate.edu/forecasts/ The statistics for the 2005 hurricane season have been revised. The Tropical Prediction Center/National Hurricane Center in Miami announced the storm on 10 April, saying that on rare occasions it identifies a previously unnoted tropical or subtropical storm from new data or meteorological interpretation. The storm in question started just west of the Canary Islands on 28 September, developed into a subtropical depression on 4 October as it passed the Azores west of Portugal. This brings the total number of storms recorded in the Atlantic basin for 2005 to a record-breaking 28 storms. The highest previous record was 21 storms set in 1933.
Kirk Sea Tours' Sun Runner capsized near the sand in the North Sound. The boat was carrying 54 cruise passengers from the Costa Mediterranea, a cruise ship escort and three crew. There were no serious injuries. The accident is being investigated by the Police maritime unit with assistance from the Port Authority There is a fairly damming eyewitness report at http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=329851
Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin announced that the Cayman Islands should soon be receiving $5 million from the European Development Fund (EDF) to help with the Hurricane Ivan recovery. Under normal circumstances aid from the EDF is capped at 3.61 million euros ($5 million), but under special circumstances this can be increased to double this. The Cayman Islands government, supported by the British government, are seeking the higher figure, but there are several legal hurdles that have to be overcome first. Mr McLaughlin said "We've been advised to put in place the steps to get this money. We remain optimistic we'll get that money soon." One of the conditions of the aid package is that it doesn't go directly to governments; it will go directly to the Hurricane Recovery Fund.
Tourism Minister Charles Clifford announced that the contract for the audit of Cayman Airways has been awarded to Lufthansa Consulting, which is part of Lufthansa Airways in Germany. The audit will look at human resources, information technology, marketing and sales, route planning and scheduling, operations and purchasing and supply chain. The results of the audit aren't expected until June.
The results of the Labour Force Survey carried out by the Economics and Statistics Office (ESO) in October 2005 showed that the population of the Cayman Islands has increased to 52,465.
Tourism statistics for March have been released and are available at http://www.caymanislands.ky/statistics/. Air arrivals increased by over 6,000 on February's figure to 31,493. This is a significant improvement on the figure of 18,810 for 2005, but below the 2004 figure of 37,248. Hotels reported an occupancy rate of 79% and apartments reported a 56.6% occupancy rate. Cruise arrivals rose from 180,675 in February to 253,124 in March - the highest recorded figure for March.
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 GB£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 mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
The Mastic Trail has reopened after the damage caused by Hurricane Ivan. Announcing the opening of the trail, National Trust General Manager Frank Roulstone said "The trail is finally open again thanks to hundreds of hours of hard work by a multi–national crew of volunteers who braved rain, mud, sweat, sunburn and maiden plum to complete the restoration of the trail". "An unusually wet season also brought dramatic growth and we were continually re–clearing areas which had previously been completed. I am just glad to see it finished so we can move on to other sites in desperate need of attention." Work has been hampered by prolonged flooding on the southern end of the trail and falling trees weakened by the Hurricane. The wilderness trail is open in it's entirety but the southern end is still muddy and slick in low-lying areas. Further work has to be done on the trail, including numbered signs along the trek and information signs at either end. There are no facilities and the public uses the trail at their own risk. The trail is not suitable for young children and adults should be physically fit and in good health. Stout footwear, personal water supply, sunscreen and insect repellent are highly recommended. Pets are not permitted and cell phones should be turned off while on the trail.
Tourism Minister Hon. Charles Clifford announced that two agencies are looking for the best location to establish a berthing facility for cruise ships. However, in his announcement he didn't divulge who the parties were or where they were looking, but did say that "the Government is committed to ensuring the better distribution of cruise visitors which will reduce the congestion in central George Town and on the West Bay Road and at the same time move some of the economic benefits from cruise tourism into the Eastern Districts of Bodden Town, East End and North Side".
The Department of Tourism and The Ritz–Carlton recently partnered with Essie Cosmetics Ltd. to create a brand new line of nail polish shades inspired by the Cayman Islands. he Cayman Collection includes: Heavenly Sunset – rosy–mauve with glittery shimmer; My Private Cabana – semi–sheer blush; Need a Vacation – bubble gum pink; Pink Glove Service – translucent petal pink; Room With a View – sheer shimmery baby pink; Sandy Beach – translucent toffee with subtle iridescence. There is also an opportunity to win a five day, four night stay at the Ritz Carlton with Cayman Airways flights. You can enter the draw through Essie's website at http://www.essiecosmetics.com/
Low fare carrier Spirit Airlines has started it's daily flights to Grand Cayman from Fort Lauderdale. The airline has also announced it has named its newest A319 aircraft "Spirit of Cayman Islands".
Cayman Brac Power are in discussions with a number of US firms to see if a wind turbine farm is feasible. Although Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC) concluded a few years ago that there weren't sufficient winds in Grand Cayman to sustain wind turbine energy, Mr. Tibbetts, General Manager of Cayman Brac Power, said the company and its investors are confident this will not be a problem for Cayman Brac. Solar power has also been investigated for the Brac, but it was found that solar panels almost the size of the entire island would be needed, where as wind power would only require two turbines. If the feasibility studies are successful, it is anticipated that the first wind tower will go up by 2008. This could lead to savings of up to 30% in electricity bills for residents.
Cayman will have a new tourist attraction in the middle of the year with the planned opening of "Cayman Parrot Jungle". The six–acre site will feature woodland trails cutting through aviaries, pens and perches next to the Mastic Trail on Frank Sound Road. The park hopes to home over 100 birds and animals including macaws, cockatoos, parakeets, sun conyers and African grey parrots. Plans also include a petting zoo, and part of the site will be set aside as a traditional Caymanian farm (as if there weren't enough chickens on the island!). The park is still waiting for final approval from the Department of Agriculture. The developers are planning to build special concrete shelters to protect the birds and animals during hurricanes. Future developments on the site include a children's playground and a water park with pools and slides.
Cayman Brac's Parrot Reserve has expanded. A grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Government funding and help from the Ministry and Department of Environment (DoE) and the National Trust have enabled the purchase of a parcel of land that separated the two strips already under the care of the reserve.
Government is reviewing some of it's fees to raise some of the CI$25 million that it needs this year. A "revenue register" of 190 fee types now collected by 18 government departments and agencies has been compiled and sent to private-sector organisations and professional associations, seeking their ideas on how Government can raise the funds. As an example, some fees have not changed since 1978: the annual cost of registration for a veterinary surgeon has stood at CI$40 and annual registration of an animal health assistant is still CI$10. The shortfall has once again raised speculation about a national lottery.
Remember the case of the Afghan refugees? well one of them, Nek Nazary started medical school at St Matthew’s University School of Medicine this term. After the court case that saw him released from prison, Mr Nazary has volunteered at the Red Cross, designing posters for HIV awareness campaigns and coordinating volunteers for the disaster preparedness committee. He also finished high school through home study and was permitted to attend the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI). His future position is still unclear; he has no assets to obtain a bank loan and his immigration status does not allow him to work. As an Afghan refugee in Cayman, it may be difficult to obtain a student visa in the post-9/11 environment in the US so he will probably have to do his clinical studies in Canada.
Sir Michael Jay, the senior Civil Servant in the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, visited Cayman this month. His short visit included meeting senior police and justice officials, Cabinet members, Members of the Legislative Assembly, leaders in the business community, and heads of civil society organizations. He also visited some sites where reconstruction after Hurricane Ivan is taking place, including Ocean Club and Mariners Cove. Sir Michael promised to urge the European Union to release relief funds to aid the recovery. Sir Michael said "One of the lessons we've learned is that there needs to be greater coordination and a closer partnership between the UK and the Cayman Islands Government on disaster management". "The fact that it is the fifth largest financial centre is a tribute to the people of the Cayman Islands, but that does not absolve us of our responsibility to provide help to the Cayman Islands in the wake of a disaster such as Hurricane Ivan." The Governor, H.E. Stuart Jack added "It's much easier to go ahead and press for that money when you have actually seen on the ground the problems that still remain and what can be done with the money".
A Cuban refugee, Dr Louis Luarca, staged a 23-day hunger strike, protesting human rights violations in the Cayman Islands and Cuba. Dr. Lucara claims discrimination against himself dating back to 1994, that since arriving in the Cayman Islands by boat, he was not allowed to practice medicine here and has been working as a security guard with private firms ever since – even though, according to him, he practiced medicine in Cuba for 10 years prior to his arrival. Mr McLaughlin, Human Rights Committee Chairman, confirmed that the local Procedural Subcommittee would continue investigations into the case, to ascertain where Human Rights regulations in relation to Dr Luarca have been breached.
The seven-year term limit on work permits appears to be causing problems for several sectors. The Chief Immigration Officer, Franz Manderson, said that numerous companies are saying they will be losing 20 percent of their senior staff this year because of the term limits, which will be detrimental to their businesses. The Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA), Cayman Contractors Association as well as other people in the private sector, have all called for a temporary suspension of the limits until recommended changes to the Immigration Law are anticipated to be passed in June. Unfortunately it isn't known what aspects of the legislation are under review as the Immigration Review Team and Cabinet have not divulged details about the issues being addressed. Employers fear that by the time the new law is passed it will be too late.
Less than a month after the Mosquito Research and Control Unit's (MRCU) new plane was delivered, and before it entered service, it has suffered damage. A blast from a corporate jet's engine that was parking in the general aviation parking area next to the MRCU's hangar damaged the MRCU aircraft's tail section. However, because the aircraft was secured to its tie-downs, it stayed more or less in place. The MRCU are waiting for the manufacturer of the plane to do a full damage assessment, at which stage the unit will be able to plan when aerial spraying (that had been expected to resume in April), will actually restart. The Civil Aviation Authority have investigated and questioned the visiting pilots and will report on it's findings later. Did you know that there are 35 species of mosquito found in the Cayman Islands?
The Information and Communications Technology Authority (ICTA) has issued a press release reminding businesses that they may have to reprogram their switchboards to allow access to the new range of telephone numbers that have been released. They have also published the three digit prefixes and the networks that they relate to. For full details see http://www.gov.ky/pls/portal30/docs/Folder/SITE83/PRESSRELEASES/200502PRESSRELEASES/TELNOS.PDF.
The latest stamp issue, "Cayman's Cultural Series, Part 1 - Trees" were made available at the end of the month. The stamps showcase some of the trees that traditionally were used to support the country's livelihood but are now threatened by the impact of modern development. The stamp issue features Wash Wood on the 15 cents stamp, Red Mangrove on the 20 cents, Ironwood on the 30 cents, Cedar on the 60 cents and Spanish Elm on the $2.00. Pictures of the stamps are in the press release at http://www.gov.ky/pls/portal30/docs/Folder/SITE83/PRESSRELEASES/200602PRESSRELEASES/STAMPS.PDF For further details contact the Philatelic Bureau at mailto:email@example.com
Other news items:
- Red Sail Sports has reopened it's windsurfing rental business at Morritt's Tortuga.
- Specialist DNA analysis equipment has been delivered and installed at the Cayman Islands Hospital's forensic facility. Some procedures have yet to be established and accredited, but it is hoped that the laboratory will be able to carry out testing to aid criminal investigations and prosecutions for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS), as well as paternity cases.
- Ambuyah Ebanks won the Miss Cayman Islands pageant and will represent Cayman in the forthcoming Miss Universe and Miss World Pageants.
Tourism statistics for January have been released and are available at http://www.caymanislands.ky/statistics/ There were 20,163 air arrivals (down from 21,592 in December), but (ignoring January 2005 when the island was still recovering from Hurricane Ivan), this is the lowest January figure in the last six years). However, cruise arrivals were up at 211,678 from 200,434 in December 2005. This was also the highest cruise arrivals figure for January. It has been reported that one cruise ship will no longer visit Cayman for the rest of this season and next season. According to Vice President for Caribbean and Atlantic Shore Operations at Princess Cruises, Steve Nielsen, the cruise line has decided to bypass Grand Cayman in favour of Playa del Carmen in Mexico on their boat Grand Princess. Mr Nielsen cited passenger feedback on the new port in Mexico had been extremely good and above that on Grand Cayman. Furthermore, passengers preferred the longer hours spent in Mexican ports than a half-day in Grand Cayman, which is badly affected by insufficient tenders. Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas, which can carry 3,600 passengers, will stop in Cayman on 7th June as part of it's maiden voyage. The Freedom of the Seas is the world's largest cruise liner (the Queen Mary 2 can only take 2,620 passengers).
According to the 2006-2007 Strategic Policy Statement (SPS) tabled in the Legislative Assembly at the beginning of the month, the long-term outlook for the economy is good. The projection is that economic growth will take the Government from a current CI$10 million operating deficit to a CI$62.8 million operating surplus by June 2016. Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson explained to the House that the hurricane recovery expenses are some CI$13 million, and must be considered extraordinary expenditure. He said the true surplus of Government for the current financial year would have been CI$3 million, were it not for spending on recovery that eroded the surplus. The long-term projection is based on an annual revenue growth figure of 2.5%. The SPS explains that this increase of income to Government is based on economic expansion in the Cayman Islands and not on new revenue measures. However, Government operating expenditure is also set to increase by 2% per annum over the same period. The projection also assumes that Government continues its borrowing at current rates and terms, present policies that include the existing levels of economic and social support remain the same, and that there are no external shocks to the Cayman economy.
The Lands and Survey Department now have a new boat and are to start work on a new hydrographic survey of the waters around the Cayman Islands. This will help the department new nautical maps and a hazard-loss model for hurricanes. "The Aliceann" is named after Registrar of Land Aliceann Kirchman, who has worked for the department for 34 years. The Lands and Surveys department will survey Grand Cayman, but have contracted out the surveys of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. The first surveys will be completed by June 2006, the start of the hurricane season. Senior Geomatician (chartered land surveyor) at Lands and Survey, John Phillips, explained that over the period they will survey from 300ft beyond the "drop off" around the island to the shore, take depth readings to show the contours and features of the ocean floor around the entire island.
Two Caymanians and one American have been found guilty of marine violations after they were caught in a Replenishment Zone at Frank Sound with more than 100 conch and 11 lobsters. The trio were each fined CI$1,950.
Back in 1998 Government received a lot of negative international press when it refused permission for a gay cruise ship to land it's 900 passengers in Cayman. This month, a cruise dubbed "The Largest Gay Cruise in History II" with over 3,000 passengers was allowed to land on a day when six other ships were visiting. In allowing the cruise to land, Leader of Government Business the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts cited the policy of 2001 of non-discrimination to all who seek to visit Cayman. The government's official press release about this is at http://www.gov.ky/pls/portal30/docs/Folder/SITE83/PRESSRELEASES/200601PRESSRELEASES/CRUISE.PDF and Leader of Government Business, the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts comments and thoughts on the issue at http://www.gov.ky/pls/portal30/docs/Folder/SITE83/PRESSRELEASES/200601PRESSRELEASES/GAY.PDF On the day their visit passed off peacefully. A small group of protestors set-up opposite the dock with placards quoting Leviticus 18:22, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination".
The Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) has taken delivery of the first of the two replacement aircraft that were ordered after Hurricane Ivan. The second plane is due to be delivered in April, in time for the pre-season larvicide treatment program. The new plane has yet to be registered and approved by the Civil Aviation Authority and an air worthiness certificate issued. Crew need to be trained in the new plane and it's state-of-the art facilities. The new planes are larger and more powerful than their predecessors (one damaged beyond repair by Hurricane Ivan, the second damaged when it skidded off the runway in August 2005). They feature Pratt & Whitney that can undergo desalination washes to prevent degradation of parts from salt and other contaminants. The planes also have Wingman flight-track guidance system, the first software of its kind to be custom-designed for mosquito-control purposes. This was developed by former Cayman Islands MRCU pilot and software engineer Johnny Falzoi and incorporates real-time weather information that automatically adjusts the flow of insecticide dispersed during flight.
Former club members and the former owner of the now-sold Indies Suites timeshare property have reached a settlement on their dispute. Ronnie Foster, and owner of Brac Construction Ltd. that developed the Suites explained "All monies received from both the insurance settlement and from the sale of the property have now been allocated to every member of Indies Suites in good standing". Allocated funds will be distributed to the club members after they have returned signed and notarised agreements.
Leader of Government Business, Hon Kurt Tibbetts, announced that a review of the Immigration Law passed in 2004 was under way to clear anomalies, ambiguities and contradictions. Revisions are expected to be tabled in April. Some of the issues being addressed include exemptions created in Business Staffing granted by the previous Immigration Board that were not in keeping with the law, and the issue of permanent residency after eight years.
49 people took advantage of the immigration amnesty in December 2005, leaving the islands without fear of prosecution for overstaying.
The final tourism statistics of 2005 have been released at http://www.caymanislands.ky/statistics/ There were 21,592 air arrivals in December 1005 - the highest monthly figure in the year, and almost double the figure for December 2004. Total air arrivals for the year 167,801, down from 259,929 in 2004, 293,517 in 2003 and a peak high of 354,087 in 2000.
Cruise arrivals for December 2005 were 200,434, up from 176,587 in November 2005 and 191,281 in December 2004. Total for the year 1,798,999, up from 1,693,293 in 2004 but below the peak 1,818,979 in 2003.
Occupancy rates for 2005 were 58.9% for hotels and 46.3% for Apartments/Condos. The average for the year was 55.8% for hotels (61.7% in 2004) and 46.0% for apartments (43.1% in 2004).