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News from Cayman - 2007
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The tourism statistics for 2006 have been released and are available at http://www.caymanialands.ky/statistics. There were 267,257 air arrivals throughout the year, up on the figure for 2005 be nearly 100,000. This is still way short of the high of 354,087 in 2000. The average occupancy rate for the year for hotels was 59.4% and for condos and apartments was 40.7%. Whilst the figure for hotels was up on the figure of 55.8% for 2005, apartments and condos were down from a rate of 46% in 2005. Both of the current occupancy figures are a long way down from the highs of 73.1% (hotels) and 52.3% (apartments and condos) in 1998.
There were a record 1,930,136 cruise visitors in 2006 - the highest figure to date.
At the end of December a nine-foot long crocodile was captured alive at Old Man Bay in East End in Grand Cayman. It is now being cared for at Botswain's Beach. Investigations are taking place to determine the origins on the croc.
The Europa, a small luxury ship with around 350 passengers visited Cayman Brac. The Europa is the first cruise ship to stop at Cayman Brac for over five years.
Speaking at an American Association of Port Authorities seminar titled 'The Emerging Cruise Product in the Cayman Islands', Tourism Minister Charles Clifford said that government needs to manage the cruise better with the advent of larger vessels visiting Cayman. "Back in December 2000, the cruise ships visiting George Town ranged in size from 23,000 tons to 70,000 tons with passenger capacities of 400 to 2,300 persons. [Now], at the end of December 2006, the smaller ships calling on Grand Cayman are around 70,000 tons with the larger ones now at 100,000 tons and higher." "We must continuously commit to managing the relationship between cruise lines, ports and destinations to better integrate the components which make the cruise industry possible," he said. Mentioning the problems of crowded roads, pavements and stores Clifford said "In the lead time it takes to build the ships and the destination-based infrastructure needed to serve them, cruise lines and destinations may work systematically and jointly to pursue high standards of excellence by being well coordinated, time-efficient, safe and customer friendly." He said that work on the construction for berths for four ships is due to start in March. He added "To neglect our cruise product would, without a doubt, be detrimental in the long run and neither I, nor my colleagues in the government will allow this to happen." The new berth facilities would "allow us to provide a safer, standardised and more enjoyable experience".
Statistically speaking, Cayman's roads are getting safer. Roads Minister Arden McLean revealed in 2005 there were only 16 accidents for every 1,000 vehicles in 2005 compared to 129 accidents for every 1,000 vehicles in 1971, 104 accidents for every 1,000 vehicles in 1980 and 61 accidents for every 1,000 vehicles in 1990. In the same time period the number of vehicles has increased from 2,002 vehicles on Cayman's roads in 1971, compared to a total of 31,466 vehicles in 2005. There were 14 road-traffic fatalities in 2005 but this was lower than the 21 deaths recorded in 1985 and the 20 deaths recorded in 1990. McLean promised to meet with road-safety campaigners to discuss plans for "graduated" driving licences, under which young people must pass a series of tests over a number of months before gaining a full licence. He is also looking at increasing the fines for traffic offences.
On the water, there were 10 watersports deaths last year, seven involving snorkeling and three from scuba diving. Eight of the victims were from the US and only one was younger than 48. Coroner's juries have not issued rulings on the 2006 incidents, so no official cause of death has been given. However, the situation is being discussed within the watersports industry. As Rod McDowall, operations manager of Red Sail Sports explained "You will have accidents. There's nothing you can do about a guy who has a heart attack," said Rod McDowall, operations manager of Red Sail Sports. "The unfortunate thing is that it appears – and I don't know the details – but it appears that a couple of the latest related deaths may have been avoided."
In the last incident of the year a 55–year–old woman from Louisiana named Louise Gales was taken on board a snorkel tour boat after suffering difficulty in the water off Barkers in the North Sound. Mrs. Gales was not breathing when she was taken from the water. Tour boat passengers tried to revive her using CPR. None of the tour boat crew members knew CPR. Stephen Broadbelt, who chairs the Water sports Committee of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, said sometimes water sports, diving in particular, get a bad rap. "Debate is certainly on–going within the industry. But you know, just because somebody was having a round of golf and they had a heart attack, it's not considered a golfing accident. But somebody's out on a vessel and they have a heart attack…and for the most part it's a death of natural causes. It still gets called a diving accident or a snorkeling accident."
Unfortunately there were two watersports deaths in January 207. A 54-year-old male US citizen found unconscious after scuba-diving with a friend near Sunset House. In the second incident a 71-year-old Korean man was found floating unconscious at the Sand Bar. He had been a passenger on the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship. Both men had been transferred by medics to Cayman Islands Hospital, where they later died.
A new organisation has been launched responsible for educating residents on threats of disaster while preparing for, responding to, and managing these natural or man-made hazards should they occur Named Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI), this organisation will formulate plans to deal with any hazard the Cayman Islands could face, ranging from the annual threat of hurricanes to oil spills washing along the beaches, explosions, sabotage of the information highway, and terrorism. The National Hurricane Committee will be one of the many sub-groups of the new agency specialising in dealing with a particular threat. Depending on the disaster or emergency, the relevant specialised sub-group will take a lead role in managing the hazard. The new Director of HMCI is internationally accredited disaster management and mitigation specialist Dr Barbara Carby, who heads an office of 10 full-time staff, including persons with expertise in dealing with national hazards. The agency have already organised a simulated disaster to test responses of the emergency services. The exercise scenario was that a fuel truck and school bus collided on the Linford Pierson Highway, with a few deaths and some serious injuries among the 24 passengers, all students of Red Bay and Prospect primary schools. The fire on the fuel truck was extinguished by Fire Service responders, and officers staffing the five fire trucks and six ambulances on the scene contained the problem while treating and transferring "patients." Exercise observers included HMCI Director Barbara Carby and other professionals in the field of disaster mitigation and response.
The simulation is a key component of Cayman's disaster capability management review, which is intended to identify areas for improvement in all of its preparedness plans. Organised by Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI) in conjunction with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the review also is intended to share best practices, particularly among Overseas Territories.
Speaking at a press conference, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said that he hoped to have some of the long-promised European Union $7.1 million hurricane-relief fund by early February. The money, earmarked for housing renovations, would be administered by the National Recovery Fund, which has already spent almost $10 million to repair and rebuild more than 450 homes, and supply both furnishings and white goods to another 400. Fund administrators estimate that another 150 badly damaged houses must still be rebuilt entirely, while 100 require major repairs and another 250 remain without electricity, incurring a cost of approximately $5.5 million.
Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford has announced the start of a multi-million dollar development to upgrade Owen Roberts International Airport to enable it to handle more than a million passengers a year. The project is expected to take two years. "The Cayman Islands needs an upgraded airport terminal in order to effectively accommodate projected passenger numbers and to compete at an international level." "An expanded international airport will ensure we are able to maintain our status as a world-class destination for our vibrant and thriving tourism and financial services industries."
The airports current capacity is about 800,00 per year, so the scheme will allow for more flights per day and an increase in the number of airlines that can serve the airport. Parts of the project including separating domestic and international passengers, increasing the terminal building space from 69,000 square feet to more than 205,000 square feet and, more apron space to allow airport parking for 10 jets.
Clifford added: "The airport is a critical building for the Cayman Islands. It's the first and last building you see. I can assure the people of Cayman that it will be designed to respond appropriately to the islands' history, lifestyle and environment, as well as be inclusive to all aspects of Caymanian society."
For the third year running, Tortuga Rum Cakes have been voted "Best Cruise Souvenir" by Porthole Cruise Magazine. "Given the consistent quality and great taste of Tortuga Rum Cakes, it was again an easy choice for best cruise souvenir. I can't remember a time when I returned from a cruise without one — or several." said Bill Panoff, publisher and editor-in-chief.
More changes at Cayman Airways Ltd (CAL), this time on their reservation system. The airline have implemented Sabre, the world's number one computerized travel reservation system, used by travel agencies worldwide to book airline tickets, rental cars, hotel reservations, etc.
The new reservation system brings a host of new functionality to the airline and its passengers including a vastly improved Sir Turtle Rewards Frequent Flyer Program.
Acting CEO Thom Guyton is confident CAL's customers will be pleased, "This new system will greatly improve our customer services by streamlining all travel processes, from ticket sales to passenger check-in."
Sabre Holdings, the parent company for the Sabre online reservations system, also owns the popular Travelocity web site. According to Scott MacLaren, CAL Project Manager for the system, "Sabre has already worked out how to integrate the reservation systems with websites. We can leverage that technology rather than develop it ourselves, enhancing our own customers' experience on the CAL website."
Cayman Airways have also announced that they have filled two of the top posts in the company. Patrick Strasburger has been appointed as CEO and John Wrightington as VP Commercial. Strasburger is a veteran airline executive from the United States with previous roles as Managing Director for International Operations and Cargo for Continental Airlines and Vice President of Airport Services with Spirit Airlines.
John Wrightington is also an airline veteran, most recently working as Managing Director Network Management for Caribbean Star Airlines. Wrightington will be responsible for all commercial aspects such as Sales, Distribution, Promotion, Product, Network Management and the Cargo Department.
The Board continues its work to fill the vacant post of VP Finance.
The Economic and Statistics Office has started work on the National Assessment of Living Conditions Survey. Director of the Economics and Statistics Office, Maria Zingapan explained that this is the first time the NALC will conduct a survey of living conditions in the Cayman Islands. "This study is important to improving our statistical systems in meeting regional and international standards".
A total of 1,900 households were randomly selected for the survey. Apart from a 22-page questionnaire, each household is given two 'diaries of expenses' to fill within two weeks. Ms Zingapan said the dairy of expenses is also a very crucial part of the survey. "It is the basis for estimating the cost of living in the Cayman Islands".
The Cayman Islands is the last member of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to undertake the NALC survey. Results of the survey will be published later in the year.
We tend to think that cruise ships are a recent introduction to the Cayman Islands, but February saw the 70th anniversary of the first cruise ship to visit Cayman. On 22 February 1937, 340 passengers aboard the RMS Atlantis visited Grand Cayman. The visit was recorded in the Jamaican Gleaner; "The ship started its voyage on 17 February from Southampton via Casa Blanca, the Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, La Guayara and Cristobal with mail and cruise passengers. On the 18th it stopped in Jamaica. A day later it sailed for Santiago de Cuba, returning to Montego Bay on Sunday morning and sailing in the afternoon for Cayman Islands, Havana, Miami, Nassau, San Juan, St. Lucia, Antigua, Madeira and Southampton. The Atlantis left Montego Bay at 7 p.m. for George Town, Grand Cayman." The report added . "At 9:30 a.m. they [passengers] came ashore taking sightseeing trips and indulging in sea bathing and fishing. People from every district came down to the waterfront to view the big liner which sailed at 6:30 p.m. for Havana." Even back then the passengers were able to buy souvenirs of their visit. According to a report by the Commissioner of Cayman at the time, the visitors were able to "... bathe in the sea, sit in deck chairs on the beach under sunshades. They were regaled with rum cocktails, beer, and ice cream. Souvenirs of various kinds were on sale: tortoiseshell, sharkskin, and thatch-work, specially made picture postcards. and Spanish gold and silver coins said to have been recently unearthed in Cayman Brac." To mark the anniversary a special commemorative cover has been produced by the Cayman Islands Postal Service.
Initial results into the use of wind turbines to generate power on Caqyman Brac look promissing. An anemometer to measure wind speed was installed on the Government communications tower on the Bluff at the start of the month. On the first day of testing, it measured average wind speeds of 18 to 20 miles per hour at a height of around 250 feet above sea level, which is well above the 14 miles per hour average wind speed required to make wind turbines feasible. Readings from this device as well as historical data gathered by the Cayman Islands Civil Aviation Authority at Gerrard-Smith Airport will be sent later in the year to a firm in the US who specialise in analysing wind speed data. From all this data their analysts should be able to make reliable estimate of the average wind speeds on the Bluff over the last ten years, and from that make predictions for future wind speeds.
According to Cayman Brac Power and Light (CBP&L) General Manager Jonathan Tibbetts, "We're hoping to complete the study by the end of the year. Obviously this is a huge project for a little company and we want to make sure the decisions made will benefit the customers, who will eventually get their electricity at a lower rate".
Legislation has been now passed that establishes the Cayman Islands Society of Professional Accountants (CISPA) as the official regulators for their own industry. The CISPA will be the first private-sector organisation to take responsibility for monitoring, licensing and disciplining its own members and those practicing public accounting. The organisation is the largest professional association in Cayman with 850 members, 15 of which were elected to form a governing council. This council consists of four officers and 11 members from various companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and Deloitte.
Law firm Mourant announced its intention to merge with Quin & Hampson. All of the partners of Quin & Hampson will form part of a new Mourant partnership in Cayman and the employees of Quin & Hampson will transfer to Mourant. In addition Mourant is acquiring Q&H Corporate Services, Ltd., the corporate services affiliate of Quin & Hampson.
Subject to regulatory approval, joint operations will begin by the end of April 2007 and Quin & Hampson will rebrand as Mourant with effect from Monday 1 October 2007.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts announced the establishment of a Constitutional Review Secretariat to start work on reviewing Cayman's constitution. Mr. Tibbetts said the Government had a timeline in mind to achieve the new constitution. "We would wish for the process to be completed as soon as possible, but we're not going to… rush and not do it properly." The Constitutional Review Secretariat will be charged with establishing the campaign to educate and consult with the public on the issue. Mr Tibbets expects a national referendum to be held on the issue before the next elections.
Amendments to the Marine Conservation Law were published in February. One of the amendments is in a new paragraph that reads: "The Governor [in Cabinet] may make regulations prohibiting or regulating (i) touching or feeding of or other human interaction with marine life of a prescribed kind or description; and (ii) the promotion or use of any area of land or waters as a place where such interaction is invited, encouraged or facilitated." Additionally, the Governor in Cabinet is authorised to regulate the use of vessels in Cayman Islands waters whether or not within a restricted marine area or marine park. Among the ways this regulating can be achieved are issuing of licences and scheduling of journeys on the location. Another insertion into the law allows creation of regulations authorising fisheries officers to stop and enter vessels.
I haven't seen any comments about these changes, but to my mind this could Government power to ban the proposed dolphin swim encounters.
Another amendment to existing laws now allow the Governor to exempt expat workers from the rollover policy by designating them as "key employees". "In issuing policy directions in relation to the designation of persons as key employees, the Governor [in Cabinet] shall have regard to the following criteria: (a) there is a global shortage of persons in that profession or vocation; (b) notwithstanding the absence of a global shortage, there is a difficulty in attracting or retaining a particular professional category or sub-category in the Cayman Islands; or (c) there is a desire to attract certain types of business in the islands."
The change gives the Governor and the rest of the Cabinet, for the first time, the power to exempt entire categories of employees from obligatory departure from the Cayman Islands after the expiry of a seven-year term limit.
Government is looking at making sure that there are suitable boat ramps in the George Town area into North Sound. This has been highlighted in the wake of a number of serious medical emergencies at Stingray City/Sandbar. The Marriott Beach Resort is working with the Department of Environment (DoE) and visiting US–based Reef Ball Foundation to protect the reef. The DoE is also working on a reef ball project to help restore locally devastated red mangroves by planting more than 800 reef ball units containing thousands of mangrove seedlings. DoE Assistant Director Tim Austin said "With approximately 860 'reef balls' of seedlings planted in pots made out of marine–based cement (Ph balanced for marine environments), the young mangroves are protected against storms and have a better chance of surviving." "We are hoping to establish this as a technique to restore other areas that were damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004". The areas under consideration include North Side Public Beach and South Sound.
For the first time since the introduction of The Port Authority Law (1999), the Royal Cayman Islands Police shut access to the Stingray City Sandbar to watercraft. Superintendent Mike Needham said "We were very sorry we had to do this, but on the evidence ... we decided that it wasn't safe." The weather and wind conditions were extremely hazardous." "The officers actually witnessed two boats nearly collide with each other." This coincided with a number of minor injuries at the site: two cruise ship passengers suffered stings from tiny jellyfish known as sea thimbles (common in the waters of Cayman at this time of year). A third tourist was injured when a stingray barb pierced the skin of his arm. I can't remember the last time that a visitor was injured by a ray at Stingray City. According to Superintendent Needham "The stingray was thrown onto the tourist (by) the wave action. The animal was likely scared. I don't think this was a deliberate action by the stingray." The Legislative Assembly are still working on drawing up marine regulations for Stingray City and the Sandbar.
A Tobacco Bill is currently under discussion. If passed, it would not allow smoking in restaurants or bars. In outside areas, smoking is also banned if they are within 10 feet of an enclosed public space, or within 10 feet of a place like a public park. Vehicles used for commercial or public transportation are also included in the ban. It may be that cigar bars will not be covered in the legislation as their purpose is specifically to allow smoking.
One of the six original "Batmobiles" built for the original 1960's Batman television series was sold at auction in London recently for US$230,000. According to auction house Coys, the winning bid came from a private museum based in the Cayman Islands. Since 2004 there has been talk that an antique car museum may open near to the Turtle Farm/Boatswain's Beach.
Cayman Airways have announced that, subject to regulatory approval, they will start direct flights to New York in June. The three weekly flights to John F. Kennedy International Airport will leave Grand Cayman on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 4:10PM and depart New York at 9AM on Thursday, Sunday and Monday.
The Cayman Islands Brewery has launched it's first brew. Caybrew is a full-bodied premium lager with a crisp, clean hop finish. It is brewed and bottled at their plant on Shamrock Road, George Town.
The Central Tenders Committee has awarded the contract to remove scrap metals from the George Town Landfill to Matrix International. Selected following a government tender process in which three companies applied, Matrix will pay the government CI$1.25 million for the metals. As part of the contract schedule of payments, the ministry received the sum of CI$100,000 at the signing of the contract. Matrix has been contracted to remove, by March 2008, scrap metals that include derelict vehicles; furniture; and construction and demolition debris. The metals concerned are those that have been stored at the landfill prior to 24 November 2006.
The scientists at the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University have issued an update to their predictions for the 2007 Hurricane Season. They predict that the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season will be much more active than the average 1950-2000 season. They estimate that 2007 will have about 9 hurricanes (average is 5.9), 17 named storms (average is 9.6), 85 named storm days (average is 49.1), 40 hurricane days (average is 24.5), 5 intense (Category 3-4-5) hurricanes (average is 2.3) and 11 intense hurricane days (average is 5.0). The probability of U.S. major hurricane landfall is estimated to be about 140 percent of the long-period average. They expect Atlantic basin Net Tropical Cyclone (NTC) activity in 2007 to be about 185 percent of the long-term average. The full report is available at http://typhoon.atmos.colostate.edu/forecasts/2007/april2007/. Their next update will be issued at the end of May - just in time for the start of the Hurricane Season.
April sees the pomp and ceremony of the State Opening of the Legislative Assembly. As usual there were two keynote speeches - that of the His Excellency the Governor, Mr. Stuart Jack, CVO, and also the speech of The Leader of Government Business, the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts.
The Governor said "We can look forward to the next financial year with considerable confidence", but warned that Cayman musn't become however, becoming complacent about the challenges ahead. The Governor focused on three major challenges likely to impact the Islands - globalisation, climate change, and developments in neighbouring countries. He also said "we need to understand the way globalisation works to plan for contingencies, to be flexible and ready to move quickly. " When talking about climate change, Mr. Jack urged, "We must now start addressing its implications for us" be it for disaster preparedness or planning and building regulations. Developments in neighbouring countries could provide challenges for Cayman, in areas such as criminal activity and migration, as well as opportunities for collaboration, he pointed out. His full speech is available online at http://www.gov.ky/portal/page?_pageid=1142,2072969&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL
In his speech the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts launched a policy statement titled Making a Difference: Delivering Results. The Leader also highlighted the various plans and programmes that would be undertaken by the various departments under his Ministry of District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing. He noted that the three principal factors affecting people's finances are interest rates on loans and mortgages, fuel costs and electricity rates. To obtain meaningful results in tackling these issues, the private sector stakeholders have to assist, he stressed. Government for its part was meeting these challenges head on and would be meeting with commercial banks to find ways to both lower interest rates especially of mortgages and offer fixed rate lending. On the issue of bulk fuel distributor prices, Mr Tibbetts commented that the arrangements "they enjoy now will not continue beyond that time [early 2011]" and that "armed with the knowledge of their mark-up methodology and profit margins" government would open negotiations with the two companies concerned. He also said negotiations with CUC have been "extremely difficult". They hope to have had a new contract fair to the consumer and the company in place by now had not materialised. Cabinet is expecting to receive soon a presentation from the negotiating team and the following week "we will invite CUC to explain their position to us". Following that, a position for the negotiating team to take to the table would be agreed upon. "If there is an impasse, then Government will have to do whatever it has to do and move on," Minister Tibbetts said. "Of this I am sure, there will be no more monopolies and if the negotiations are not successful, the Board of Directors of CUC will have to explain this to their shareholders," he added.
A team from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) visited the Cayman Islands, to meet government and private-sector officials about issues relating to the environment, disaster management, and human development. Key objectives were to further develop co-operation with Cayman; present the UN's Human Development Report 2007; and brief the government on political and strategic issues in the Caribbean sub-region. The group took time to conduct a public presentation on the Human Development Report 2007 – HDR 2007: Human Development and Climate Change – and sustainable development. UNDP Governance and Poverty Programme Officer Dianne McIntosh spoke on a variety of social issues and said that one area of particular relevance to the Islands, with its large foreign workforce, was the problem of getting local people to address issues such as crime, educational problems, sexual abuse and other issues that impact directly on the quality of life. She highlighted that these problems do not surface in Cayman because ex-pats in jobs are afraid to speak out for fear of losing their work permits. Fellow team member David C Smith, concentrated on the threats presented by global warming. Much of Caribbean tourism depends on the coral reefs, which are under direct threat from increased sea temperatures, which kill the reef structures and without the coral are likely to lose the fish. This could result in a substantial reduction in the tourist value of destinations such as Grand Cayman. Mr Smith also addressed the physical threat to property and facilities. Cayman has two of the 26 airport runways in the Caribbean less than 26 feet above sea level; Owen Roberts Airport on Grand Cayman, at eight feet above sea level and Gerrard Smith Airport on Cayman Brac, at seven feet. He was also concerned about buildings and roads close to the high water mark which interfered with the natural movement of sand thereby causing beach erosion. He also warned specifically that Cayman must protect its diving tourism market. "Diving tourists make a lot more money that cruise ships. These are what you want – not people who simply come in, buy a $20 t-shirt, then leave."
If you are flying with Cayman Airways from Miami, then their check-in counter is now on Concourse F next to the Air France check-in counter and near to SBarros Italian restaurant. Dave Gibson, Cayman Airways Miami Station Manager said "This new location will shorten the walking distance from counter to gate significantly. In fact, it will be one of the shortest walks at the Miami Airport for any airline!"
A dinner and auction held in the Houses of Parliament in the UK raised just under CI$50,000 for the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme in Cayman. The event organised by Ms Kate Kandiah of the Cayman Islands Government Office in the UK, was initiated by the Friends of Cayman's UK Chairman John Owen, CMG, MBE. The event was sponsored by Andrew Rosindell MP, a member of the Cayman Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group, and was co-hosted by Friends of Cayman and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. An informative presentation by Mr. Fred Burton, director of the recovery programme, outlined the important work that needs to be done in Cayman to protect the blue iguana. Ms Jennifer Dilbert, MBE, Cayman Islands Government representative in the UK said "The atmosphere on the night was fabulous and, along with raising funds, events like these also raise the profile and standing of the Cayman Islands in Westminster."
The Cayman Islands will host the annual DirecTV National Football League (NFL) Quarterback Challenge. The NFL has signed a three-year agreement with the Cayman Islands to host the event. Minister of Tourism, Hon. Charles Clifford said "The Cayman Islands is proud to become the first international destination to host this high-profile NFL skills event. Together, the NFL and Cayman make an excellent partnership for the owners, managers, players and fans to combine a vacation with their passion for football." The two hour special will be filmed in May and aired on ESPN at the start of August. In its 17th year, the Challenge tests the NFL's premier quarterbacks in four skills competitions: accuracy, speed and mobility, long distance throw and "No Huddle." Top NFL receivers also will participate in the "No Huddle" timed event in which the quarterback completes passes to receivers.
Volunteers from the Cayman Diving College and friends undertook a Clean-Up Day to help celebrate Earth Week, gathering an impressive 300 kilos of refuse from the Wreck of Cali.
Red Sail Sports Grand Cayman has agreed a partnership with the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman to be its preferred supplier of scuba diving and watersports services for its guests. There is even a Red Sail Sports representative at the hotel seven days a week to answer questions and make reservations. The dock at Morritt's Tortuga Club has been re-built and is now in service. To celebrate Red Sail Cayman's 20th anniversary they are giving away a six-day dive package for two worth $1,200. For more details see their website at http://www.redsailcayman.com/gc_contest.html
With the Hurricane Season about to start, experts at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center are projecting a 75 percent chance that the Atlantic Hurricane Season will be above normal this year. They predict 13-17 named storms, 7-10 hurricanes ov which 3-5 will be major of Category 3 strength or higher. Their full report is available at http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/outlooks/hurricane.shtml. The team at Colorado State University have released their final predictions before the start of the hurricane season. They expect 17 named storms, of which 9 will turn into hurricanes and five intense hurricanes. This continues to indicate that the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season will be much more active than the average 1950-2000 season. Their full report is available at http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/Forecasts/2007/june2007/
Here are the names to look out for: Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dean, Erin, Felix, Gabrielle, Humberto, Ingrid, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Noel, Olga, Pablo, Rebeka, Sebastien, Tanya, Van and Wendy.
The Public Works Department has issued its updated list of public hurricane shelters and emergency medical centres (EMCs) for 2007. Hurricane shelters are provided in each district. They are for persons whose homes are not hurricane resistant or who live in a location which is considered to be especially at risk in a particular storm and who do not have an alternate safe shelter. Emergency medical centres provide shelter for chronically ill persons, the elderly and women in the last three months of pregnancy. Medical personnel and equipment are provided at EMCs.
Grand Cayman will start the 2007 season with 4010 hurricane shelter spaces, and the Sister Islands with 810. Another 325 shelter spaces will be added to Grand Cayman's stock with the completion of the West Bay John Gray Memorial Church Hall scheduled for the beginning of July.
Approved hurricane shelters for the 2007 hurricane season in Grand Cayman are: John Gray High School Assembly Hall, George Hicks High School Multipurpose Hall, George Town Primary School Assembly Hall, University College of the Cayman Islands Hall, Red Cross Building, Prospect Primary School (EMC), John A. Cumber (West Bay) Primary School Assembly Hall (EMC), John A. Cumber (West Bay) Primary School - some classrooms, West Bay John Gray Memorial Church Hall (available 1st July 2007), East End Primary School - some classrooms, Gun Bay Community Hall, East End Civic Centre (EMC), North Side Civic Centre (EMC), Breakers Community Hall, Bodden Town Primary School Multipurpose Hall (EMC), Savannah Primary School Assembly Hall (EMC).
Shelters for Cayman Brac are: Aston Rutty Centre (EMC), West End Primary School, New Day Care Centre.
The hurricane shelter for Little Cayman is: The Public Works Department Building (EMC).
Further details can be found on the CaymanPrepared website at http://www.caymanprepared.ky
It's over two years since Hurricane Ivan, but the clean up is still going on. Speaking in a debate at the Legislative Assembly, Minister of Works and Infrastructure, Hon. Arden McLean said the company that government contracted for disposal of solid waste stemming from Hurricane Ivan recently sent off two shipments totaling approximately 5,000 metric tons of solid waste comprising 10,000 vehicle batteries, 4,000 cars, 900 tons of scrap metal, and five 40-foot containers of baled cardboard. The minister estimated it will take about 30 shipments before all the discarded material is shipped out. Interestingly the government is making some money out of this. The contractor has to pay $1.2 million for the scrap metal. On top of this, the firm is paying a rental of $190 per hour for using government's metal bailer to press the metal into compact sizes.
Mr McLean also said that Grand Cayman produces 460 tons of waste daily, Cayman Brac six tons, and Little Cayman one ton. He commented "Waste generation in this country is the worst in the Caribbean. It shows how we live in this country." The minister is also chairman of a Solid Waste Management Committee, charged with reviewing Cayman's waste disposal practices, researching to find other disposal methods, and making recommendations. The committee will shortly be visiting the North American Waste Disposal Council of Florida to see how discarded material is got rid of in that state. The minister added that more funding has been proposed in the 2007/08 Budget for a continued reorganising of the Grand Cayman landfill.
Government and the Port Authority have reinstated the ban on all cruise ships anchoring at the Spotts Dock in Savannah. "Because of damage to the living coral reefs caused by ships' anchors at Spotts, cruise ships are no longer allowed to anchor at this location," said Port Authority Director Paul Hurlston. However, it is possible for ships to stay in Spotts Bay without anchoring, said the Department of Environment's Research Officer John Bothwell. "Modern technology enables cruise ships to stay in position on engines when in harbour. The ships can simply hold position and the tenders can come to them." "Over the years the Department of Environment has documented the damage to reefs by cruise-ship anchors and chains in the Spotts area," Mr Bothwell noted. "Because cruise ships are the biggest vessels to use the area regularly, their chains tend to cause a lot of the damage. We have recorded that one cruise ship anchoring for one day destroys 3150m² (0.8 of an acre) of previously intact reef."
The National Archive and Public Records Law has now been passed stipulating that every government agency shall store and arrange its records to allow for quick and timely access. This law gives to the National Archives overall supervisory authority of public records and provides for creation, management and disposal of the public records of every public agency. "Every public agency shall make and maintain full and accurate public records of its business and affairs, and such public records shall be managed and maintained in accordance with this Law," the new law reads in part. It calls for the National Archivist to issue record-keeping standards and to inspect files and the manner in which they are stored.
The freedom of information bill soon to be tabled in the Legislative Assembly specifies a time-frame of 30 days in which government entities must respond to public information requests. The new law's quick retrieval provision will make finding information easier for civil servants, thereby ensuring prompt service for members of the public making freedom of information requests.
The National Archive and Public Records Law also prohibits unauthorised destruction of records and allows for disciplinary measures - including dismissal.
The CARICOM Special Visa, which was issued to accommodate travelers during World Cup Cricket, enabled all citizens of CARICOM member states to travel to member countries without visas. Now that the World Cup is over, all Cayman Islands passport holders are required to apply for a visa if traveling to Jamaica. Jamaican Consulate officials remind the public that the processing time for the visa is 24 hours. "All applications should be submitted to the Jamaican Consulate office at the Dot Com Centre on Dorcy Drive, Industrial Park," said Honorary Vice Consul to the Jamaican Consulate Elaine Harris.
Scientists from the Central Caribbean Marine Institute in Little Cayman announced that the reef system of the western Caribbean territory has lost 50 percent of its hard corals in the last 10 years in spite of strong environmental laws. President of the Institute, Carrie Manfrino said "We are at a very critical time in the history of coral reefs. It is like working with a sick patient. How well we treat that patient will determine if that patient survives. We could potentially see the end of hard coral reefs in our lifetime." A U.N's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that the world must make sweeping cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid a rise in temperatures that could inundate islands and coastlines under rising seas, and kill off the world's temperature-sensitive coral reefs. In a recent report the IPCC said keeping the increase in temperatures within 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) would only cost 0.12 percent of the world's annual gross domestic product. Global warming is heating sea water, which leads to coral bleaching, an ailment that causes normally colorful corals to turn white, and white plague, a disease sweeping and killing coral around the world.
To Cayman residents who depend on tourism, that would be a small investment if it were enough to save the coral reefs.
Even with a 50 percent decline in hard corals, Caymans' reefs are still considered among the healthiest in the Atlantic. Scientists say the islands are geographically isolated by surrounding water 6,000 feet deep, which minimizes the impact of pollution from other countries. The Marine Conservation Law passed in 1986 established the marine park system and has played a key role in protecting Caymans' reefs. But director of the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment, Gina Ebanks-Petrie, said it has struggled to adapt to rapidly changing environmental conditions.
Nancy Easterbrook, of dive operator Divetech said "If the coral reef dies, the algae will go, and the tropical fish will go. Then there will be nothing left to see."
Under new regulations recently passed in the Legislative Assembly, all commercial boat operators are now required to have a licence to visit the Sandbar and deep Stingray City, which have been designated as Wildlife Interaction Zones.
Licences are valid for three years and will cost $300 for vessels 50 ft. or shorter in length and $600 for vessels longer than 50 ft. An initial non-refundable application fee will also be charged with vessels 50 ft. or longer in length paying $200 and those shorter in length paying $100. Although valid for three years, licences may be revoked by the Marine Conservation Board at any time if conditions are not met.
Minister of Tourism, Environment, Investment and Commerce, the Hon. Charles Clifford said "These Regulations will help to control the number of passengers that may be carried to any of the designated Zones. They will also regulate the mooring or anchoring of boats, and will require boats to be marked or to display visible evidence that they are licensed to be in the Zone," he said.
One of the conditions for licence approval is that each commercial vessel using the Wildlife Interaction Zone must have a holding tank (if the vessel has a head). Vessels 50 ft. or longer in length have one year to install a holding tank; vessels 50 ft. or shorter in length have 18 months to comply. "Any vessel that has a head but is too small to have a holding tank is required, under the regulations, to install a portable one," said Marine Conservation Board Secretary Phil Bush.
Cayman Airways have started their service between Grand Cayman and New York JFK. The summer schedule has flights leaving Cayman at 4:30pm on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, arriving at 9pm. The return leg leaves New York on Thursday, Sunday and Monday at 9:00am, arriving at 11:45am. At the launch of the service (which has seen bookings 20% higher than expected) Chairman of the Cayman Airways Board Angelyn Hernandez expressed her delight with the new route. Ms Hernandez also announced that from December flights will increase to four times a week up from the thrice weekly summer service and added that if the booking trends continued they would look at a five times a week service.
A new set of definitive stamps features endemic birds. The stamps feature the work of photographer Yves–Jacques Rey–Millet. The stamps in the set include:
25c Vitelline Warbler Dendroica vitellina vitellina
A West Indian endemic is listed as near–threatened because of its very restricted range in the Cayman Islands and Swan Islands. It has only about 0.7 sq miles of suitable habitat on the Swan Islands, meaning that 97 per cent of its range is in the Cayman Islands where it is fairly common inland. There are two endemic races, vitellina on Grand Cayman and crawfordi on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. The warbler is very approachable while gleaning insects from shrubs and trees close to the ground. The nest is a tiny woven cup, often concealed between two bromeliads.
$1.50 West Indian Woodpecker Melenerpes superciliaris caymanensis
Found only in Cuba, Cayman Islands and a few islands in the Bahamas, this West Indian endemic is similar to its North American cousin. The endemic Cayman race caymanensis is confined to Grand Cayman and occurs in all habitats and, like the flicker, provides old nests for parrots. There are no resident woodpeckers on Cayman Brac or Little Cayman.
$4 Red–legged Thrush Turdus plumbeus coryi
The range is the Greater Antilles (except Jamaica), the northern Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Swan Islands and Dominica in the Lesser Antilles. The endemic Cayman race coryi is confined to Cayman Brac. It is conspicuous and territorial in the breeding season, nesting throughout the island, including in the porches of houses. It becomes almost invisible when not breeding, retreating to the forest floor on the Bluff. The only other resident thrush, the Grand Cayman Thrush, Turdus ravidus, is now almost certainly extinct, not having been seen since the 1930s.
Ivan Burgess has published a second edition of the booklet "The History of the Cayman Islands Post Offices". Covering the period 1889 to 2006, the booklet endeavours to trace the development of the Post Office buildings and services in the Cayman Islands. Illustrated with over 50 coloured photographs and peppered with images of frankings and stamps, it gives the history of the Post Offices, Postal Agencies and key staff in all three islands. The second edition of 500 numbered copies is available on Grand Cayman from Hobbies & Books and Pure Art for CI$15. If you are interested in purchasing it, please contact Ivan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Orders form overseas, including airmail postage cost US$25 for America, $30 for Canada and £15 for Europe.
The Auditor General's report into Botswain Beach (the new name for the Turtle Farm complex) has been published and is available to download at http://www.gov.ky/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/CIGHOME/FIND/ORGANISATIONS/AZAGENCIES/AUD/SPECIALREPORTS/TURTLEFARMDEBTFINANCINGREPORT.PDF Mr Duguay highlights where fees have been paid to arrange financing saying "based on my review, it is my opinion that as much as $1,650,000 of the $2,800,000 represented little or no value to the residents of the Cayman Islands". Much of the blame for this is down to the Directors of the Turtle Farm: "the Board of Directors of the Turtle Farm failed in its fiduciary duty to the residents of the Cayman Islands". The Chairman of the board of Directors stated that the Board was "not able to offer a consolidated response to your Report on the CTF Bond Financing arrangements as this activity pre-dated the appointments of the majority of existing Board Members in August 2005".
With a "significant donation" from Maples Finance towards the purchase, the National Trust of the Cayman Islands has added 173 acres to the Mastic Reserve, the largest single acquisition of land for the protected site, bringing the total area of the reserve to 776 acres.
Of the acquisition Frank Roulstone, general manager of the National Trust, said "Preserving the Mastic Reserve is not only of significant environmental importance, but of cultural importance as well. The area is home to a wide variety of animals and plants unique to these islands; the habitat serves to protect biodiversity that has almost vanished due to widespread development."
The team at the Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, have issued an update to their forecast for the 2007 Hurricane season. Their report is available to download at http://typhoon.atmos.colostate.edu/Forecasts/2007/aug2007/aug2007.pdf They now expect this season that there will be 15 names storms (down from their previous forecast of 17), with eight hurricanes (down from nine) of which four (was five) will be strong. They also predict above-average major hurricane landfall risk in the Caribbean.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have also issued an update for this hurricane season. They predict 13-16 named storms, 7-9 hurricanes of which 3-5 will be major hurricanes. They also believe that this season will see above average storm activity. Their report can be found at http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/outlooks/hurricane.shtml
Cayman was lucky to be spared the worst of Hurricane Dean. The eye of the storm passed about 100 miles south of Grand Cayman, but still lashed the island with winds of up to 65mph. There was some damage along South Sound Road, and flooding at Savannah Gully. Properties at Ocean Club were once more damaged by debris and flood water. Rocks and sand were washed across West Bay Road. There are some photos of the damage on the StormCarib website at http://www.stormcarib.com/reports/current/cayman.shtml and http://help.stormcarib.com/read.php?2,5600,6009,page=8#msg-6009 . Government's preparation showed this time, with plenty of warnings given to residents. Residents had time to shutter their buildings, and many people moved their cars to higher ground (roundabouts, the bridge over the Hyatt canal, etc) to avoid flooding. There was a mandatory evacuation of Little Cayman residents to Cayman Brac. Before the storm hit Cayman, the government brought in a number of measures. Non-residents were not allowed into Cayman (to reduce pressure on scarce resources) and cruise ships were turned away. These restrictions were lifted soon after the storm had passed, with cruise ships arriving on the Thursday. Government also imposed a curfew, to ensure that there was no looting and to keep the highways clear for emergency vehicles. Unfortunately, after the storm, a lot of people went sight-seeing before the curfew had been lifted.
Cayman Airways ran flights almost non-stop and managed to evacuate over 5,300 people running 38 flights over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In addition, a number of charter flights flew to bring the total number of people evacuated to over 7,000. By the time evacuation flights stopped, only sixty visitors remained in Cayman, and and the Department of Tourism has made arrangements for them to be accommodated at local hotels.
CUC managed to keep power running as long as they could, and some areas had power throughout the high winds. Only one power pole was damaged, but a number of outages were caused by trees touching the power cables causing them to touch each other. All power was restored within 24 hours.
The best resource when a hurricane is likely to hit is StormCarib.com. Not only does it have expert analysis of the latest advisories, but they have postings from people on Cayman reporting local conditions. Another new tool is http://www.guiweather.com. You can download information about the current and predicted tracks of tropical storms and hurricanes to display superimposed on Google Earth. They also have historical data going back to 1851, so you can compare the tracks of the current storm against previous ones. In the early days of Hurricane Dean, it was interesting to note how close it's path was to that of Hurricane Ivan.
According to a report issued by Hurricanecity.com, Cayman is the worst place in the atlantic basin for tropical storms/hurricanes (see http://www.hurricanecity.com/Rank.htm). Based on data for tropical storms from 1871 to 2006, 61 storms passed Cayman within 60 to 70 miles, putting Cayman top of their list with on average a storm passing every 2.23 years.
Just before Hurricane Felix swept past Cayman, Durty Reids at Red Bay was demolished. It has now been announced that 'Durty' Reid Dennis has signed a two-year lease with the Tourism Attraction Board to operate the café at the historic Pedro St. James and is now open for business.
A new census at Grand Cayman’s stingray interactive sites, Stingray City and the Sandbar in the North Sound, is to be undertaken by the Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) next year. When the last study was undertaken in 2002, they tagged 165 animals in the sandbar, 22 from the stingray city site and 45 wild animals from around Grand Cayman that don’t interact with humans, as a control. The Department of Environment’s Assistant Director – Research and Assessment Tim Austin said that information from the last study was useful and some aspects of it were incorporated into new regulations, now being enforced, which designate both the Sandbar and Stingray City as Wildlife Interaction Zones (WIZ). He added that the study "helped to determine the required size of the various WIZs and allowed the DoE to compromise its stated position of no more additional stingray feeding sites and allow potential sites within the boundaries of the WIZ as these would be the same rays and no new population of rays would be impacted." After the previous study, the GHRI made recommendations that footwear should not be allowed in the shallow sandbar as their studies confirmed an abundance of human induced injuries to rays from footwear. This suggestion has been incorporated into the WIZ regulations.
Boatswain's Beach, the new home of the Cayman Turtle Farm, have announced discounted pricing up the end of 2007.
"We have decided to offer these discounted rates until the end of the year to allow both Residents and Visitors the opportunity to enjoy the park extensively," their representative said. Guests can now enjoy the entire Park for only US$55 for Adults and US$25 for children ages 4-12. Residents (with local identification) can enter the entire park for only CI$10 for adults and CI$4 for children ages 4-12.
Over the last 17 months government has issued over 41,617 work permits. For the period (April 2006 to August 2007) this is broken down into 10,367 annual permits, 20,729 temporary permits and 10,521 renewals.
Leader of Government Business the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts agreed on behalf of Government to consider a mandatory photo identification system to assist law enforcement officers, security officers, school officials and others in carrying out their responsibilities. In a debate on the topic, George Town MLA Alfonso Wright pointed out that at present many under-age individuals are able to gain access into night clubs and other events and similar premises. The motion also noted that with population increase and cultural diversification, it is no longer possible to easily identify individuals. Also, homeland security is of greater importance in today's global situation. Law enforcement officers feel the lack of a proper identification system in the proper execution of their duties. Mr. Wright recalled that there have been three Private Member's Motions seeking such a system in the past, two of which were accepted by the governments of the day but nothing came of them. The motion in 1987 failed, while the ones in 1989 (which called for the voluntary adoption of an identification system) and another in 1994 (which called for compulsory IDs) both passed in the House. The need was for a user-friendly ID system, he recommended, and one which could also include additional information, such as health needs of the person which would prove invaluable in life-threatening situations. Cards were less bulky and safer options than passports. Accepting the motion, Minister Tibbetts noted that a system like the Drivers' Licence which is valid for three years at a time could be installed. However, decisions about age groups and extending the system to embrace all residents would have to be looked at, he said. A national ID system would have to cover all residents, he added.
Cayman Islands’ Annual Economic Report (AER) 2006 has been published and can be downloaded from http://www.eso.ky/UserFiles/File/2006%20AER%20August%202007%20FINAL.pdf (86 pages, 431Kb).
Highlights of the report include:
A slowdown in the pace of economic expansion as gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an estimated rate of 4.6 percent, down from 6.5 percent a year ago.
The estimated mid-year population reached 51,992 growing by 7.5% over the mid-year population in 2005. This population growth being faster than the nominal GDP growth in 2006 resulted in a slight decline in GDP per capita to reach CI$39,137 in 2006.
Economic growth in 2006 was stimulated on the demand side by renewed growth in demand for tourism services, government consumption and government capital spending as demand for investment in capital goods receded with the completion of the post-Ivan reconstruction work and in the midst of a rise in real interest rates. Upward movement of demand indicators include those of consumer imports (up by 24.6%), electricity consumption (up by 14.9%) and water consumption (up by 19.9%).
The year 2006 saw a strong recovery in the tourism sector: visitor arrivals totalled 2.2 million, an increase of 11.7% over 2005. Air arrivals surged by 59.3% to reach 267,257 in 2006.
Construction remained a growth sector in 2006 as building permits reached 1,290 (or 33.3% higher than in 2006) valued at $445.8 million.
The Consumer Price Index moved up throughout 2006. From -0.9% in March 2006, the inflation rate inched up by 0.9% in June, 1.4% in September and 1.6% in December. Nonetheless, the average inflation rate of 0.8% in 2006 represented a sharp decline from the 7.3% in 2005. This can be attributed to the increase in supply of private residences to cause a downward pressure on housing cost.
Total employment as a proportion of the labour force improved to 97.4% in spring 2006 from 96.5% in fall 2005. Hence, the unemployment rate fell to 2.6% compared to 3.5% in fall 2005.
Net domestic credit extended by the commercial banks increased by 9.1% to reach $2.1 billion. This was comprised of net credit to the public sector which rose by 5.5%, and credit to the private sector which rose by 9.4%.
The net foreign asset position of local commercial banks increased by 18.5% to $4.7 billion, mainly as a result of increases in investment and loans to non-residents.
The Legislative Assembly has passed the Freedom Of Information (FOI) Bill into law, which will come into effect in April 2009. Of the new bill, Leader of Government Business, the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts said "As a result of public input, greater emphasis has been placed on the general principles of maximum disclosure and releasing information in the public interest. These principles provide the foundation on which Government can begin building a new culture of openness. For example the scope of the bill ensures that Government ministries, portfolios, and statutory authorities are all defined as public authorities and even Cabinet is not excluded from a FOI request."
After some speculation, it has been confirmed that the Links at SafeHaven, the only full-size golf course on the island, has been purchased by Michael Ryan, the developer of the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, for $80 million with effect from 26th October 2007. It is thought that some of the course will be used to expand the existing 9-hole Ritz-Carlton course to a full 18-hole course. The remaining land would be sold or developed. This has caused some concern amongst residents and visitors as the Links was the only full-size golf course open to the public. Generally Ritz-Carlton facilities are only available to their own guests.
Twenty-five-year-old Rebecca Parchment of West Bay was crowned the new Miss Cayman.
Minister for Education Alden McLaughlin announced that an extra year will be added to the public-school system, to be used for technical and vocational training. At a Chamber of Commerce luncheon he said "No one should leave the high-school system and go straight into work. We are going to add another year to high school so no one leaves without a skill. Some sort of post-secondary training will enable everyone to leave the system with some skill. "We have never had difficulty attracting students to things like law, accounting and business; the difficulty we are having is with 70% of students acquiring the skills, qualifications and interest to allow them to take up some kind of technical and vocational educational training."
He added that the new national curriculum would become mandatory in the Cayman Islands' 19 public schools and among their 4,600 students in September 2008. It aims to shift traditional teaching patterns away from rote blackboard learning to a more dynamic, interactive and flexible style, improving learning and producing better graduates.
Cayman's Christmas stamp issue has been released. They feature images based on stained-glass windows from some of the churches on Grand Cayman. The stamps feature stained-glass windows at Wesleyan Holiness Church (25¢); Elmslie Memorial Church (50¢); St. George's Anglican Church (75¢); East End Seventh-Day Adventist Church (80¢); First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman ($1) and Frank Sound Church of God ($1.50). The image on the First Day Cover, which has all the stamps affixed to it, is a handmade quilt in the Little Cayman Baptist Church. The leaflet which accompanies the First Day Cover offers a brief history of the churches along with an explanation of the windows.
For more information contact the Philatelic Bureau at mailto:email@example.com
Future plans to grow the sport of scuba diving in the Cayman Islands, a sport which has had its share of challenges, were discussed this week by the public and private sectors. The Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s watersports committee met with the Department of Tourism Tuesday in order to refine Cayman’s strategies to grow the sport over the next two years.
"The sport is in the mature phase of its lifecycle and the major certifying agencies, manufacturers and trade associations are developing strategies to deal with these challenges," explained Director of Tourism Pilar Bush in a response to questions on the dive industry from the Caymanian Compass.
The sport has been suffering from a flat rate of growth and even periods of decline, she said.
"Over the past decades, the average active traveller has more and more choice of leisure activities and on average less and less time to participate in leisure activities," Ms Bush said.
The CITA's Immediate Past President and Operations Manager of Red Sail Sports Rod McDowall noted, "There's a lot of competition out there and people have options to go to lots of different places. I don't think we've as many repeat visitors as we used to. It's just a general competition factor."
The main challenge, Ms Bush said, is that the sport of diving was at its peak in terms of active participation and rate of new certification the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Showing the sport as more of a social activity and including scuba diving imagery in mainstream consumer travel marketing have been strategies previously employed by DoT to market the sport, along with getting active younger celebrities such as Jessica Alba on island to learn to dive as a way of broadening the appeal of the sport.
The 9/11 terrorism attacks in the United States did not help the dive industry either, and the Caribbean hurricanes of 2004 and 2005 negatively impacted diving in the region.
Both Mr McDowall and CITA's Watersports Director Ron Kipp noted that diving here peaked back in 1998 and has been soft since then.
"The dive industry has been very ill since 1998, right along with the general stay–over tourism market," said Mr. Kipp.
Mr. McDowall stressed that the stay–over sector is the bread and butter of the diving industry and less focus on this sector is detrimental to the dive industry.
Steve Broadbelt, chairman of the CITA Watersports Committee, said of the dive industry, "We have the same challenges as all tourism businesses, and that is the need to increase air arrivals." He puts the health of the dive industry at six on a scale of one to 10.
The industry has also changed from around the time of 9/11 in that many of the big operators are gone. A number of businesses closed down because of Hurricane Ivan, also including Bob Soto's, Parrots Landing, Treasure Island Divers and Fisheye.
Now there are lots more smaller operators, and it’s more difficult than previously to make a living, said Mr. McDowall.
Immigration, fuel costs, the usual ongoing issues of dock and beach access, marine resource management and the cost of doing business are challenges facing the industry locally.
Runaway costs have made most businesses very marginally profitable, said Mr. Kipp. "Costs which have caused our product to be both perceived and in reality too expensive."
Cost of living is also affecting staffing, said Mr. Kipp. "The dive industry was always a 'fun' industry that many people entered for its lifestyle, not financial rewards. But you must make enough money to pay the rent on your shared living space, eat, etcetera. That is a very tough challenge for most diving employees today."
September and October, as always, are slow again for most operators in the business.
Mr. Kipp said it has been very bad since June and that this year September and October seem "terrible" for the dive industry.
Mr. Broadbelt said that at his own business, Ocean Frontiers, they lost their boat dock in Hurricane Dean and as a result business was down approximately 25 per cent from September 2006. "Other operators have reported a 15 per cent downturn in business in September 2007 from 2006."
But Mr. Broadbelt noted that putting a spotlight on one specific month is no way to make a business decision and that the year as a whole should be given a lot more weight. Therefore, year to date in 2007 business is up six per cent on the same period at Ocean Frontiers.
Mr. Broadbelt said that most dive businesses are not back to 2003 levels as yet since Hurricane Ivan, but from information shared within the CITA, that benchmark is being closed in on.
Although it is difficult to get accurate dive numbers, without a single reporting agency for the sport, the Director of Tourism said she is encouraged by recent reports of an increase rate of new diver certifications and they hope to get better information during the upcoming DEMA show in Orlando later this month.
Loss of some of the more "affordable" properties on the island can be seen as another factor that could turn some divers away.
"There is always room for more budget oriented accommodations," said Mr. McDowall.
Mr. Kipp mentioned the loss of Treasure Island, Indies Suites, Seaview, the Sleep Inn, Cayman Islander, Divi Tiara, Spanish Bay Reef and soon to go Beach Club. The loss of some properties has put Cayman out of the budget of some divers, Mr. Broadbelt said.
"However, don't get the impression that divers don't have any money – 70 per cent of Ocean Frontiers customers have an average household income well in excess of $100,000 per annum."
While the DoT collects general visitor expenditure information, it does not have detailed information on the relative spending of divers vis–à–vis other types of visitors with which to provide an accurate assessment of their unique and relative value to the destination, said Ms Bush.
One concern that Mr. McDowall voiced is that diving is not in the primary section of the Cayman Islands target audience.
"I think it is important not to lose the fact that Cayman diving has been very important for the islands over the last 30 years," he said.
But the Director of Tourism noted that the dive market remains a key target group for the Cayman Islands. "It is the second most important category so it remains very important at this stage," she said.
The dive market lies in the "extender" target with romance, beyond the core targets of families and travel trade.
Ms Bush explained, "The Cayman Islands target visitor profile is arrived at in consultation with and with full participation of the CI private sector, dive's relative position reflects the government and private sector's respective assessment of its value to the country."
Ms Bush said that there has not been any decrease in the marketing efforts of the Cayman Islands as a dive destination and a full mix of advertising, public relations, special events, tradeshows, on–island dive fairs, and direct marketing are used to promote the sport in all three islands.
Mr. Broadbelt said that the dive industry is very excited about the USS Kittiwake Shipwreck project (a 251-foot US Navy submarine rescue ship) for sinking in 2008 and that the government has always given tremendous support to make this happen.
Indeed, Mr. Kipp believes that getting this project underway could prove to be as major a boon to the diving industry as Stingray City was to the snorkelling group.
The dive industry is also very thankful to Cayman Airways for adding non–stop flights from JFK. "This has made a positive impact on most tourism businesses and we look forward to new efforts to increase air arrivals and stay–over tourism," said Mr. Broadbelt.
A wave runner rider, Edsell Alberto Haylock was fined $300 after pleading guilty to a charge of navigating a vessel in such a manner as to cause risk of damage to people or property. The offence occurred within a diving zone near the Cracked Conch Restaurant in West Bay on Sunday, 1 July.
Crown Counsel Tanya Lobban said Haylock was riding the wave runner as close as 50 feet to shore within a diving area while scuba divers were in the water. The wave runner narrowly missed a diver, according to one report.
Acting Magistrate Valdis Foldats accepted the guilty plea. He noted the seriousness of the offence, but gave credit for Haylock's plea and the fact that he had no previous convictions. The maximum fine for this offence is $1,000.
The fourth annual Cayman Stingray Tourism Awards were presented by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association at the Westin Casuarina Resort.
The awards included: the Restaurant Manager of the Year award went to Martin Hoetzl of Blue Restaurant, the Ritz–Carlton, Grand Cayman; Ivan Lee of the Ritz–Carlton, Grand Cayman won Watersports Manager of the Year; Gladys Howard of Pirates Point Resort on Little Cayman won a Long Service Award; Mike Flowers won a Special Contribution Award; Merilyn Malone of Cayman Airways won the Transportation Employee of the Year; Louie–Mae Parchment of Sunshine Suites won Accommodations Employee of the Year; Delva Ebanks of the Westin Casuarina Resort won a Long Service Award; Annie Bush of the Westin Casuarina Resort won Restaurant Employee of the Year; Kenrick Webster of Websters Tours won Transportation Manager of the Year; Brandee Elise Milman of Divetech won Watersports Employee of the Year; Fernando Soler of the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort won Accommodations Manager of the Year; Justin Uzzell of Cayman Free Press/Key to Cayman won Allied Manager of the Year; Anthony Clarke of Red Sail Sports won the Rising Star Tourism Award; Garfield Ebanks of the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort won Accommodations Employee of the Year; Allied Employee of the Year went to Ann Ogden of Celebrations. Ms Ogden was in Little Cayman for the filming of "My Destination Wedding with the Knot," which will see a featured couple have their destination wedding, at the Southern Cross Club to be aired on (US) Style TV in 2008.
Friedman Paul Erhardt, the ebullient German–born cook known as "Chef Tell" who opened Chef Tell's Grand Old House on Grand Cayman in 1986, died of heart failure at his home in Upper Black Eddy, Bucks County, Pensylvania. Erhhardt was 63.
From 1st November, the Hyatt Hotel have ceased their involvement with running Rum Point. Rum Point Investment Ltd. will take over management of the property. There were 20 Hyatt staff members working at the Rum Point location and a majority of those have decided they want to stay on working at Rum Point under the new management. General Manger of the Hyatt, Diego Concha, recently said the Rum Point staff would be given options such as staying on at Rum Point under new management if they so wished, or to return to work at the hotel, or some might choose to go elsewhere. Adrien Briggs, co–owner of the site said that under the new management there is very little that will change about the property, and they are even hoping that they won't have to close down during the change–over.
One aspect of change that hopefully will take place is the plan to get the Rum Point restaurant open for the winter season. The restaurant has been out of commission since Hurricane Ivan struck Grand Cayman in September 2004. "We're trying to get the restaurant open for the coming winter but we have no timetable on that for the moment," Mr. Briggs said.
There are no current plans to reopen the ferry service that has not run since Ivan. However, he did say there are plans for some evening sails from the west side of the island to Rum Point, but not as a scheduled ferry service.
Red Sail Sports will remain operating at the property.
The Public Transport Board approved a $1 increase on the base taxi fare, raising it from CI$7 to $8 and also approved a 20 per cent increase on the mileage and hourly rates from November. Taxi fares were last increased in 2002.
After a public meeting to discuss options, work on the proposed wall to stop storm flooding in the Savannah Gully area is likely to go ahead. Under the plan, the wall will stretch almost 2,000 feet, at a height of between two to seven feet above ground. Engineers from US based engineering firm Orth–Rodgers and associates told the meeting the floodwall will prevent about 96% of the water from overtopping in a direct hit from a Category 2 hurricane, and more that 90% effective for a Category 3 hurricane approaching Grand Cayman from the south.
The Atlantic department store has reopened at the newly constructed Governors Square on West Bay Road. The original store on the waterfront in George Town was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan, and afterwards the store moved temporarily to one of the malls in George Town. The new store is 9,000 square feet and sells features men's and ladies' clothing, shoes, accessories, gifts, party goods and artwork.
Cayman Airways have started work on rebranding their aircraft. The first 737-300 has returned to service after a 'C' check and major overhaul in Costa Rica with the new livery. The tail fin now features part of the Cayman Islands coat of arms, with Sir Turtle now on the side of the plane near the loading doors (see http://www.caymanairways.com/company/news_and_alerts.php?mode=show&ak=136). Sir Turtle's head has been spun around on the starboard side of the aircraft for the sake of conformity with the rest of the logo. The interior of the plane has also been updated, with Sir Turtle head rest covers and the coat of arms depicted on the walls.
Board Chairperson Angelyn Hernandez said "We wanted to enhance Sir Turtle and his role and we needed to anchor our aircraft with something which identified our fleet anywhere it was seen, with the Cayman Islands. We needed to demonstrate that we are a proud and bold country. We believe that the design of the coat of arms flying high on our tail with all the glorious colours is such a representation".
Over the next year other aircraft will get their new identity as they go in for the industry mandated 'C' checks. Other aspects of the brand enhancement campaign, such as uniforms, stationary, business cards, ticket counters, web-site, advertisements, vehicles and signage will be gradually updated.
From 1st January 2008 there are new rules about the transport of spare Lithium Metal and Lithium-Ion batteries. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) through the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) will no longer allow loose lithium batteries in checked baggage. For further details see http://safetravel.dot.gov/whats_new_batteries.html
A new non–stop service between Boston and Grand Cayman, starting on 12th January 2008, was announced by US Airways. Flights will operate once a week on Saturdays using the 124–seat Airbus 319 aircraft. The schedule has the outbound flight leaving Boston at 8:00am, arriving in Grand Cayman at 12:19pm. The return leg is scheduled to leave Cayman at 1:05pm, arriving back in Boston at 5:00pm.
Golfers can enjoy a round again after the North Sound Club opened. Formerly called Links at SafeHaven, the recently sold course closed down temporarily for renovation by its new owner, Ritz–Carlton developer Michael Ryan. Members were worried that they would no longer have access to the only public 18–hole course on Grand Cayman and they were afraid they wouldn't be able to afford the fees. Members have access to the course for at least the next year, when the course is due to be redesigned by golf legend Greg Norman.
Marketing director for Ryan Developers Ltd, Brooke Clark said "Our membership package is now finally available". "We only closed for three weeks and felt the pressure. We had a lot of amazing people working very hard and for long hours to make this happen.
Clark said the new membership fees are reasonable. They are roughly the same as before. "We worked very closely with Davey Ebanks, the manager of the club here. He was also the manager of SafeHaven. We also kept the golf pro here, Sean Wilson. They were both heavily involved in creating the membership programmes. We really valued their input and their golf expertise.
"Another thing we did was that we went all over the Caribbean, the States and Mexico to look at other golf programmes to make sure we were in line. We're actually extremely reasonable. I've worked at quite a few golf courses and our fees are not excessive."
Individual membership is $3,000 initiation fee and $3,000 annual dues, which can be paid in two parts. The club is also getting luxurious carts next month, which haven't been available since Hurricane Ivan hit three years ago. The guest fee is $100 per round, inclusive of cart and green fees. Membership is only valid until 16 November, 2008, before Norman starts the redesign. Membership is also available on a corporate, junior, student and non–resident rate. Anyone joining in the New Year will be given a pro rate.
"As we get nearer to that date we'll know better how ready we are in working on the course. Norman's Great White Shark Enterprises have signed on officially to redesign. When the course is shut down for the redesign we will refund 80 per cent of a member's initiation fee."
There is a founder membership fee of $100,000 which is part of the community development concept. When the real estate goes up in the future, all of the founder members' fees will be transferred toward the purchase. Prices of the cheapest condos are expected to start at around $750,000.
All the properties will be around a series of connecting canals and waterways so residents will literally be able to arrive for a round by boat. The only proviso is that if a founder member hasn't bought any real estate within five years then the North Sound Club reserves the right to cancel membership.
One of the events of this year's Pirate's Week was a cardboard boat race. Red Sail Sports narrowly edged out a smaller Livingston Group Pith Heads vessel to take the inaugural cup, with the Tequila Pirates coming in third. Red Sail's Dan Bond said his crew had simply hoped for buoyancy. "When we first built the boat we designed it for two people but it kept getting bigger, weighing in at about 300 pounds of cardboard. So we put six people on it and just hoped that it would float – and it did." The Planning Department's entry – a Caymanian style floating cardboard house – finished seventh, but took the title of best boat design. Radio Station X107.1's boat made it little more than a few boat lengths before capsizing, but took the day's two most dubious awards: most spectacular sinking and shortest race.
The Economics and Statistics Office Semi-Annual Economic Report to the end of June 2007 has been published and is available online at http://www.eso.ky/UserFiles/File/Bi-annual%20Economic%20Report,%2007.pdf. The report shows • Average Consumer Price Index rose by 3.7%, mainly due to higher average prices for personal goods & services, food and household equipment.
• Work permits declined by 4.6% to total 20,286.
• Money supply expanded by 21.3% due to strong growth in foreign currency deposits held by residents.
• Merchandise imports rose by 17.8%.
• Air arrivals grew by 8.4% while cruise passengers increased by 2.6%.
• Mutual funds grew by 14.4%.
• Bank and trust licences decreased by 3.4% while insurance licences increased by 2.2%.
• Stock exchange listings increased by 26.5% while stock market capitalization rose by US$36 billion, an increase of 39.7%.
• New companies registration increased by 13.2%.
• The value of building permits spiked by 36.4%, while the value of projects approvals declined by 15.2%.
A company hired to remove scrap metal from the George Town Landfill owes the Cayman Islands government nearly $1 million, apart from whatever cash the company's subcontractors claim they were not paid. Works and Infrastructure Minister Arden McLean also revealed that 45% of the original amount of mixed metals Matrix International Ltd. was slated to remove remains at the landfill. Mr. McLean said most of the scrap has already been separated, sorted into piles and made ready for baling. Matrix, which is 60 per cent Caymanian–owned and 40 per cent owned by Canadian Bruce Young, was declared in default on the scrap metal contract 19 September. On 2 November, the government temporarily suspended all operations of Matrix at the landfill and demanded full payment.
A $500–per–day penalty would be applied for late payments, according to Mr. McLean. Government has received just $310,000 of its $1.25 million contract with Matrix, which signed the scrap removal agreement in March with the intention of selling the materials it procured from the landfill. Mr. McLean said that contract remains in effect through mid–March 2008, and the minister said he had received no indication that Matrix simply did not intend to pay.
Mr. Young blamed government for some of the problems his company has dealt with on the contract. Mr. Young said it took the government three months to sign the contract after it was awarded. He also said repeated break–downs have plagued the scrap metal baler, which belongs to the government, and have slowed things up on the job site.
For the second year in a row there were fewer named storms than predicted during the hurricane season.
In the end, the 2007 hurricane season yielded six hurricanes, two major hurricanes and 14 named storms. The six hurricanes and two major hurricanes are the norm for the Atlantic basin. The norm for named storms is 11.
Both of the seasons major hurricanes – Dean and Felix – reached Category 5 strength and passed through the western Caribbean Sea. Three days out, Hurricane Dean was forecast to cross Grand Cayman, causing the government and residents to fully prepare for the worst. More than 7,000 tourists and residents were evacuated as Dean approached, and more than 2,200 people went to hurricane shelters on the evening of August 19th.
Fortunately for Cayman, a high pressure system kept Dean from gaining latitude and the storm passed just more than 100 miles south of Grand Cayman, causing only minimal storm surge and wave damage.
Forecasters had predicted a more active season. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center predicted 13 to 17 named storms; seven to 10 hurricanes; and three to five major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.
The Colorado State University team of Philip Klotzbach and William Gray predicted 17 named storms, nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes.
The U.K.–based Tropical Storm Risk forecast 16.1 named storms plus or minus 3.8; 8.9 hurricanes plus or minus 2.6; and four major hurricanes, plus or minus 1.5.
Members of the Overseas Countries and Territories Association (OCTA) have unanimously elected the Cayman Islands to chair and host its annual ministerial meeting in 2008.
The OCTA has 17 members. They are Anguilla; Aruba; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Falkland Islands; French Polynesia; Greenland; Mayotte; Montserrat; Netherlands Antilles; New Caledonia; Pitcairn; St. Helena and dependencies; St. Pierre and Miquelon; French Southern and Antarctic Territories; Turks and Caicos Islands; Wallis and Futuna. The OCTA has a website at http://www.octassociation.org
The Tourism Attraction Board has launched a US$16 "Discover the East" Adventure Card provides free admission to both the Pedro St. James National Historic Site and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.
The Adventure Card features a map that highlights the eastern districts of Grand Cayman and identifies the locations of each sponsoring business and attraction. The back of the Adventure Card lists ten exclusive money–saving values that are only available to card holders.
Gilbert Connolly, CEO of the Tourism Attraction Board said, "Standard admission to the Pedro St. James and the Botanic Park would normally cost a visitor US$20. The Adventure Card costs only US$16 and represents a great value by giving visitors admission to both of these Caymanian treasures."
Card holders are entitled to:
• A free gift with paid admission to the National Trust’s Mission House in Bodden Town;
• 10 per cent discount on goods (excluding gas) from Lorna’s Texaco in Bodden Town, with $20 minimum purchase;
• 20 per cent off one adult admission to the Pirate’s Caves in Bodden Town;
• 10 per cent off of all fresh juices at Lookout Fruits and Juices in Bodden Town;
• 15 per cent off any bottle of wine/champagne with dinner at the Lighthouse Restaurant in Breakers;
• A free sample of traditional Caymanian cake with any meal purchased at Vivine's Kitchen in East End;
• A US$20 savings on Discover Scuba Diving at Ocean Frontiers in east End;
• A free cup of coffee with breakfast at Ye Olde English Bakery in East End;
• One free dessert with a meal purchased at Over the Edge Restaurant in Old Man Bay;
• A complimentary rum punch with an entrée purchase at Kaibo Beach Bar and Marina in Cayman Kai.
A late storm in December - Tropical Storm Olga, which brought heavy rains to Cayman, upped the statistics for the 2007 hurricane season. Final analysis by the National Hurricane Center show that there were six hurricanes and 15 named storms.
After 20 years the Hyatt Hotels and Resorts are pulling out of Grand Cayman. On the back of their decision to stop running Rum Point. "Following a successful presence on Grand Cayman for two decades, Hyatt has announced that its 20 year contractual agreement expires on December 31, 2007 after which date it will no longer manage Hyatt Regency, Grand Cayman," said a statement from Hyatt Hotels and Resorts. From 1st January 2008, the 53–suite hotel will operate under the new name of Grand Cayman Beach Suites and be independently managed by the owner.
General Manager of the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman Diego Concha said that the hotel will still be operating under the same ownership so all the staff members' benefits and salaries will carry on through, remain the same, and retain their continuity into the future. "The only thing that really changes is the name," he said. He said full flexibility is being given to staff members for whatever decision they make. If some members wish to go to another Hyatt that decision will be supported, or if they wish to stay on with Grand Cayman Beach Suites that will be welcomed.
Mr. Concha expects the transition from Hyatt to an independent property to go very smoothly. Mr. Concha himself, being Hyatt management, will eventually be leaving the hotel, but he asserted his commitment to the transition process.
"I will continue to be here for as long as I'm needed, until the key executive positions are in place. "Hyatt will maintain a presence here as long as necessary to ensure a good transition."
He also noted that Hyatt is committed with the owner for future investments. "Hyatt has enjoyed a positive and mutually beneficial relationship with Embassy Investments and both parties will continue to pursue future opportunities together," the press release stated.
Other aspects of the property such as Bamboo and Hemmingways restaurants and Britannia will remain known by their current names, Mr. Concha said.
When asked about the insurance settlement for the landside of the hotel, which has been pending now for nearly three years, Mr. Concha said the owner is still in negotiations on the issue and it is hoped an outcome will come about soon. That side of the hotel has lain disused since Hurricane Ivan damaged it in September 2004.
He said the Hyatt pulling out of the hotel is purely because its 20 year contract has come to an end. Speaking about his roughly 135 staff members, Mr. Concha said, "I'm so proud of each and every one of them. They're attitude is 'we will move on and make this an even greater place'. They are such an amazing group."
Speaking about the hotel's achievements as an operation within Hyatt, he said that they were in the top 20 hotels for customer service and number two for food and beverage.
"That says a lot about our people," he said. "And I believe our style will have continuity."
Mr. Concha said he told his staff, "You are the soul of the property", and added that the property would go from strength to strength because of them.
"Hyatt remains fully committed to Grand Cayman as a luxury resort destination and remains optimistic for the future as opportunities on the island present themselves.
"Hyatt will be forever grateful to the owner, employees and loyal guests of Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman, and wish the very best to Embassy Investments and the employees in the future success of the property."
A new discount warehouse, Cost–U–Less, has opened for business at Governors Square. Cost–U–Less sells bulk goods, similar to other North American–style warehouse stores. However, it also sells fresh produce, fresh seafood and meats, appliances, clothes, tools and a variety of other products, all at competitive prices.
The first businesses have moved into Dart's Camana Bay development. Ernst & Young, Cayman National Bank, and London & Amsterdam Trust Company, opened their offices in November, and the first retail units - Books & Books bookshop (http://www.booksandbooks.com) and multi-screen cinema Go Hollywood (http://www.gohollywood.com) opened in December.
A report for the Chief Secretary and The Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs predicts the population growth of the Cayman Islands over the next 20 years. The report was prepared by Principle Policy Advisor Philip Pedley and titled 'Population Scenarios: Past Trends and Future Possibilities'.
The report looks at the growth of the Cayman Islands since its settlement and in some detail at the tremendous growth over the past 37 years.
Between 1970 and 2006, the average growth trend for the Cayman Islands has been 4.73 per cent per year. Cayman's population grew slowly but steadily for more than 250 years after it was settled in the early 1700s. However, since 1970 the growth has been fast and steady. The population was estimated at 10,068 in 1970, 17,018 in 1980, 26,969 in 1990 and 40,800 in 2000. By the end of 2006, the population was estimated at 53,172, although the report acknowledges a feeling in some quarters that the figure is underestimated.
Based on population growth scenarios of two, three, four, five and six per cent per year over the next 10 years, Cayman's population in 2016 would be somewhere between 64,816 and 95,223. For those growth rates over the next 20 years, Cayman's population in 2026 would be between 79,011 and 170,530.
"How will the population change in the next 20 years?" the report asks. "The question has important implications for every area of government policy and public life, from the number of schools needed, to demands on the healthcare system, to environmental, social and infrastructure pressures, to the size of the George Town landfill."
The Cayman Islands Government and Caribbean Utilities Company signed an Agreement in Principle as a precursor to signing a formal agreement for Grand Cayman's electricity provider. Based on December 2007 fuel costs, residential consumers using less than 2,000 kilowatt hours per month will save 12.2 to 15.9 per cent on their current bills. Smaller commercial enterprises that use between 500 and 5,000 kilowatt hours per month will save between 3.7 and 8.8 per cent of their current bills.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said the agreement, which is not legally binding, represented a breakthrough for the consumer in controlling the cost of living and in ensuring the reliable supply of electricity in the future.
"In addition to a fundamental restructuring of the entire electricity industry… the AIP that we have signed today will lead by the end of next month to the signing of two new licences for CUC – one for generation and one for transmission and distribution – both for a period of 20 years."
A formal agreement and licences are expected to be signed in January.
Mr. Tibbetts said the cost of fuel – which is charged to CUC customers as a pass–through expense – represents about 40 per cent of electricity bills. To counter the high cost of fuel, the Government has agreed to give CUC a 20–cents–per–Imperial–gallon rebate on the duty it pays on fuel.
Any increase in current fuel prices of 20 cents or more would negate the current estimated savings, but would still lower customers' bills from what they could be.
"While we have no control over [world fuel prices], we'll do the best with this that we can," said Mr. Tibbetts. "But whatever we face, the rest of the world has to face."
As part of the agreement, CUC has agreed to forego the Hurricane Ivan cost recovery surcharge.
Electricity Regulatory Authority Managing Director Phil Thomas said there was still CI$2.2 million of the agreed $11.3 million Ivan surcharge to be collected.
"CUC is basically walking away from $2.2 million in cost recovery surcharges," he said
The new rates will take effect 1 January 2008.
Also as part of the agreement, CUC has agreed to freeze its base rate through 31 May 2009. Although the next general elections will most likely take place earlier that month, Mr. Tibbetts said the timing of the rate freeze was "absolutely coincidental".
Future CUC rate increases after that date will be subject to a rate–cap mechanism that will adjust the base rates in accordance to a formula that takes into account inflation as measured by a blend of U.S. and Cayman Islands inflation indices.
A clause in the Agreement in Principle will allow CUC to implement a temporary surcharge in the event a catastrophic event causes significant losses to the company.
CUC President and CEO Richard Hew said the provisions of the clause are standard in the electricity industry and he explained why they were necessary.
"Investors and lenders won't come on our side unless the major risks are covered," he said.
Turtle Farm story I.
The Cayman Turtle Farm is to be investigates by The Office of the Complaints Commissioner (OCC) whether the farm has ignored, possibly for decades, its obligations to discharge water, sewage and other substances from its West Bay property in a safe and environmentally sound manner. Complaints Commissioner John Epp said there is no evidence that a licence allowing the tourist attraction to discharge effluent has ever been granted since the Turtle Farm was purchased by government in 1983. Effluent includes all discharges from the property, liquid or solid, which flow into the sea.
The OCC's investigation will focus on whether a marine discharge licence is required for the Turtle Farm or if it was somehow granted an exception, and why there was a failure to get that licence if it was needed.
The investigate will also focus on what the complaints commissioner said was a potential conflict of interest with the person supervising Turtle Farm operations.
Joseph Ebanks was named chief operating officer of the Turtle Farm in January, and took over as acting managing director when Mr. Hydes resigned in September. Mr. Ebanks is a member of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors.
Mr. Epp said it was obvious that problems with the effluent discharge licence started long before Mr. Ebanks was named chief operating officer at the Turtle Farm. However, he noted that shortly after Mr. Ebanks was given that position, the facility was allowed to put fish in its saltwater lagoon attraction… with no evidence that a discharge licence had been granted.
"Could Mr. Ebanks have influenced the Water Authority to turn a blind eye? It is a question we'll ask," he said.
The Ministry of Tourism released the following statement behalf of Mr. Ebanks:
"The management and staff of Boatswain’s Beach (Cayman Turtle Farm) recognises and respects the authority granted to the Office of the Complaints Commissioner under the law. As Acting Managing Director of Boatswain's Beach, I welcome and will cooperate fully with the OCC."
"Effluent disposal licensing has been an on going issue for several years now and it was a priority on my 'to do' list when I took on the role of acting managing director approximately three months ago. To reiterate, everyone here at Boatswain's Beach will do their part to assist the OCC with their enquiries which we hope will enable a speedy resolution."
The OCC investigation will begin in January.
Turtle Farm story II.
There was more bad news from the Turtle Farm when it was revealed that the Boatswain's Beach tourist attraction is losing about $500,000 every month. Cheques issued to members of staff and suppliers recently bounced when presented to local banks. Boatswain's Beach Acting CEO Joey Ebanks said he was off island on official business at the time and immediately rectified the situation on his return. Despite the financial woes of the tourist attraction, which opened in late 2006, Mr. Ebanks said the situation was getting better. "We are seeing improvements," he said, noting the tourist attraction had earlier been operating at a loss of more than $1 million per month. "There have been tremendous cost cutting measures."
The old Turtle Farm used to be a profit–making facility and employed just 35 people. With the opening of Boatswain's Beach, operating expenses and the number of people on the payroll skyrocketed. However Mr. Ebanks explained the operation already trimmed back the staff numbers somewhat.
"We have gone form 117 employees to 109, so we are using staff members to do more and we are accomplishing more with less," he said. "This is helping to drive the expenses down."
"We made mistakes with the pricing and we are getting that corrected," Mr. Ebanks said.
In addition to putting in place a realistic pricing structure, Mr. Ebanks said the business was working on strategies to dramatically increase the number of visitors to the attraction and the retail sales. There are also plans to improve the entertainment and product offering.
"We are going to take our current 20 per cent market share and we are going to double it in the next 18 months," he said.
The Department of Tourism – which has more global reach and established marketing networks – has agreed to assist over the coming months, Mr. Ebanks said. With the DoTs help, Mr. Ebanks said the target of doubling Boatswain's Beach is realistic, given the upbeat six–month forecast for visitor arrivals.
Turtle Farm story III
The Cayman Islands Turtle Farm is experiencing a marked increase in the mortality rate of young turtle hatchlings and at the same time the number of viable eggs produced by the herd is steadily diminishing.
The combined effect of the two factors is causing real concern about the long–term outlook for the farm and its ability to satisfy local demand for turtle meat.
Acting CEO Joey Ebanks said changes were necessary. "It has affected our release program," he said. "I am going to have to eliminate it for a while and cut back on the total amount of meat we produce for consumption.
Mr. Ebanks said he was putting together a steering committee to start a research programme to address the problem.
The Government has advised Mr. Ebanks that the farm is his number one priority, he said. Turtle stew is the national dish and has cultural importance. Mr. Ebanks said there are concerns that if the supply of meat decreases enough, it could result in an increased level of turtle poaching of the remaining wild stocks.
"What we are doing right now with our chief Scientific Officer, Joe Parsons, is working towards developing a stronger relationship with Gina Ebanks–Petrie at the Department of Environment," Mr. Ebanks said. "This is helping us put together a research team that can help us pull… expertise from around the world that we need to increase our production."
Currently the shells from the turtles that are slaughtered for their meat end up in the landfill. Mr. Ebanks said he is now taking steps to make polished shells available once again, while at the same time introducing a mechanism to protect wild turtles from being exploited for this commodity.
Mr. Ebanks said shells from farm turtles would be tagged by a process approved by the Department of Environment.
"We want to ensure that the shells that we sell can be identified and that if anyone takes turtles from the wild population, DoE can take the necessary steps to prosecute."