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This new plane can be likened to a birthday gift as Cayman Airways is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year

Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin

Published 30th November 2018, 3:24pm

Good afternoon,

Thank you for joining us as we welcome the newest plane to our fleet, the Boeing 737 Max 8.

Today has been long awaited and I congratulate the Board, Management, and staff of Cayman Airways on getting to today’s historic event.

This new plane can be likened to a birthday gift as Cayman Airways is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Since 1968 our national flag carrier has been serving the Cayman Islands, bringing people in and out of our beloved Isles. And the arrival of this fantastic brand-new aircraft will help position Cayman Airways and the Cayman Islands for the next 50 years of success.

Not only can our Islands be proud that our national flag Carrier Cayman Airways is now flying the first Boeing 737 Max to be operated by a Caribbean-based airline, but we can also be proud that once again Cayman Airways is doing its part to help secure the future of our Islands and our people.

Those who lead, or who understand leadership, know full well that leaders must think and plan not just for today or for tomorrow, but as far into the future as possible.

Leaders prepare for the future first by thinking and planning for it. Then by acting; for thinking and planning alone are of little consequence without action.

In the words of Franklin D Roosevelt – To reach a port, we must set sail. We must sail, not stay tied at anchor. We must sail, not drift.

There will always be those who question if this is the right aircraft or whether we should even have new plane at all. They think only about today and have no vision for where the Cayman Islands can be in 25 or even 50 years.

Some are afraid of the future and of change, preferring that we stay as we are, tied at anchor – not realizing that in changing times if one does not also change then the world and opportunities will leave us behind.

There are others who have a knack for talking about what should be done, and while they talk, nothing actually gets done. And if we follow them then we will merely drift with the tides, and land wherever the current takes us.

As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of our Coat of Arms this year, and of our Constitution next year, we are reminded that those who went before us and charted our way forward understood that to create a better life for our people we had to a new course and to sail toward new opportunities – not stay tied at anchor or merely drift.

The Board and Management of Cayman Airways understand the importance of planning and acting to ensure that the future of CAL and Cayman continues to remain bright for the next 50 years. And the government I have the honor and privilege to lead endorsed and supported their decision.

I congratulate them and the Deputy Premier for the vision and the willingness to act so that we can be here today.

Cayman Airways is an important lifeline for us. In a time when we are seeing a booming economy I am also acutely aware that we also have many challenges. Our economic model has been constantly evolving over the decades – but the main drivers of our economy remain tourism and financial services. And at a time when we are seeing financial services coming under increasing attack we must ensure that we not only continue to diversify our economy but also to shore up and grow our key pillar economic sectors.

The investment in Cayman Airways and in its new fleet is one way this Government is strengthening our stay over tourism product and protecting our economy. The upgrading of Owen Roberts International Airport is another. We are also supporting the work of private sector to invest in various hotel projects.

And with the Max 8’s coming online CAL will play an important role in helping to fill those hotel rooms through new routes that were previously not possible with the older aircraft.

But today is an important day for tourism for more than one reason. The Ministry of Tourism will be issuing a press release this afternoon to formally announce that Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Carnival Corporation have now made the financial commitments sought from them by the Government towards financing the cruise berthing project. Those commitments, coupled with the finance to be provided by the preferred bidder on the project, effectively ensure that no public money will be required to build the new berths.

This represents a huge vote of confidence in the Cayman Islands and in the viability of this project. It is a very significant milestone on the critical path towards the delivery of the new port facilities that this country needs to secure its economic future.

Arriving at this point is important as it not only secures funding for the project, but the active involvement of the cruise companies is crucial to the ongoing sustainability and success of the project as well as to our cruise tourism business.

It is important to our many merchants, large and small; to the hundreds of people who they employ; to our taxi and tour operators; and to many many Caymanians who make a living directly or indirectly from cruise tourism.

This Government, as have many Governments before, understands well that the cruise tourism model that we have had for over 25 years is not what will sustain and build a cruise tourism product for the next 25 years and beyond. In thinking about the country’s needs over the coming decades we understand, as do many Caymanians, that to protect and grow the cruise business we must invest in a modern cruise berthing facility. Just as we have invested in a new modern airport and in new airplanes for Cayman Airways.

However, we also understand and accept that there are costs associated with a modern cruise facility - monetary cost as well as environmental costs. But there are also economic benefits.

The choice is that we either do nothing or we build cruise piers.

There is no future in doing nothing – but in building the cruise piers the experts at PWC have told us that we can expect a net economic benefit of some $245 million plus the creation of hundreds of jobs during and after construction.

I respect the views of those who argue that no economic benefit can outweigh their environmental concerns. But whilst I respect their viewpoint, this is not a position that a responsible government can take.

We acknowledge that there will be environmental impact, and while we are redesigning the project to minimise that damage there is no way that we can build a new cruise and enhanced cargo port without some impact.

In my view this comes down to a question of judgement – do the benefits outweigh the costs? In my judgement and that of my government, $245 million of net economic benefit, 500 construction jobs and then decades of increasing employment and business opportunities for Caymanians in the tourism industry definitely outweigh the inevitable environmental costs. At a time when huge economic threats are looming, we cannot and must not turn our backs on what in our view is a clear and convincing case for the benefits the cruise berthing and cargo port will bring.

Government is committed to delivering the port project and to securing the growth and jobs it will bring. However, we are not doing so without regard to the costs. I have previously made two promises to the country, which I will repeat here.

First, that we would structure the financing of the project in such a way as to minimise any risk to the country’s finances.

Secondly, that we would do all that we can to minimise or to mitigate the environmental impact of the project.

The agreement with the cruise lines that the Government is announcing today means that we have made good on the first promise. In short, what it means is that Cayman will achieve the benefits of the new facilities while all of the cost and the financial risk will fall on the private sector, prinicaipally the cruise lines themselves.

Having delivered on that first promise, we will now ensure that the second promise is kept as well.

With those promises in place it is now essential that we get on with it and deliver this critically important project.

The cruise berthing and cargo enhancement project, like the new CAL airline fleet, or the upgrading of our airports, is an important part of moving Cayman forward and preparing us for the future.

And so today I applaud the Deputy Premier for not only his leadership and vision, alongside the Board and Management of CAL, on the significant step being made to modernize the fleet of Cayman Airways with the arrival of the new Max 8’s, but also for his work in modernising our cruise industry.

I am grateful for an incredibly proud of the government that I lead, every member of which has been in support of the critical decisions we have taken with regard to these crucial projects.

I await the day when both the cruise port and airport are complete, offering our residents and visitors a true CaymanKind experience.