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Diving to Become More Exciting

Government and the Cayman Islands Tourist Association (CITA) sign a contract to acquire Cayman's newest diving attraction, the USS Kittiwake. Participating (from left) are CITA's President Steve Broadbelt; Chief Officer in the Ministry of Tourism, Gloria McField-Nixon and Minister of Tourism the Hon. Charles Clifford. Others witnessing the signing from left are: CITA member Steve Surrey; Deputy Chief Officer Samuel Rose; Acting Director, (DOT) Shomari Scott and USS Kittiwake Project Manager Nancy Easterbrook.

With the recent signing of an agreement by the Ministry of Tourism and the Cayman Islands Tourists Association (CITA), diving in Cayman's waters is about to get more intriguing.

The agreement formalises government's plan to acquire the USS Kittiwake, a de-commissioned naval ship, to create an exciting site attraction and artificial reef.; all the while providing much desired relief for some of our frequently visited dive sites.

Tourism, Environment, Investment and Commerce Minister the Hon. Charles Clifford and Chief Officer Gloria McField-Nixon, signed on behalf of the Ministry while President Steve Broadbelt and Secretary Bud Johnson, signed for the CITA.

Minister Clifford said the acquisition of the Kittiwake would add diversity to Cayman's diving attractions and promote the preservation of marine life.

"This ship fits Cayman's positioning as a dive destination," he said, and added, "Our sea-faring heritage, our strong interest in presenting varied tourism offerings and our belief in preserving the environment, all played a major role in the decision to acquire this latest diving attraction."

He further noted that shipwrecks are a great interest to divers worldwide, providing both exciting sites for diving, and allowing persons to explore a naval heritage through studying vessels from bygone eras.

"For example Florida has a shipwreck heritage trail comprising notable wreck sites which stretches from Key Largo to Key West," Mr Clifford said. "Over the past several years, other ships were intentionally sunk along that trail to provide added attractions and to create an artificial reef believed to be home to some 55 varieties of delicate corals and nearly 500 species of fish."

Speaking for CITA, USS Kittiwake Project Manager Nancy Easterbrook noted, "The Kittiwake has been a labour of love and really hard work for over five years, but it is coming to fruition now. It will be transferred to government before year end for cleaning and remediation, with an expected sinking date around June 2009.

"We all look forward to seeing water-based tourism in Grand Cayman stimulated by this new underwater attraction, suitable for both divers and snorkellers.

"But this effort is also significant because it is a pilot project in terms of exporting a ship from the US to a foreign country. It's not been easy due to strict and diligent requirements involving sinking an artificial reef in Grand Cayman. In the long run though, the oversight will ensure success for decades to come. We'll be preserving and protecting the Kittiwake, as well as the natural marine environment" Ms Easterbrook explained.

Built in 1945, the ship made numerous voyages between the United States' east coast, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean in support of submarines and to conduct rescue missions for the US Navy.

With its impressive background, the Kittiwake is expected to create considerable positive media and PR for the Cayman Islands.

For further information contact: Prudence Barnes