Namely, BBC reports that the cruise lines are leading Verdant Isle, a consortium, with the aims to build a $250m new pier and berthing facility on Grand Cayman.
The new liners, carrying around 9,000 people, won't use the tenders to ferry passengers ashore. On one hand, this will make disembarking quicker and easier for tourists, yet, on the other hand it means dredging the harbor will destroy at least 10 acres (4ha) of coral reef.
Further to this, Nadia Hardie, the head of The National Trust for the Cayman Islands quotes to BBC
There are so many different varieties of marine life but also coral, we have endangered species here which we have to protect and that's what's really at risk.
It is added that Caymanians will vote on the proposal in a referendum expected early next year. Barry Loudermilk of Orion Marine Group notes that “if there is a 'yes' vote, we have a lot of environmental modelling to do. I think a lot of the fears will be settled once we complete all our modelling."
TJ O'Sullivan of Royal Caribbean Cruises, says that the pier offers a better guest experience, adding that "guests will come off the ship at a much higher rate and spend more time in port."
Whatsoever, some local tour operators are unconvinced say that cruise firms already take most of what passengers spend by pre-selling tours onboard, expressing their worries that by funding the port redevelopment, the cruise companies will have greater control of the local tourism sector. It is highlighted that as tourists visit the area to see the waters and the coral life.
Mario Blanchette, a scuba instructor at the nearby Eden Rock Diving Centre notes that "unfortunately, they will be digging a lot. All that silt and sand will eventually start making its way over our reef,” stressing that eventually Eden Rock as well as other businesses that rely merely on the reef will have to shut down.
The Cayman Islands government is confident the new facilities will boost cruise tourism, amounting to more jobs for islanders. To help fund the project, part of the tax tourists pay to visit the Cayman Islands will be given to Verdant Isle, for 25 years.
Cayman Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell says that only 1% of the Cayman Islands' reef will be affected, “from a government policy, is how do we balance the need of the people for a job and opportunity compared to our environment that we have to protect."
Last year, 1.9 million cruise passengers visited the Cayman Islands bringing in $200m, amounting to 22% of tourism revenue, while 460,000 overnight tourists brought in $680m, which is 78% of tourism revenue.
Namely, CPR Cayman's Michelle Lockwood state to BBC that healthy reefs are vital to attract the higher-spending overnight holidaymakers. Verdant Isle has sought to alleviate these fears by promising to relocate 30 to 50% of the common coral that's removed, and 100% of rare corals. Dr David Vaughan, Florida-based marine consultant, plans to use a technique called micro-fragmentation to plant new corals, alongside those that have been moved.
Yet, the science of coral relocation is hotly debated. Not all marine experts are convinced it can work. Terry Hughes, a professor in marine biology from James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, who has been studying coral reefs since the 1970s, highlights that it is very difficult to move corals.
What is more, in 2017, the Bahamian-flagged Caledonian Sky cruise ship ran aground at Raja Ampat,West Papua, one of Indonesia’s best coral reefs and most popular dive sites as well. Unfortunatelly, more than 135,00-square-miles of coral reef area has been reported damaged.