After receiving a grace period of one week, developer Michael Ryan has given boat operators at SafeHaven marina until today, Monday, 20 August, to vacate the property.
The boat owners are being moved to make way for the construction of a new Port Authority marina, as per an agreement signed in 2009.
Several boat owners remain unhappy with the arrangement and query why they need to move from a site some of them have occupied for more than 20 years.
Boat operator Captain Bryan Ebanks has also questioned the legitimacy of the agreement, saying the contract signed in 2009 was between the government, the Port Authority, Fujigmo Limited and Cesar Hotelco. “Cesar is now in liquidation and Fujigmo cannot be found in the Companies Register. If the company’s in liquidation, the contract is null and void,” said Mr. Ebanks.
He called on the Attorney General to look into the situation. “We are appealing to the Attorney General to take up this case and show the people some justice. We’re not trying to be troublemakers. We’re not asking for something we don’t deserve. We want a future, that’s what we’re asking for,” Mr. Ebanks said.
However, Mr. Ryan insisted that “all the appropriate and necessary agreements and approvals for the development and construction of the new Port Authority Marina are in place, in good order and valid at this time”.
He added: “We have been and continue to meet our obligations under those agreements and follow the requirements laid out within them.”
The developer said that as part of efforts to provide temporary berthing to the boat operators during the construction of the new Port Authority marina, he had provided the operators with a “licence to occupy the temporary facilities until the new Port Authority facility is completed”.
“This is the first time they will have ever had a specific agreement to occupy any space to operate their businesses from,” he said.
Mr. Ebanks said that the licence giving the boat operators permission to remain at the interim site until the marina is completed is a draft version and had not been finalised or agreed to by the operators.
Vice chairman of the Caymanian Land and Sea Co-op and a boat owner at SafeHaven Shaun Ebanks, who has been working with Mr. Ryan to prepare the interim site, said the developer sent a letter of permission to the boat operators stating they can stay at the interim dock until the Port Authority marina is complete - an issue that had been a bone of contention to the boat operators, who have said that once they move, they will be on a private owner’s land and will have no legal rights to remain there.
“The letter will be examined by an attorney to ensure that we are protected by law before fully committing to a move,” said the Co-op vice chairman. “Once we obtain guarantees in regards to the permission letter, the Co-op will cease its operation on the old site and direct all members to use the new interim site for collection of their passengers.”
He described the temporary docking facilities as better than those the boat operators currently have and encouraged the boat owners at SafeHaven to move to the new location before the Monday deadline.
“This should be done once we are notified that the letter of permission to stay at the interim site has indeed given us the protection by law that we were seeking,” he said.
Shaun Ebanks added that the boat captains should be negotiating with the Port Authority on how much they would pay to dock their boats at the new marina rather than seeking what he described as “political leverage”.
A notice to vacate the premises at SafeHaven was posted at the entrance of the site earlier this month, giving the operators until 13 August to vacate. That date was extended while the licence to enable the operators to remain on the interim site was drawn up.
The design for the new marina includes a 20-slip dock, a public boat ramp, car/trailer parking, day mooring access to the North Sound, free sewer pump out facility, picnic areas, restroom facilities and landscaped gathering space for public events, as well as bus drop-off and pick-up areas, shelters for customers, and a new Port Authority satellite office.
The temporary facilities have been completed, Mr. Ryan said, adding that the operators were anticipated to begin to move in the next few days, after which construction of the new marina will begin.
The land by which the boat operators dock will be excavated and used as fill for the new marina. That land, which was previously Crown Land vested to the Port Authority, was transferred to Mr. Ryan as part of a land swap deal, which involved an undertaking from the developer to build the new Port Authority marina.