In Falmouth, Jamaica, the Port Authority of Jamaica is continuing to pursue dredging projects in order to permit the gigantic "mega liners," including Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class (sometimes called "Genesis-class") cruise ships to squeeze into the port, which was rebuilt in 2011. During the construction of the two new two piers, the port was originally dredged.    

Jamaica has a goal of boosting the numbers of cruise visitors, seemingly irrespective of the damage which dredging will cause to the environment around the port. At the urging of Miami-based cruise lines, the government of Jamaica intends to dredge the southern berth of the port at Falmouth this year. This will cause significant further destruction of the reefs around the port in order to allow two Oasis-class vessels to dock at the same time.

This is part of the plan recently touted by the Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness which Falmouth Jamaica Portfeatures further dredging the port of Falmouth, referred to alternatively in the Jamaican Gleaner as the "jewel of the Caribbean" or "the region’s number one destination" for cruise shipping.

Prime Minister Holness stated to the Jamiacan newspaper that the Falmouth pier ‘"was built in anticipation for not only the growing demands of the cruise industry, but also the fact that cruise ships were "getting bigger by the day." He was quoted as saying "it wasn’t that long ago when we had ships with a carrying capacity of say 2,000 being touted as the largest cruise ships in the world. Since then, we have seen a number of vessels earning that title. We have had Freedom of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and now, we have Harmony of the Seas, with its 2,747 staterooms, and 8,550 guests and staff on 16 decks."

The Prime Minister noted that it was an "excellent idea to have constructed this port. We can now host the mega liners and all the Oasis Class vessels."

Six years ago, in my article titled Royal Caribbean’s New Port in Falmouth, Jamaica – At What Cost to the Environment?, I cited the article of Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act? by Michael Behar, who wrote that in Falmouth, Royal Caribbean oversaw the smashing of "a quarter-mile-wide opening in an offshore barrier reef. They dredged coral, both living and dead, as well as the rock substrate, and trucked it inland to a two-square-mile dump site — a clear-cut area on the outskirts of town that was once a thriving red mangrove swamp. Now all that’s left is 35 million cubic feet of pulverized coral and rubble. When I visit the site with Roland Haye, a Jamaican environmental activist, he tells me, ‘As a boy, I used to play Tarzan here and see crocodile. It was a winter home for great heron and swan.’ He points out broken conch shells, dismembered starfish, bits of sea sponge, and severed lobes of brain coral." 

In that article, I wrote that the removal of the natural reef exposes the shore to pounding of the waves from the adjacent bay.  "When I visited (back in 2012) , I observed that the road . . .  to Falmouth, previously protected from the pounding of the by the reef, was literally covered with water from the encroaching waves. The road was already eroding . . ."

Yesterday, a friend of mine in Montego Bay filmed a short video from his cell phone as he drove into Falmouth. The video shows the bay’s waters from the now destroyed reef system lapping over the deteriorating roadway into the port of Falmouth.   

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Photo credit: Falmouth Port (above) – Jim Walker

https://youtube.com/watch?v=a7gOaj5Sb6E%3Frel%3D0

Falmouth Jamaica PortThe Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) intends to again dredge the port of Falmouth in order to extend the Falmouth cruise ship pier, according to the Jamaica Gleaner.

A PAJ representative stated that the new project will permit the Jamaican port to allow two of the Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class (originally known as the Genesis Class) cruise ships (Oasis, Allure, Harmony and Symphony of the Seas) to dock simultaneously in Falmouth. 

The PAJ has tried to avoid discussing the controversial project although a number of local Jamaican leaders have voiced opposition to the dredging.

As we reported earlier this summer, the Gleaner reported on calls for the local citizens in Jamaica to resist the dredging. A pastor in Trelawny, the Reverend Devere Nugent of the William Knibb Baptist Church, was "calling on the people and churches in the parish to resist the plan to do further dredging of the sea, which is a proposal to bring more cruise ships to the resort town."

Reverend Nugent said "I am calling on the churches and people to establish baskets of resistance. We must resist the further dredging of the sea. Let us no longer sit back and be exploited.The people who are planning to do further dredging are doing so for their own profit, none of which stays in Falmouth. Falmouth Jamaica Dredging They don’t live here, they don’t shop here, and they don’t join any church or civic organization here. It is broad-based exploitation."

We have reported on Royal Caribbean exploitation of Falmouth and the destruction of the local habitat there before. The coral reefs were pulverized and dumped on fields of mangroves when the port pier was build for Royal Caribbean nine years ago.    

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Photo credit: top – Jim Walker

Interested in this issue? We suggest reading: Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act?  

Earlier this week, I received information that Disney Cruises is apparently moving ahead with preliminary plans to build a cruise ship pier on an island in north Eleuthera in the Bahamas, called Egg Island.

Disney already has one private cay in the Bahamas where it unloads thousands of cruise tourists (photo bottom).  

A poster to the Disney Vacation Club reportedly observed and spoke to surveyors were on the Bahamian island who told him they were working for Disney. A contractor has also apparently been Egg Island Bahamasdrilling core samples around the island, presumably to evaluate the foundation for structures Disney may build (photo right).

Some of the information which I received suggests that Egg Island’s natural beauty and ecology will be destroyed if Disney proceeds with its plans to develop the island. "Egg Island boasts several ecosystems including mangroves, coral reefs, (and) salt ponds . . . Egg island is known for having a sustainable grouper spawning aggregation, of which there are few left in the Bahamas. The endangered sea turtles are well known to nest on egg island beach, endangered shore birds nest there and the juvenile conch are maturing in safety."

The waste of thousands of cruise tourists can’t be accomodated on the little island, as explained by a local Bahamian newspaper.

The Miami Herald recently published an article titled Disney Plan to Develop Unspoiled Bahamian Island Draws Fire which confirmed "that the government issued a temporary license for exploratory work to (the) Disney contractor."

There is an online change.org petition titled Save Egg Island (Bahamas)! Stop Disney Cruise Line! Preserve Egg Island! #saveeggisland.  

I have visited nearby Spanish Wells a number of times in the 1980’s. I still remember the beautiful reefs and untouched beaches there.  It would be a shame to see another natural island in the Castaway Cay BahamasCaribbean to be dredged and filled to make way for another cruise development.

The Tribune newspaper confirmed that "preliminary talks" have taken place between Disney and local Bahamian representatives. Prime Minister Perry Christie claims that impact assessment studies must first be considered before any plans are approved.  But one needs to look no further than prior projects permitted by Bahamian politicians to be skeptical.

Bimini sustained considerable environmental damage brought about by dredge and fill operations associated with the Resorts World and Bimini SuperFast projects.  Environmental damage, dislocation of native wildlife and reef destruction brought about by cruise development is often an afterthought to the Bahamian politicians and cruise line executives if there is money to be made.   

There is a Save Egg Island Facebook page trying to raise awareness of what has been, to date, largely secret development plans by Disney regarding the pristine Egg Island.  

Photo Credit:  Save Egg Island Facebook page

Video credit: Watch video of Egg Island  – Via Tre’ Russell

July 22 2016 Update:  According to the Disney Cruise Line Blog, "Egg Island appears to saved. Multiple newspaper reports from the Bahamas confirm that Disney Cruise Line will no longer consider developing Egg Island, Eleuthera into a cruise port due to the initial test results. Kim Prunty, a spokesperson for DCL confirmed to The Tribune that environmental impact assessments and geo-technical studies carried out by the company have indicated that the quitting island’s marine and environmental profile could not survive a development on that level." 

The Nassau Guardian states that Disney is not developing the island after conducting an environmental assessment, 

The Miami Herald published Disney Backs Off Cruise Port on Pristine Bahamas Island.

Cayman Island Cruise PierAccording to the Cayman Compass, the premier of the Cayman Islands says the government intends to build a huge, monolithic concrete cruise pier in George Town harbor.

The environmental impact assessments indicate that the controversial dredge and fill project will cause significant and irreversible environmental damage to the ancient beautiful reefs in the Caymans.

The cruise industry is itching for the Caymans to start on the project.

One of the comments to the article says: "Shameful is all I can say. The very thing thing that attracted me and so many others to Grand Cayman is being destroyed by short sighted people whose only motive is money. Sad day for this great Island. When you let the cruise lines dictate to you, you have lost!"

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Photo Credit: Cayman Compass

 

Key West - Cruise Port for Mega Ships?While the city of Charleston South Carolina is resisting the expansion of the cruise industry into its city, the southernmost city of the U.S. may be heading in the other direction.  Key West appears to be poised to accommodate bigger and more cruise ships, including the new mega ships the Allure and Oasis of the Seas.

The KeyNoter newspaper reports that Key West is considering widening the shipping channel into Key West Harbor, allowing for much larger cruise ships to port.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepared a report about the dredging project which would cost $35 million.

There have been no report prepared yet regarding the environmental and economic impacts so far. A feasibility study would cost about $5.5 million.

The newspaper reports that next week, the Key West officials will invite the local residents to a meeting to hear from the Army Corps engineers, staff from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the Key West City Commission.

The newspaper indicates that Key West has 350 cruise-ship visits per year, totaling about 800,000 annual passengers who pay a disembarkation fee.  Key West’s population is only around 25,000.

The Key West Chamber of Commerce supports the dredging project which would widen the channel by 150 feet from 300 to 450 feet.  The Key West environmental group Last Stand opposes it.

The article mentions that after the channel is widened, Key West could accommodate Royal Caribbean’s mega-ship Oasis of the Seas, which would bring up to 6,500 passengers and 2,000 crew to the city on a single visit. 

The only question I would have if I lived in Key West is – why?  Key West already has 800,000 tourists by cruise ship a year.  Do you really need to spend $35,000,000 to widen the channel in order to squeeze mega ships like the Oasis into your little harbor?  

Oasis of the Seas - Key West