Study into widening Town Cut and Two Rock Passage planned
A $240,000 study is to be carried out into the impact of modifying Town Cut Channel and Two Rock passage to allow larger ships to berth in Hamilton and St George's.
A spokesman for the Department of Tourism said yesterday that the study will look at the feasibility of modifying the channels to allow the visitation of panamax and post-panamax ships.
“Town Cut presents the major challenge, therefore it will be the primary focus of this study,” he said. “These modifications include the amount of dredging, widening and straightening, sea bed modeling for symmetry. Also the impact of the modifications on wave conditions within St George's harbour and the cost of improvements.”
The $238,500 contract to the carry out the study was awarded to Moffatt & Nichol in September.
Panamax ships, designed to match the size limits of the Panama Canal, can be as much as 965ft long and 106ft wide with a depth, or draft, of 39.5ft in tropical fresh water.
Newer and larger post-panamax ships, like the Freedom and Oasis class ships, are so-called because they are too large to pass through the Panama Canal.
Currently the largest ships to visit the Island are the post-panamax Voyager Class ships such as the
Voyager of the Seas and
Explorer of the Seas, each of which can carry around 3,114 passengers.
Oasis class ships are the world's largest passenger ships, measuring 1,187ft long and carrying as many as 5,400 passengers.
The concept of modifying Town Cut has been a subject of debate for several years, with the downturn in the St George's economy largely blamed on the reduction of cruise ship visits.
This year only one ship, the
Veendam, was scheduled to make regular visits to the town, but problems arose when it was discovered the ship was too wide to pass through Town Cut.
Instead of docking in the town, it remained in Murray's Anchorage, with visitors being ferried to and from shore.
Mayor of St George's Kenneth Bascome said that the study is the first step towards making an informed decision on the channel.
“We had asked the former Premier earlier this year if he would, in his capacity as Tourism and Transportation Minister, carry out this study so we could have information,” Mr Bascome said.
“Once we know what they are suggesting, we will go to the people, and from there we will make a decision. Right now, we are simply waiting to see what the findings are.”
Hamilton Mayor Charles Gosling said: “As you are aware, we have the preliminary plans for the Hamilton Waterfront before the Department of Planning. We will be interested to see how the proposed study ties in with our development plans.”
Stuart Hayward of the Bermuda Environment and Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) said the commissioning of a study is a positive step, but expressed concern that, because of the economic pressures, the Corporations may make accept a proposal they might otherwise resist.
“We have been aware of schemes ranging from simple buoying to major blasting of our shipping channels,” Mr Hayward said.
“However, if the study is being handled with most strict adherence to the principles of good governance, and includes social and economic issues, then we welcome the study and look forward to being involved in the scoping and consultation phase of the process.”