east end: The most viable spot for new cargo docks is Marginal Wharf, St David’s, a study shows. *Photo by Nicola Muirhead
east end: The most viable spot for new cargo docks is Marginal Wharf, St David’s, a study shows. *Photo by Nicola Muirhead

Speculative proposals to shift the cargo docks to the North Shore in order to facilitate a re-birth of Hamilton’s waterfront appear to be fatally flawed, it has emerged. 

A never-released Government report — which has been obtained by the Bermuda Sun — warns against three possible North Shore -locations because of their exposure to high winds.

Local shipping agents agree — they say a move to the North Shore to create an international shipping hub — as one businessman has suggested — would be fraught with problems.

The location of the docks has become a talking point in recent weeks after a number of different proposals for the waterfront were made public.

A Government-commissioned study, which was carried out in 2008, concluded that Marginal Wharf in St David’s was the best alternative location for the cargo docks. Today we report exclusively on the findings of that report to help put the current proposals in context. 

‘Docks on North Shore? It just won’t work...’

ehind the frantic battle to claim development rights over Hamilton’s waterfront lies an important question.

What will happen to the docks?

The recent spate of waterfront plans championed by former Premiers and current Majors seem to agree the docks will have to be moved.

But the question of where this vital artery of fresh food and supplies will be relocated to, is by no means clear-cut.

Sir John Swan’s ambitious proposals for a waterfront promenade, new hotel and casino make no mention of where the docks will go.

The project’s website states: ‘at some stage in the future with the waterfront development underway it will make economic sense to relocate the Container Dock’.

The Corporation of Hamilton’s multi-million dollar regeneration plan with Boston-based engineer Varoujan Hagopian and Allied Development Partners also seems silent on the issue.

Now businessman Khalid Wasi has unveiled a billion-dollar plan to move the docks to the North Shore, between Tynes Bay and Ocean View, and create an international shipping hub.

Plan is unfeasible 

But local agents to the shipping lines say putting the docks on the North Shore is unfeasible, especially after a Government commissioned report warned against it five years ago.

Joe Simas, vice president of marine operations for Meyer Agencies Ltd said: “I do not believe a dock situated on North Shore would be feasible.

“The main issue will be weather. A breakwater can be built that will protect vessels when berthed from wave action.

“However, the main issue will be winds that are very common during winter months coming from the North.

“Winds exceeding 35 knots will not allow for cranes to work.

“Imagine having two days of high winds with ships sitting idle waiting for cranes to discharge.

“All the fresh goods and food stuff not making it to the grocery shelves while ships wait for weather to subside.”

Mr Simas added: “The Oil Docks is a pier along North Shore.

“There have been many instances when tankers arrive and cannot berth due to weather.

“Ships sit off-shore or at anchor waiting for weather.  

Cost to consumer

“This incurs extra demurrage to cargo receivers, which in turn goes back to the consumer.”

While Howard Pitcher, vice president of commercial operations for Container Ship Management Ltd, added: “Currently the docks are in a very
protected harbour that facilitates the loading and discharging of the vessels in nearly all weather conditions.

“Although a sea wall would protect a north shore facility from the waves, it’s the wind that would concern us.

“Currently anything around 30-40 knots would shut down the operation, and in such an exposed location, there would be delays in the operation that would disrupt the flow of groceries to the island.

“Other protected harbours could work, but the vast majority of our containers are destined for locations within one-two miles of the current docks.

“Should they be moved to the island’s extremities, these containers would still need to get to those destinations.

“Unfortunately, previous studies have shown that there is very little interest for Bermuda becoming a transshipment hub as we do not fall on any major shipping routes.

“Therefore, as Bermudians we would be very concerned about the cost of any project and its impact on the cost of our groceries. 

“We are open to being a part of this process — but have yet to be consulted.”

Last night Stevedoring Services Ltd, which is responsible for loading and unloading the ships at Hamilton Docks, described its sense of ‘unease’ at the possible move to North Shore.

Kenneth ‘Jack’ Castle, assistant General Manager, told the Sun: “Our main concerns are the costs and elements, which already adversely affect the docks operation in our current protected harbour.

“It only makes sense  for Bermuda to invest in a new dock infrastructure if the end result improves the efficiency and service provided by the new dock. 

“In Stevedoring Services Ltd’s opinion, a North Shore container port would result in increased down time and increased costs that would be borne by the Bermuda public.”