On Tuesday, MSC Cruises announced that it has broken ground at last on the construction of its new private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve.
Ocean Cay, a former sand-mining facility, lies just south of Bimini and about 55 nm east of Miami. After redevelopment, the sands that once made it attractive for resource extraction will make it attractive for tourists, says Gianluca Suprani, head of global development and shoreside activities for MSC. "The island has some of the finest aragonite sands in the world, and once the work is completed, its surrounding waters will be home again to corals and rich aquatic life," he said in a statement.
At one point in time, the man-made island was set to be developed into an LNG import terminal under the management of AES Corporation, a worldwide developer of power projects. LNG would have been regasified at the island and piped underwater to markets on the Florida mainland. However, the economics of importing natural gas collapsed following the U.S. shale drilling boom, and the plan was ultimately abandoned. MSC Cruises and the government of the Bahamas signed an agreement for Ocean Cay’s redevelopment as a resort in 2015.
“Working in partnership with the government of the Bahamas, our aim is to turn an industrial wasteland into a thriving environment for man and nature alike, bringing the island and its surrounding waters back to their original state," said MSC executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago at the groundbreaking. “In so doing, we will substantially grow our . . . strong investment in the Bahamian economy, offering long-term employment opportunities to the local population.”
At 95 acres in size and with 11,000 feet of beachfront, Ocean Cay will be the biggest cruise line private island in the Caribbean. Unlike most other private islands and private ports, Ocean Cay will have a deepwater pier so that passengers may travel between the vessel and the shoreside attractions at their leisure, without tenders. All onboard services will stay open during port calls, MSC says, including the ship’s casino.
MSC expects the island to be ready for visitors in November 2018. The original target date was for December 2017, coinciding with the maiden voyage of the newbuild MSC Seaside, but MSC announced in September that it was pushing back the timeline in order to add "new and unique services for our guests."