The fourth cruise dock in Cozumel, Mexico that was all but approved only two months ago is hanging in the balance again after a federal judge ordered the provisional suspension of the project. An environmental group called “No al cuarto muelle,” or “No to the fourth pier” filed for the injunction.
Plans for the fourth pier from the local government surfaced years ago; however, the project has experienced several setbacks since then. Despite those setbacks, the Mexican Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources approved the pier in December 2021, which should have given a clear path for construction to begin.
Judge Blocks Fourth Pier Project in Cozumel
Two different organizations have been fighting the construction of the fourth pier for many months now. “No al Cuarto Muelle,” or “No to the fourth pier” filed and succeeded in achieving a provisional suspension of the construction after another lawsuit had been submitted by a group of organizations supported by the Mexican Center for Environmental Law.
Since plans emerged to construct the fourth pier, there has been significant blowback by local and environmental organizations. The criticism has been focused mainly on important coral regeneration projects that have been underway just a short distance away from the proposed building site. The fear is that the turbulence created from cruise ships’ propellers would destroy the new corals.
Cozumel is the world’s No. 1 cruise ship destination, accounting for 4.56 million passengers in 2019, far more than any other cruise destination. However, there are currently three cruise ship docks in Cozumel, which are not always full.
The new dock would be built on the premise that tourism to the destination will increase further. However, that would place significant pressure on the local infrastructure, which cannot handle 40,000-50,000 cruise tourists per day.
“In a single day you can have 40,000 or 50,000 people per day getting off the ships. To entertain them you have to build different places. So what do they build? Beach clubs. Where do they build the beach clubs? In front of the marine park where there is no treatment plant; so all the waste from hotels, private houses and beach clubs is ending up in the sea,” said Germán Méndez, a marine biologist and founder of the organization Coral Reef Restoration.
The fourth dock in Cozumel is set to be located on the northwest coast on Rafael E. Melgar Avenue and be able to cater to the largest cruise ships in the world.
Should Cozumel Build the Fourth Dock?
Cozumel has long been a diving destination for many tourists, and the destruction of the marine environment could cause more issues than the fourth dock would be able to make up for:
“If the growth of the cruise industry continues, all the tourists who come here to stay for one or two weeks to dive and visit the jungle on the other side of the island won’t come anymore because they won’t have any reason to come. There will be other places where they won’t permit cruise ships and where they will have reefs and where they will prefer to go,” said Méndez.
“We’re killing the hen that laid the golden eggs because at the end of the day this – our coral – is the only thing that differentiates us from other tourism destinations. But it’s the first thing that we’re killing off,” he said.
That being said, the new cruise dock has the support from several different layers of the government, who hope to build up employment numbers in the region, something that will surely come with the increased tourism numbers.
The estimates say that income for the port can be increased by 20-25% compared to historical numbers, and according to the Mexican Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the environmental impact will be minimal.
It is now up to the judge to see if there is a basis for halting or stopping the construction of the fourth dock and whether or not building the project is necessary. The temporary injunction does not mean the project is eliminated; despite the support from officials in favor of the new pier, the local and environmental groups are not out of the fight yet.