Protests Against Construction of Fourth Pier in Cozumel

Will there be a fourth cruise dock or not in Cozumel? The local sentiment seems to have turned negative, with protests continuing.

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Nearly 100 people, including activists, citizens, and tourists, gathered on January 24th in Cozumel to protest the proposed construction of the fourth pier.

The fourth cruise pier is a vital piece of infrastructure the Mexican government wants to construct to further develop Cozumel as the number one cruise port in the world. 

The protesters believe that the new pier will cause harm to the environment, destroy valuable corals, and remove the only public beach in Cozumel. The proposed pier has faced opposition from locals, tourists, and environmental groups for years.

The Environmental Concerns

Cozumel is a popular tourist destination that receives around five million visitors annually; three million visitors arrive through its three cruise ship ports. Environmentalists are concerned that the construction of the fourth pier and the increased arrival of deep draft ships will affect the reef zone, which is popular among divers worldwide.

The project includes a cruise ship pier and a bridge that will go over the main road into the terminal, a concept similar to what Punta Langosta has. The dock is set to cater for vessels that measure up to 362 meters in length, which includes the biggest ships in the world, such as Icon of the Seas.

The Global Coral Reef Alliance, an organization at the front of the protests, released a statement saying that the new pier will destroy the most critical project to regenerate coral in the area.

Although there is little coral in the location now, environmentalists are working to restore what has already been damaged by past human activity.

Construction Banned by Judge in April 2022

The protests are the newest turn in a saga that has been playing up for several years now. Despite the Mexican government giving the green light for the project in 2020, after years of discussions, the building still needs to start. 

Judge Pamela López Swain definitively suspended work on the fourth pier in Cozumel, Mexico, in a ruling dated April 11, 2022.

The decision was made after the Cozumel Island Citizen’s Collective filed an injunction through the Federal Judiciary because city rights were being violated and the island’s ecosystem was being put at risk.

Cruise Pier in Cozumel, Mexico
Photo Copyright: Cruise Hive

The judge granted the suspension to avoid irreparable damage to the environment and to protect the fundamental right to the environment. At the same time, there have been several inconsistencies regarding who owns the right to the concession and how these rights were awarded.

Despite the ruling from the Judge in April, the road to start building is not 100% closed, reason enough for the protestors to pick up the placards once again.

Diversification Needed for Cozumel

While proponents of the pier argue that the cruise industry is expected to grow in the near future, protesters say that the island needs to diversify in terms of economy and tourism. During the pandemic, the island’s dependence on cruise ships was evident, and a new pier could potentially harm the local community even more.

Cruise Ships in Cozumel, Mexico
Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz

The protestors do have a point. During the global pause in operations, Cozumel and many local businesses were hit the hardest. The port is the busiest cruise port of call worldwide, before ports such as Nassau and St Thomas. The island could potentially lose out on valuable overnight tourism by relying solely on building cruise tourism. 

Then again, the question is how big cruise companies such as Royal Caribbean Group, Carnival Corporation, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings will react when there is no space for them to disembark guests. 

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