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UPDATED: Falmouth Pier documents could be released after major court ruling

Published:Monday | June 27, 2016 | 10:33 AM

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) says it expects the Port Authority of Jamaica to immediately release documents relating to the building of the Falmouth Pier following a favourable ruling by the Court of Appeal.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited, which had entered into contracts with the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) over the building of the pier, had challenged a decision of the Access to Information Appeal (ATI) Tribunal to allow the release of the contract documents.

But on Friday, the Appeal Court dismissed an application by the company to reverse a Supreme Court decision which would allow for the release of the documents.

Under the Access to Information Act, in September 2012, JET requested the ground lease agreement and the Falmouth Pier usage agreement between the PAJ and Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited.

The request of the environmental group was denied by the PAJ on the basis that the agreements contained confidential information which would prejudice the interests of the parties.

JET then appealed to the ATI Tribunal for the agreements, contending that the confidential information could be redacted and the rest of the documents provided.

In November and December 2013, the appeal was heard and in April 2015, the Tribunal ruled in favour of the environment trust.

Three months later, in July 2015, Royal Caribbean filed a claim in the Supreme Court seeking a judicial review of the decision of the ATI Appeal Tribunal to release the documents.

Days after the Access to Information Appeal Tribunal was served with the court papers, it filed a counter-claim in the Supreme Court that Royal Caribbean's claim forms were in breach of court rules because they were filed late.

A Supreme Court judge accepted the arguments and ruled in favour of the Tribunal.

Royal Caribbean and Falmouth Jamaica Land Company then took the matter to the Court of Appeal.

But in a judgment handed down on Friday, the Appeal Court upheld the decision of the lower court.

The Court of Appeal affirmed that under the rules, Royal Caribbean had 14 days to file its claim form after getting a judge’s approval to do so on July 7, 2015.

The forms were filed with the courts on July 22, that's one day late.

One of the three judges who heard the matter dissented.

Royal Caribbean has the option of applying to the Court of Appeal for leave to take the matter to the Privy Council, Jamaica’s final court of appeal.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust, Diana McCaulay, says she now expects to get a copy of the ground lease agreement and the Falmouth Pier usage agreement from the Port Authority.


CEO of JET, Diana McCaulay

The Falmouth Pier opened for business in 2011.

The Port Authority reportedly invested an estimated US$167 million while Royal Caribbean invested US$102 million.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this article stated that the ATI Secretariat denied the request from JET. The Office of the Prime Minister has since clarified that it was the Port Authority that denied access to the relevant document.