Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, says that Cabinet has accepted the submission that Jamaica be positioned as a Global Logistics Hub, which will be at the centre of the country's economic growth strategy.
The Minister, who was briefing senior journalists at a breakfast meeting at his Ministry today (September 25), said that Cabinet also approved the public/private partnership policy, which is critical to Jamaica establishing the logistics hub.
He reiterated that the expansion of the Panama Canal will bring about a shift in global trade and increased transshipment traffic throughout the region. "We aim to position Jamaica to take advantage of that flow of traffic," he said.
MR. Hylton explained that there is tremendous excitement from prospective investors and port operators about Jamaica’s recognition of its potential and the country moving in an organised way to take advantage of it. He stated too, that Jamaica is getting strong global interest from the French, Americans, Europeans, in addition to the Chinese and other Asian countries.
He noted that the Government will not be investing, but will be providing critical support, and anyone coming to the table will have to provide "cold, hard cash."
Chairman of the Logistics and Investment Task Force, Dr. Eric Deans, explained that the logistics hub initiative represents the next stage in the evolution of the nation’s seaports and airports.
Pointing out that Jamaica has in place world class airports and seaports, he explained that: “What we are embarking on is creating world class logistic zones around these facilities, so that our productive sector can be fully integrated into the operation of these facilities and then as a nation, all our industries can become fully integrated into the global supply chains."
He said that Jamaica’s transformation requires co-ordinated action to upgrade its logistics capabilities to realise its potential to become the fourth global logistics hub along with Singapore, Rotterdam and Dubai.
The proposed Jamaica transshipment and Logistics Hub will have six separate but complementary elements, that will include the dredging of the Kingston Harbour; expanding port facility at Fort Augusta and Gordon Cay; establishing a Dry Dock facility at Jackson Bay, Clarendon; establishing a transshipment commodity port facility near Yallahs, St Thomas; developing the Caymanas Economic Zone and developing an air cargo and passenger facility at Vernamfield, in Clarendon.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hylton said that Cow Bay, in St. Thomas, has one of the deepest ports in the western hemisphere and the country needs to take advantage of it.
"We feel that bulk storage is appropriate (there), because it provides just-in-time delivery to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and other markets in the region. It could also provide for us elements of our food security and ultimately, when done, energy security, because with the large volume of food stuff and energy stored here, then the arrangements to access those would become far easier and that could provide our energy and food security," he said.
The Minister added that even with the expansion of the Panama Canal, the Suezmax type vessels, that are the bulk carriers, will not be able to go through the Canal. "They have to come through the Suez Canal, through Europe, into the Atlantic or around the Cape of Good Hope into the Atlantic. Therefore, having a port in the Atlantic with just-in-time delivery presents a unique opportunity for Jamaica," he argued.
"If the vessels are in Jamaica, and we expect they will be, based upon the responses, then the question of a dry dock becomes a logical next step," the Minster said.
He noted that the opportunity to maximise Vernamfield is now, and that the Caymanas Logistic hub is a critical part of the mix, as it will provide the physical and digital infrastructure. He also cited the development of the North South Highway link and rail transportation as crucial and an integral part of the logistics hub.
The Minister, who is scheduled to leave for Panama with a delegation later today, said while there, they will “engage the Panamanian authority, to examine a number of their facilities; to look at some of their approaches; to learn some of the lessons, the good things and the bad things; and to help us to negotiate our way in this arrangement."