KINGSTON — Already one of the region's leading transshipment ports, the Kingston Container Terminal (KTC) is now in an even greater position to further capitalise on its ideal geographical location, when expansion of the Panama Canal, now underway, is completed in 2014.
Through ongoing upgrading works, the Government has been working to position Jamaica as the transshipment hub for the Caribbean, ensuring that the facility is adequately equipped to handle an anticipated increase in calls by mega ships when the canal’s expansion is complete.
In a recent interview with JIS News, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Works, Dr. Alwin Hales notes that the port is a major player in the regional transshipment market that has maintained its commanding position in the region through sustained efforts and marketing.
"We are positioning the Port of Kingston to be the primary transshipment location in the region after the expansion of the Panama Canal is completed. It provides a convenient point for transshipment, logistic and container activities that will make for the efficient movement of goods throughout the region," he said.
President and Chief Executive Officer of the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), Noel Hylton, speaking at a Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) Board of Directors forum held earlier this year, said that the number of "ultra large" carriers on the seas is expected to increase from 39 to 149 by 2014, and Jamaica must be in a position to accommodate these vessels.
"These ships will certainly have a tremendous impact on world trade and of course, on ports. What is quite evident is that only a few ports will be able to accommodate these mega ships,” he said.
"The prognosis is that on completion of the Panama Canal expansion, the Caribbean will likely be one of the greatest beneficiaries as it is expected that there will be a marked increase in the number of transshipment cargoes traversing the region, which no doubt will result in more cargoes being handled in Caribbean ports," he said.
With international investment from major shipping companies contributing to its continued development, the port of Kingston is now geared to be the core of the Caribbean’s transshipment activities.
In August, the Port Authority of Jamaica and CMA/CGM signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to undertake the refurbishing and expansion works at the port’s south terminal at a cost of more than $8 billion (US$100 million). The works include dredging of the channel and turning basin, strengthening of the berth, and extension of the yard space to accommodate more containers.
Minister of Transport and Works, Hon. Michael Henry told JIS News following the MoU signing that with the investment by CMA/CGM, the country is now more poised than ever to take advantage of the canal's expansion to accommodate the increased cargo and the very large vessels being built by shipping companies to carry greater twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) than have been carried in the past.
CMA/CGM, based in France, is the world's third largest shipping container company and it is ranked number one in France. Its main objective is to offer customers all over the world a proactive, innovative service, which reconciles quality and high performance with protection of the environment.
With constant upgrading, the port has been able to accommodate larger container ships such as ZIM Integrated Shipping Services Limited’s mega-vessel, ZIM Antwerp. The vessel made its third trip to Jamaica last year, docking at the western berth at Port Bustamante, which was built to accommodate megaliners.
Minister Henry said the Government is looking to further enhance the development of the port to accommodate approximately five million TEUs that “will place us moving up in the rank of ports that (offer) transshipment and hub services”.
The expansion works by the PAJ done in phases over the years, have resulted in the port's capacity increasing from 400,000 TEUs in 1995 to the current 2.8 million TEUs.
Minister Henry said that the three-year undertaking by CMA/CGM, which includes the procurement of operational equipment, represents development that will realise significant investments for Jamaica and moves the country from relying on loan financing to attracting investment capital.
"It is quite significant that we realise the opportunity which…the Government has been pursuing, that we have brought the country now to the point where investments can be attracted and attractive to the outside person," he stated.
He said with this additional development, Jamaica could now look at “growth which comes from investment, and not loan capital”, noting that the expansion programme could involve not just the US$100 million investment but grow to US$200 million by the time the works are completed.
"This is perhaps a crowning moment for me in respect to moving on in the development of the vision of Jamaica being a hub to the world, linking sea and air; linking the port to Vernamfield (in Clarendon); developing the logistics centres that relate and therefore creating job opportunities at a very high income level,” Minister Henry said.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter