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The Government of Jamaica, through the Port Authority, has spent approximately $5 billion to strengthen maritime safety and security. This is in keeping with the international focus to thwart illegal and terrorist activities.Following the events of 9/11 when terrorists attacked the United States, very stringent measures were introduced by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to get ports up to international standards, and in Jamaica this was no different, Minister of Transport and Works, Robert Pickersgill has pointed out.
“All our ports had to be certified in keeping with strict and stringent standards that were set by the IMO, the ISPS Code, for example. But separate and apart from that fact, the United States had additional standards,” said the Transport Minister, who was speaking at a recent JIS ‘Think Tank’.
The Port Authority of Jamaica was then given the mandate to supervise the 22 Government and privately owned ports across Jamaica. The Port Authority of Jamaica was to undertake security duties relating to port facilities to ensure that they complied with the required standards.
“To equip itself appropriately to deal with the new measures, the Port Authority spent over US$90 million and the private ports spent an additional US$5 million,” Minister Pickersgill informed.
On the other hand, the Maritime Authority of Jamaica was given the responsibility of ensuring that the country’s flagships became compliant with the relevant IMO regulations.
Explaining the need for Jamaica to have met these standards, Minister Pickersgill pointed out that maritime trade was a significant source of revenue for the country. More importantly, much of this country’s maritime trade was with the United States of America, he added.
“Ninety per cent of our trade takes place on ships and of that 90 percent, about 60 per cent goes to the United States,” he outlined.
In addition to cargo trade, Jamaica relies heavily on its cruise shipping industry, which would also have been affected if the country did not comply with the necessary regulations.
To this end, Minister Pickersgill thanked the Government of the United States of America for their co-operation and assistance with regard to formal training and audits of the island’s port facilities. “They really helped us tremendously in achieving our certification. Before we were ready in Jamaica, a joint agency USA team did port security site surveys of some of our port facilities and provided us with valuable feedback of their observations. They sponsored training courses for the government and industry and were always available to provide advice and good counsel,” he noted.
With this multi-tiered assistance, Jamaica’s port facilities and ships were able to conform to the amended International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 (SOLAS) and to meet the July 1, 2004 deadline for the implementation of the new International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.
According to Minister Pickersgill, the new maritime security measures require periodic testing and verification of plans and procedures as are enshrined in the ISPS Code. He noted that the Government has taken steps to ensure that the country’s ports and flagships maintain the IMO and United States standards.
The Port Authority has been mandated to keep in place the accreditation committee, which originally recommended certification, but they will also contract a team of dedicated auditors who will continuously monitor the compliance of the port facilities on a year-round basis.
To maintain certification of Jamaica’s flagships, the Maritime Authority of Jamaica has in place a comprehensive set of arrangements for monitoring the statutory safety and environmental compliance of both local and international ships. The Maritime Authority of Jamaica’s responsibilities have also been expanded to include maritime security oversight and regulatory functions consistent with the ISPS Code.