KINGSTON — Minister of Transport and Works, Hon. Mike Henry, says that Jamaica is poised to take advantage of the reopening of the expanded Panama Canal in 2014.
“Unlike its competitors in the region, including Miami, Jamaica can provide the most cost effective and timely movement of cargo utilising a sea/air movement,” Mr. Henry said.
He was addressing the World Maritime Day media luncheon on Thursday (September 30), at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston.
Mr. Henry noted that Jamaica has only three more years to be ready to capitalise on the reopening of the Panama Canal, but that efforts are being made to take advantage of transhipment opportunities which should become available then.
He said that the Kingston Container Terminal is being expanded to accommodate larger vessels, moving from 1.3 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent-a measure used for capacity in shipping containers) to some 5 million TEUs, and a projection for 1,500 new, permanent jobs.
Mr. Henry said that the expansion of the port facilities would be linked to the possible development of an international cargo airport at Vernamfield, Clarendon, which would form part of the proposed inter-modal transport system.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Kingston Wharves Limited, Grantley Stephenson, stated that, based on Jamaica’s strategic location in the Caribbean, it is predicted that the reopening will bring increased business to Jamaica in many ways, including transhipment.
"The fact is Kingston Wharves Limited has been deepening its interest in transhipment, but not just container transhipment and, as a result, in 2010 the terminal became the hub for Norwegian based Hoegh Autoliners," he said.
He added that initial projections led to plans for transhipment of 15,000 motor vehicles in one year, which was surpassed by over 200 per cent.
He also noted that despite the earthquake and tsunami in Japan this year, the 2011 volume of transhipped motor vehicles is expected to exceed the 2010 levels.
Mr. Stephenson said that Kingston Wharves will continue to leverage Jamaica’s strategic location to grow its transhipment business, and optimise physical facilities to take advantage of additional opportunities, following the widening of the Canal.
President of the Shipping Association of Jamaica (SAJ), Roger Hinds, noted that the SAJ remains committed to ensuring that Jamaica achieves the level of competitiveness, necessary to attract and retain increased calls to the Port of Kingston.
He said that last year, the SAJ introduced a NCTVET certification programme in stevedoring, and this week a second batch of persons commenced training in the programme, following the 20 who were certified last year.
The Panama Canal is scheduled to reopen 100 years after it began operating in 1914 under US supervision. It was handed over to Panama in 1999, and has been operating under the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) since. However, it has been closed since 2006 for expansion, which is likely to impact on shipping throughout the region.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter