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The Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) will be facilitating a month long training programme for participants from 20 Caribbean countries on how to safeguard their Underwater Cultural Heritage from new and emerging threats.

The programme, sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), will start on Monday, November 5, in Port Royal, Jamaica’s best known underwater archaeological site.

According to the JNHT, the Foundation Training Course is one of the outcomes of a UNESCO Caribbean meeting on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, which was held last year May in Port Royal.

That meeting identified that the Caribbean region as a whole, did not have sufficiently trained people to “properly manage and preserve underwater archaeological sites.” The meeting also found that legislative changes were necessary, but concluded that “professional capacity-building [was] the key to successfully safeguarding the Underwater Cultural Heritage."

The course is the first stage of a long-term plan of action to address capacity-building in the management and preservation of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.

Executive Director of the JNHT, Laleta Davis-Mattis, said the agency “is working with UNESCO and other partners to develop Advanced Training Courses to complement the Foundation Course and to establish in Port Royal a training centre for the Caribbean in underwater archaeological site management and conservation."

She explained that Port Royal is “considered ideal for this type of training, owing to the nature and significance of the Underwater Cultural Heritage associated with the site."

During the 1692 earthquake, two-thirds of the city of Port Royal sank into the sea. The sunken portion of the city has remained as it was on the day of the earthquake and provides a suitable location for the many practical applications of the training course, including surveying, mapping and research.

A JNHT release notes that one of the main aims of this first training course is “to bring participants of uncommon levels of training and experience to a common level of understanding of the multi-disciplinary nature of underwater archaeology and management of underwater cultural sites."

The course will expose participants to international best practices and will be conducted by international experts and resource people from Jamaica, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, United States and Spain.

Jamaica ratified the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage in 2011.