KINGSTON — Minister of Transport and Works, Hon. Michael Henry, says the more than $8 billion (US$100 million) investment by shipping company, CMA CGM towards upgrading a section of the Port of Kingston "is perhaps the most significant development" that has taken place in the country.
The Minister was speaking with JIS News following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Port Authority of Jamaica and the shipping company at his Maxfield Avenue offices on August 4, for refurbishing and expansion works at the south terminal.
The project will include dredging of the channel and turning basin, strengthening of the berth, and extension of the yard space to accommodate more containers.
Minister Henry said that this three-year undertaking, 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.
The port is being expanded to accommodate CGM's new mega vessels and the expected increase in port calls from the expansion of the Panama Canal, which is scheduled to be completed by 2015.
“Most of the shipping companies such as CMA CGM have very large vessels being built right now to carry greater TEUs (Twenty-foot equivalent units) than have ever been carried in the past. This programme will triple the capacity of the port. We have to now capitalise on the Panama Canal opening, therefore, we are poised for that,” the Minister told JIS News.
Through ongoing 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."
“All of that is linked to the revival of the railway connecting you to the cargo airport at Vernamfield (in Clarendon). So, you are looking at the long-term linkages and plans that interconnect and speak to development, jobs and opportunities,” the Minister added.
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; developing the logistics centres that relate and therefore creating job opportunities at a very high income level,” Minister Henry said.
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.
By ALECIA SMITH, JIS Reporter