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St. Thomas residents are welcoming news of the proposed commodity port at Cow Bay, near Yallahs, as part of the Government’s proposed global logistics hub.

Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, told residents that Cow Bay has one of the deepest harbours in the world, at a natural depth of 51 metres. This, he said, gives it an advantage in the role it will play in the global logistics hub.

“Our focus on Cow Bay is that it should be a commodity port in which huge volumes of grain and wheat and energy, oil, natural gas can be stored or even processed,” Minister Hylton said.

He was addressing business persons at a St. Thomas Chamber of Commerce forum on the Jamaica Logistics Hub Initiative, held at the Whispering Bamboo Cove Retreat, on March 14.

The Minister sought to assure business persons that the parish will not be left behind when the hub is being developed, and they must begin to prepare themselves to participate in the discussions that will come soon. He advised the Parish Council to begin to organize, think and plan for the hub.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Logistics and Investment Task Force, Dr. Eric Deans, outlined the scope of the global logistics hub project and assured the business persons that opportunities will be created for everybody, both local and overseas, once they are willing to take up the challenge.

The proposed Jamaica transshipment and logistics hub will have six separate but complementary elements that include dredging of the Kingston Harbour; expanding the port facilities at Fort Augusta and Gordon Cay; establishing a Dry Dock facility at Jackson Bay, Clarendon; establishing a transshipment commodity port facility near Yallahs, St. Thomas; developing the Caymanas Economic Zone; and developing an air cargo and passenger facility at Vernamfield, in Clarendon.

Dr. Deans pointed out that Jamaica’s three strategic advantages in developing the hub are from a maritime perspective; its aviation capabilities and its telecommunications or digital infrastructure. These will separate Jamaica from other countries in the region, which are also seeking to do the same thing, he said.

Citing the US$8 billion market that will open up as a result of the hub, Dr. Deans noted that, “it is not just about attracting foreign investments; it is about a refocus of local businesses to a larger market, so we can get our share of the pie.”

He explained that by putting in place the infrastructure to tap into the market, “we are creating the environment to totally transform the Jamaican economy.”

Dr. Deans further pointed to the need for Jamaica to develop its human capital, and noted that discussions are being held with the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI); HEART Trust; University of Technology (UTech) and other learning institutions, to revamp the curriculum, so that persons can be prepared to take full advantage of the job opportunities when they arise.

He outlined that the Government has been working to revamp several international trade and open skies agreements to facilitate development of the hub.

For her part, Custos of St. Thomas, Hon. Marcia Bennett, urged parishioners to unite to take advantage of whatever opportunities may come.

“We do not want to be left behind. We need to look at our environment, we need to look at training, healthcare, housing, but more than anything else, we need to come together as a community,” she said.

By Andrea Braham, JIS Reporter