- The Government remains committed to maintaining the island’s ports of entry at globally competitive standards
- The Ministry plays a “critical” role in ensuring that competitiveness in terms of immigration services
- The JCF continues to recruit police personnel “at good pace” for deployment to the island’s ports
National Security Minister, Hon. Peter Bunting, says the Government remains committed to maintaining the island’s ports of entry at globally competitive standards.
“We understand that for an airport to be globally competitive, it needs not just to be safe and secure and difficult to traffic contraband through, but it also has to be enjoyable for your clients, your customers, who are the passengers going through,”
Mr. Bunting said while speaking at Wednesday’s (September 4) handing over ceremony for the newly refurbished Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) police station in Kingston.
Mr. Bunting said initial meetings held with the Ministries of Tourism and Entertainment, and Transport, Works and Housing as well as the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ) yielded consensus of the need to ensure that the standards of the ports, particularly airports, “not only meet but exceed the expectations of the most discriminating visitors.” This, as “our airports (are) not competing locally, (but) globally.”
He pointed out that the Ministry plays a “critical” role in ensuring that competitiveness in terms of immigration services, and security protocol. In this regard, he said, the Ministry undertook the re-engineering of outgoing immigration services, which, he contended, have been “very successful”.
“The transit times have improved quite dramatically, and we have been able to re-deploy some of those immigration officers to the incoming immigration (section). I have now asked the Chief Executive Officer of the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) to work on, if not eliminating, at least similarly re-engineering the incoming immigration and, hopefully, eliminating it for our nationals,” the Minister advised.
In terms of security, Mr. Bunting said the Ministry and Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) continue to recruit police personnel “at good pace” for deployment to the island’s ports. This move, he notes, has among other things, resulted in an increase in the quantity of narcotics intercepted, and interdictions this year.
“While it, on one hand, reflects the hard work of our team, I think, also, it reflects that there is increased activity by narcotics traffickers. This (narcotics trafficking) is one of the activities that threatens the normal operations of an airport (and) threatens the viability of some of your wholesale customers, like your airlines and your cargo handlers, etcetera. We are conscious that we have to re-double efforts, now, to ensure that these…facilities are not exploited for illicit means,” the Minister said.
Against this background, Mr. Bunting gave the Ministry’s assurance and JCF’s commitment to continue cooperating to address such issues. He emphasised that technology will be pivotal in that endeavour, adding that “we can effectively use the technology to support the policing activities, not just in detection, but also in prevention.”
Police Commissioner, Owen Ellington, who also spoke at the ceremony, advised that the JCF recently revamped the structure for its ports security portfolio.
“(That area is) now under the command of a Senior Superintendent of Police, who is Mr. (Anthony) Powell, and he will have charge over all the subdivisions of the ports portfolio, which includes Norman Manley (airport) and the other ports around Jamaica,” Mr. Ellington informed.
The facilities at the Norman Manley International Airport police station have been significantly improved following its renovation and expansion at a cost of approximately $23 million.
The work, which was funded by Norman Manley International Airport Limited (NMIA)/Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ), included extensive refurbishing of offices, bathrooms, interview rooms, changing rooms for police officers, and the kitchen/canteen, among other areas. The project was undertaken in three phases over some 12 months.