FORMER Scotia Group Jamaica president, Bill Clarke, and past Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) head, Kingsley Thomas, have been shortlisted for the top job at Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), according to Observer sources.
The two are being considered for the chief operating officer position, while the successful candidate is expected to replace Noel Hylton, who vacates the CEO position later this year.
Transport minister Omar Davies declined to comment on the selection process, but one source reckons the scales are tipped in Clarke's favour.
Clarke, 62, was with Scotia for 40 years — the last 13 as the CEO — before leaving in 2008, while Thomas, 64, has been with various development agencies since the 1970s, including the DBJ where he was managing director up to 2006, and has chaired the boards of the National Housing Trust (NHT) and National Road Operating and Constructing Company Limited (NROCC), the grantor company for Highway 2000.
Hylton, 81, who is also chairman of the PAJ, has been at the helm of the PAJ since 1975.
It is not yet clear when the final decision will be made, but whoever is chosen will have to deal with a tough economic climate, and a state agency in need of financing.
Its current liabilities of $6.75 billion exceeded its current assets of $5.17 billion at the end of March last year, representing a significant worsening of its balance sheet from the year before, when it posted a positive working capital of $9 million, according to its 2012 annual report.
Indeed, the PAJ's total equity increased from $12 billion to $12.7 billion over the year to March 31, 2012, but it said that its containerised cargo business averted a "state of bankruptcy" last fiscal year, which ended March 31, 2012.
And while the other side of its business — cruise shipping — saw tremendous growth last year (Revenue for the year ended March 31, 2012, increased by $1.3 billion to $14 billion, due mainly to a $1.1 billion increases in cruise revenue), the boost it got from a newly developed Falmouth pier appears to have lost its bounce.
The Kingston Container Terminal (KCT) handled a total of 977,144 moves in the 2011/2012 fiscal year compared to 1,176,377, which was projected in the corresponding budget, and the 1,011,367 moves it handled in the previous financial year.
But PAJ data for the nine months to December 31, 2012, showed a 39 per cent decline in transshipment volume (by tonnage) at KCT, although the cargo handler's income is more dependent of twenty-foot container equivalent (TEUs) movements, for which data have not been published as yet.
On top of that, vessel capacity was projected to increase in 2012 and 2013, which the PAJ anticipated would lead to further reductions in freight rates as the growth of capacity in relation to volumes sped up.
Cruise arrivals into Jamaica for the year to March 31, 2012, totalled 1.332 million passengers, which was a 43 per cent increase over the previous year, but PAJ data show that the number of cruise ship calls and passengers declined by 10.5 per cent and two per cent, respectively, for the nine months to December 31, 2012, when compared to the same period in 2011.
KCT is to be divested in a process led by an enterprise team headed by former Bank of Jamaica governor, Derick Latibeaudiere, but no timetable has been set for its sale.
Meanwhile, the National Contracts Commission (NCC) endorsed US$14.5 million ($14 billion) in projects for the PAJ last year, including a US$2.5-million "emergency procurement to execute dredging work".