Business

Kingston port falls to 8th busiest in region

Friday, June 27, 2014    

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A slowdown in container movements at Kingston in 2013 made the Jamaican terminal fall from the sixth busiest port in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2012 to eight last year.

At the same time, Freeport, Bahamas, jumped into the top 10 rankings in the region after seeing 24.8 per cent growth last year, according to just- released data from a United Nations (UN) regional body.

What's more, last year's growth in container throughput at the city port in The Bahamas meant that port operated at full capacity utilisation of 1.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

The Kingston Container Terminal (KCT) and Kingston Wharves (KWL), which combined account for port activity in Kingston, recorded an 8.2 per cent decline in container throughput to 1.7 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) last year.

The worsening in the container movement ranking comes within the context of increased investment and political focus on port activity in Jamaica, particularly, as ongoing expansion of the Panama Canal is expected to be completed in 2016.

Kingston joined three other top 10 city ports to record declines in 2013.

"The deceleration in Latin America and the Caribbean's foreign trade continued affecting port activity by the end of 2013, a year in which growth was just 1.7 per cent," according to the UN body, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

Contextually, in 2010 and 2011 the annual expansion reached 14 per cent.

The container movement ranking showed that activity at 80 of the region's terminals reached 46.6 million TEUs in 2013, based on ECLAC directly compiling data from local and national port authorities.

Colon, Panama operated the busiest regional city port with 3.3 million TEUs. But the fastest growing city port was Caldera, Costa Rica up 246 per cent year on year to 638,000 TEUs.

According to ECLAC's analysis, port performance in 2013 was very "heterogeneous" and there were important differences among terminals within countries.

For example, the Chilean ports of Angamos, Arica, Coronel and San Antonio registered positive growth due to the success of their projects and commercial management.

The sharpest declines were registered by the terminals of Puerto Plata and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic dropping 83.2 per cent and 58.5 per cent, respectively.

In June, at its annual general meeting, the Kingston Wharves Limited (KWL) announced plans to invest some US$70 million to upgrade its wharf in order to attract increased business and prepare for regional or international competition.

The development will double the wharf's potential throughput to one million TEUs.

Phase one entails building a modern 24-hour logistics complex with modular warehouse space, the acquisition of gantry cranes, the closure of Third Street, the relocation of berth 7 warehouse to a newly refurbished facility, the relocation of transshipment and domestic car parks, and the demolition of on-dock warehouse and operational buildings.

The second phase is aimed at handling larger post-Panamax vessels including extending the berth by 50 feet, dredging along the berth to over 15 metres, along with the installation of new cranes.

Phase three includes expanding the port and motor vehicle transshipment operations to drive TEU throughput.

KWLs current capacity stands at some 500,000 TEUs. It actually handled some 204,200 transshipment TEUs and 90,870 domestic TEUs in its latest financial year, according to its 2013 annual report.

Container throughput at KCT has been in the doldrums since it lost major shipping lines, such as Maersk, at the 860,000 container moves recorded for the last financial year was considerably less than the over one million moves seen three years ago.

The volumes also pale in comparison to the port's rated capacity of 2.8 million twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) per annum.

Indeed, the KCT basin and ship channel is to be dredged to accommodate vessels carrying three times as much capacity, which are expected to pass through the Panama Canal when its expansion is completed at the end of 2015.

The capacity of the terminal is also to be increased to 3.2 million TEUs.

But expansion won't likely happen until the Government finalises a public-private partnership with one of three bidders -- Port of Singapore, Terminal Link Consortium and Dubai Ports World.

Negotiations for KCT privatisation are now expected to be concluded by the end of September.

The Jamaica Government also offered the Chinese Government the island's largest island reserve -- Goat Islands, to develop into a logistics hub. Feasibility studies are said to be underway.

In March, a World Bank report, entitled Connecting to Compete 2014 -- Trade Logistics in the Global Economy, indicated that Jamaica's global logistics ranking at 70 out of 160 nations improved to below triple digits for the first time.

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