Port of Kingston now the seventh busiest in Americas

BY STEVEN JACKSON Business reporter jacksons@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

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IT doesn't have quite the same ring as the Culture's 1977 reggae classic Two Sevens Clash, but the end result is more harmonious, when it's a tale of the two sevens combining -- as the world's seventh largest natural harbour is now the seventh busiest port in the Americas, despite a fall in activity.


Port activity in Kingston actually surpassed that of the large metropole of Buenos Aires, Argentina, which allowed Jamaica to rank as the seventh busiest port in Latin America in 2014, according to recent data released by a United Nations (UN) regional body.


The climb in ranking actually reflected a 4.0 per cent fall in activity in Kingston, but port activity in Buenos Aires, Argentina fell 22 per cent, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) a regional UN body. As a result, Kingston came ahead, handling 1.64 million 20-foot container (TEUs) while Buenos Aires figures fell to 1.4 million TEUs from 1.78 million TEUs one year earlier.


At the same time, Kingston operated the busiest port in a single Caribbean city. The next busiest city port within the Caribbean was Freeport, Bahamas, at 1.4 million TEUs and San Juan, Puerto Rico, at 1.3 million TEUs.


The Caribbean activity combined declined by 8.2 per cent amid rises in most of Latin America.


"The limited dynamism of the region's ports in 2014 was determined mainly by the above-mentioned fall in the Caribbean area and on the east coast of South America, where in the first case transfer operations represent a significant volume of port activity. This was explained mainly by Jamaica, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, which showed annual declines of negative 3.9 per cent, negative 6.7 per cent and negative 9.9 per cent, respectively, and Argentina with decline of 22.4 per cent," stated the report.


The expansion of the Panama Canal continued to aid the growth in port activity in the region. In fact, ports in Balboa and Colon -- both in Panama -- led the list of 120 ports in the study. The first 40 ports in the ranking accounted for nearly 89 per cent of the operations with activity levels of 41.8 million TEUs. The 120 ports contributed to some 47 million TEUs in total activity.


"Collectively, the movement of cargo in containers in Latin American and Caribbean ports grew 1.3 per cent during 2014," according to the figures released last month by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).


However, some regions reflected declines over the period.


"ECLAC's analysis reveals great heterogeneity in the performance of port movements, both at a sub-regional level as well as by country. Mexico showed an improvement, going from a contraction of 0.1 per cent in 2013 to growth of 4.0 per cent in 2014, while Central America rebounded by growing 3.4 per cent last year versus a 2.0 per cent fall in 2013. In South America, the west coast improved its growth to a rate of 5.3 per cent in 2014, up from 3.8 per cent in 2013," stated the report.


The reasons behind growth, deceleration and declines were varied, with some linked to the success of investment projects while others were hurt by low trade performance.


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