South Africa eyes Jamaica's hub

BY HORACE HINES Observer staff reporter hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Trade with South Africa could boom if Jamaica's plan for a global logistics hub becomes a reality, said the South African Minister of Trade and Industry.


Rob Davies predicted that significant trading opportunities between Pretoria and Kingston would be boosted by the proposal, which is primarily designed to take advantage of the widening of the Panama Canal by 2015.


Cargo moving between Jamaica and South Africa currently takes more than seven weeks and has to make two transfers, Davies said.


With the opening of the logistics hub in Jamaica, larger vessels would be able to take the same load in a single trip in much less time.


"A container that comes from our country through the port of Durban to Kingston - I presume is the same for a container which comes from Kingston to Durban - goes through three ships, three destinations, is off loaded three times, and takes an average of 53 days," Davies said.


"Transport logistics is a major problem in expanding trade relationships. If the logistics hub can succeed in attracting shipping lines, that could let us cut out one leg of that three-leg journey, and possibly, even in the nearer future, could cut out every trans-shipment and have a direct link, I am sure that we could cut that time from 53 days by several weeks at least."


The South African minister was speaking over the weekend at the Carib News 17th Annual Caribbean Multi-National Business Conference at Ritz Carlton, Montego Bay.


Jamaica's Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister, Anthony Hylton, hopes that the expansion of the Panama Canal will bring about a shift in global trade and increased trans-shipment traffic throughout the region.


"I shared on the priority of this Government to position Jamaica as the Logistics Hub of the Americas to join the global logistics network that now includes Rotterdam, Singapore and Dubai," Hylton told the conference.


"A rising tide lifts all ships," he said. "We are acutely aware of just how critical it will be to create an enabling business environment for this big idea and major economic initiative; as well as on related investments and re-investments".


The proposed Jamaica trans-shipment and Logistics Hub will have six separate but complementary elements that will include the dredging of the Kingston Harbour and expanding port facility at Fort Augusta and Gordon Cay.


Davies appealed to Jamaica to build on the solid "political, cultural and historical relations that we enjoy" and turn them into "much more meaningful economic relations".


Jamaica ranks a lowly 123rd in South Africa's list of trading partners, and Davies described the $100 million annual trade as "peanuts".


But he noted that trade was as high as $1.6 billion in the not too distant past.


" There is no reason why we should not, in the very near future, be able to increase our total trade by between 10 and 15 times," he said. "That would not be the end of the story. But it is possible because in one way or the other we have done it in the recent past. It is not difficult, it does not require anything that is unusual."




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