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Jamaica seeking to take advantage of global trade initiatives

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 | 9:04 AM    

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KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Jamaican government, seeking to capitalise on the expansion of the Panama Canal that could result in a shift in global trade, says it has accepted a proposal to position the country as a global logistical hub.

Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton said Cabinet also approved the public/private partnership policy, which is critical to Jamaica establishing the logistics hub.

He said the expansion of the Panama Canal will bring about a shift in global trade and increased trans-shipment traffic throughout the region.

"We aim to position Jamaica to take advantage of that flow of traffic," Hylton said, noting that Jamaica was getting strong global interest from the French, Americans, Europeans, in addition to the Chinese and other Asian countries.

Hylton said that the Portia Simpson Miller-led government will not be investing in the project, but would be providing critical support, and any interested party coming to the table will have to provide "cold, hard cash”.

Chairman of the Logistics and Investment Task Force, Eric Deans, added that the logistics hub initiative represents the next stage in the evolution of the nation’s seaports and airports.

“What we are embarking on is creating world class logistic zones around these facilities, so that our productive sector can be fully integrated into the operation of these facilities and then as a nation, all our industries can become fully integrated into the global supply chains."

He said that Jamaica’s transformation requires co-ordinated action to upgrade its logistics capabilities to realise its potential to become the fourth global logistics hub along with Singapore, Rotterdam and Dubai.

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.

Hylton said that Cow Bay, in St Thomas, has one of the deepest ports in the western hemisphere and the country needed to take advantage of it.

"We feel that bulk storage is appropriate (there), because it provides just-in-time delivery to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and other markets in the region. It could also provide for us elements of our food security and ultimately, when done, energy security, because with the large volume of food stuff and energy stored here, then the arrangements to access those would become far easier and that could provide our energy and food security," he said. 

Hylton said that even with the expansion of the Panama Canal, the Suezmax type vessels, that are the bulk carriers, will not be able to go through the Canal.

 "They have to come through the Suez Canal, through Europe, into the Atlantic or around the Cape of Good Hope into the Atlantic. Therefore, having a port in the Atlantic with just-in-time delivery presents a unique opportunity for Jamaica.

"If the vessels are in Jamaica, and we expect they will be, based upon the responses, then the question of a dry dock becomes a logical next step," he added.

Hylton is scheduled to head a delegation to Panama this week and told reporters while there, they will “engage the Panamanian authority, to examine a number of their facilities; to look at some of their approaches; to learn some of the lessons, the good things and the bad things; and to help us to negotiate our way in this arrangement”.

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