I note in the Sunday Observer of July 1 reference to the dry dock proposal of Dr Lloyd Cole and a presentation of the Minister of Industry and Commerce Anthony Hylton in Parliament the week before, during which he announced Dr Cole's project, among others. This correspondence serves as a formal response to the July 1 material on the subject matter in your publication.
As minister of transport, I did not include Dr Cole's proposal as part of the multi-modal transport plan that was being pursued. This was because time was of the essence for the overall development plan, as the window for implementation was only three years to the opening of the expanded Panama Canal. By the time Dr Cole's proposal came to my attention, the overall logistics militated against its inclusion in the multi-modal plan.
It is to be noted that the area that was proposed for the dry dock is an environmentally sensitive zone, and in view of this consideration, many of the required studies of the area had not been done, if my memory serves me right. But what were certainly being pursued were shorter-term solutions, like a floating dry dock, which was to be located near the Caribbean Maritime Institute along the Palisadoes Road outside of Kingston.
Logistically, it should be appreciated that in this the age of mega ships, fewer and smaller vessels will be coming into the region through the Panama Canal. Therefore, the demand for ship repairs may be reduced unless the full hub complex is achieved, and the smaller vessels can be used to feed into North and South America, which is likely, but then makes the dry docks of the USA and, say, Cuba, more competitive and perhaps more attractive than any such facility in Jamaica, considering that mega vessels cannot enter New York Harbour.
Of note also was that there was no fiscal space to allow the Government of Jamaica to accommodate the final studies relative to Dr Cole's proposal; and the project would have had to be driven entirely by investment based on the public/private partnership approach that was being pursued, and the sea/air connection from the Kingston to Vernamfield, via road or rail, had more readily available investors and were already being implemented. This involved the toll road extension to May Pen, which was scheduled for completion in August of this year, and within nine months of any year the Sandy Gully rail bridge in St Andrew could be restored, and the last rail connection between Parnassus and Vernamfield could be done.
I was also pursuing more of an energy port, where I thought in the mid-term Port Esquivel would be more suitable to create a mix of LNG/nuclear power, which was not as publicly troubling before the Japanese incident; and, of course, oil or clean coal; with Jackson Bay and Rocky Point being alternative locations. This all depended on a mid or long-term plan, bearing in mind that Vernamfield was to be a green energy airport, for which we were exploring geo-thermal and solar energy, and these plans were well advanced before I left office.
Minister Hylton has now announced his belief in the multi-modal plan and Vernamfield, and I laud his position, just as I once again laud the private investors who have taken the project to the point of implementation, starting with the Caribbean Aerospace College and the development of a flying school, with a joint venture or the lease development process capable of taking things forward.
Member of Parliament