MONTEGO BAY, St James — In the wake of recent accidents involving cruise ships, Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr Omar Davies is concerned about Jamaica's level of preparedness to conduct mass rescue operations in the event of similar occurrences in local waters.
Noting that the world's two largest cruise liners call frequently at Jamaican ports, Dr Davies made reference to the January 2012 shipwreck of the Costa Concordia, which left 32 people dead in Italy.
"I am just thinking in Jamaica's case where we are visited on a regular basis by the two largest cruise liners what would be our action plan if either got into problems in Jamaican waters," Dr Davies said.
The transport minister articulated the need for an integrated Caribbean approach towards tackling the issue of mass rescue operations from distressed cruise vessels.
"With the recent events involving the Costa Concordia in Italy, steps should also be taken to look at a regional framework for mass rescue operations from cruise ships which are in distress," Dr Davies argued.
"In our attempts to comply with the various IMO Instruments governing the safety of shipping, pollution prevention and the competence of seafarers, many of our independent States and territories have faced significant human and financial resources challenges," Dr Davies added.
He was speaking on Friday at the the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) high level symposium held at the Iberostar Beach Hotel in St James.
The symposium was hosted by the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ), a signatory to the various conventions promulgated by the IMO.
The event attracted participants from 20 countries across the Caribbean Rrgion. The delegates gathered in Jamaica from February 19-22 to discuss critical developments that will affect these countries' reputations as responsible maritime states.
Among the issues discussed were piracy, standards for the disposal of ship generated garbage and ballast water management.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Audrey Sewell, in a prepared statement, said that "although we have come a long way in regulating maritime safety, security and environment" there is much more work to be done.
"We still have more work ahead of us, and this work has more often to do with vigilance and observance of the rules rather than the requirements of new standards," read a portion of the statement presented by Claudia Grant, Deputy Director General of the Maritime Authority of Jamaica.
Sewell stressed the importance of the Maritime Labour Convention, touted as the "seafarers bill of rights" and other key international Conventions of the IMO.
"We have to protect these interests with the same vigour that we seek economic gains from direct commercial maritime activities. They are just as critical, even more critical in some cases, as an accident at sea which may have devastating effects such as the discharge of fuel in our marine environment, loss of lives and property with far reaching implications both for the shore-side and sea, and for us in the region that rely so heavily on the sea for trade, recreation, tourism, and other economic activities".