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Chang: Kingston Port will be region's biggest trans-shipment hub

Friday, January 26, 2018

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MINISTER without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Dr Horace Chang, says the Port of Kingston is on the verge of becoming the biggest trans-shipment hub in the Caribbean.

Speaking at the commissioning service for two newly acquired pilot boats at the port on Wednesday, Dr Chang said the shipping industry is on the pathway of rapid growth where Jamaica's economy stands to benefit tremendously.

He further noted that Jamaica, by virtue of its geographic location, is strategically poised to make major inroads in a trans-shipment business that has long surpassed the trillion dollar mark globally.

“I wish to welcome you all here today to the commissioning ceremony for our two newly acquired pilot boats. This acquisition by the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) represents clearly the intention of this stellar agency of the state to pursue meaningful improvements to maritime operations at the Kingston Port,” Dr Chang remarked.

“This reflects the continuous upgrade to our ports with the intent to become the region's finest logistics centre. Furthermore, the expansion of the Port of Kingston following its divestment is a demonstration of the Government's policy to expand the role of the private sector in national development,” he said.

The minister further pointed out that all major international trade revolves around shipping and that having the kind of facility and services that can entice some of the major global players “will certainly bode well” for Jamaica's future.

Dr Chang added that it is indeed critical, that all other aspects of port development is aligned with the significant efforts of the concessionaire, noting that “we are pleased with the aggressive approach taken” to the improvement at the port through the dredging, the introduction of new electronic systems and acquisition of much-needed equipment.

He added that the Government will retain its position of regulator while continuing to encourage private sector partnerships such as these to advance the sustainable economic development of Jamaica.

“It is no secret that the development of our ports is a critical area of focus for this administration. We are convinced that the development of the island's logistics offerings will benefit the sustainable economic growth of our nation and indeed, the Caribbean region,” said Chang.

“With the increased traffic expected, I must reiterate the importance of state support in the development of all ports as we build out our logistics capabilities,” said the Cabinet minister.

In the meantime, president of the Jamaica Marine Pilots Association, Jomo King, told the Jamaica Observer that the new vessels are the answers to their problems. “The boats we had before were old. They were malfunctioning incredibly often and were falling apart. We had injuries because of this. The hatch covers fell down on us and things like that and the seats were also falling apart,” he said.

He added: “The old vessels were [also] undersized for the challenges we face on the outside. We get waves to the heights of three metres and more. The boats would fall down into them (the waves) and go up on them and due to that you get something called slamming — the impact of the bottom structure of a ship onto the sea surface. You have a lot of back injuries because of that. I live at the chiropractor,” said King.

The marine pilot explained that with the new boats there should be fewer injuries, saying pilots will no longer have to contend with a lot of rocking and slamming. “What is even better is that the seating in the new boats are built to absorb shock,” he said.

“These are built for the work we do and takes away all the dangers. We even have something to get us out of the water if we fall into the water, which doesn't happen often. But when it does happen it was a disaster because the old boats were no't built with equipment to take us out of the water,” King said.

He said, too, that the new boats would allow marine pilots to go out faster and further to meet big ships.

King was grateful for the boats, but pointed out the need for more vessels. “The ultimate would be four for Kingston because what we need is two small ones. We can take one out of service and have another to replace it while it's being repaired because they need to be maintained,” he said.

King believes that Kingston has the ability to be in the top 50 ports worldwide in terms of traffic and the amount of containers coming in and out. This, he said, would contribute a lot more to the economy.


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