THE proposed commodity port at Cow Bay has gained the interest of the business community, but residents in neighbouring Albion are wondering how the plans will affect them.
Although the Minister of Industry Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton has met with the business community, residents in the Albion environs said they are being kept in the dark about the development and are wondering what implications it will have for the residential community.
Beverly Grant, who operates a shop on the beach at Cow Bay, said they are hoping that any plan for the area will allow them to continue to earn a living.
"We see the big man dem come and ah look all the time and wi trying fi ask dem a ting or two because wi ah try figure out what is going to happen," Grant said.
Fellow fisherfolk Irving Johnson and Everton Blake said they, too, are curious about the proposed development is for the area where they have eked out a living for generations.
"This is where wi mek wi living so we waan fi know what is to happen to us," Johnson said.
Grant, meanwhile, said she is not convinced the development will occur anytime soon.
"Wi hear a tittle talking and dem say di big ship weh ah go come a Cow Bay nah build before 2016, but wi nuh really know nutten else," she said.
Another resident, who identified herself only as Kay-Kay, said she was not looking forward to the development as it will mean their relocation from the bustling fishing beach, which she said does thriving business, especially on Sunday mornings.
"Mi nuh really know what it be, but just know say dem ah go waan move we," she told the Jamaica Observer North East.
Other residents are also concerned, with some of the upscale areas in Albion said they need some questions to be answered about how the residential areas will be impacted by the commercial activities.
They told the Observer North East that they do not know what the proposed development will entail as they have not been engaged by the relevant stakeholders.
"The road to Cow Bay is close to my home and I need to know if big trucks are going to go by or if they would need to widen that road," said a resident, who noted that she was not aware of the plans.
Minister Hylton recently sought to assure St Thomas business operators that they would not be left behind when the proposed commodity port at Cow Bay is developed. He urged them to start preparing to participate in the discussions that are to begin soon. He also advised the parish council to begin to organise, think and plan for the logistic hub initiative.
Addressing a St Thomas Chamber of Commerce forum on the subject, Hylton stressed that Cow Bay has one of the deepest harbours in the world, at a natural depth of 51 metres, and that it would play a major role in the global logistics hub.
"Our focus on Cow Bay is that it should be a commodity port in which huge volumes of grain and wheat and energy, oil, natural gas can be stored or even processed," Hylton said.
Meanwhile, chairman of the Logistics and Investment Task Force, Dr Eric Deans, outlined the scope of the project and assured the business community that opportunities would be created for everybody, both locally and overseas, once they are willing to take up the challenge.
The proposed Jamaica trans-shipment and logistics hub will have six separate but complementary elements that include dredging of the Kingston Harbour; expanding the port facilities at Fort Augusta and Gordon Cay; establishing a dry-dock facility at Jackson Bay, Clarendon; establishing a transhipment commodity port facility near Yallahs, St Thomas; developing the Caymanas Economic Zone; and developing an air cargo and passenger facility at Vernamfield, in Clarendon.
Dr Deans pointed out that Jamaica's three strategic advantages in developing the hub are related to its maritime and aviation capabilities and its telecommunications or digital infrastructure.
These, he said, will separate Jamaica from other countries in the region, which are also seeking to do the same thing.
Citing the US$8-billion market that will open up as a result of the hub, Dr Deans noted: "It is not just about attracting foreign investments; it is about a refocus of local businesses to a larger market, so we can get our share of the pie."
He explained that by putting in place the infrastructure to tap into the market, "we are creating the environment to totally transform the Jamaican economy".
Dr Deans further pointed to the need for Jamaica to develop its human capital, and noted that discussions were being held with the Caribbean Maritime Institute, the HEART Trust, the University of Technology and other learning institutions to revamp the curricula so that persons can be prepared to take full advantage of the job opportunities when they arise.
He outlined that the Government has been working to revamp several international trade and Open Skies agreements to facilitate the development.
Custos of St Thomas Marcia Bennett urged parishioners to unite to take advantage of whatever opportunities may come.
"We do not want to be left behind. We need to look at our environment, we need to look at training, health care, housing, but more than anything else, we need to come together as a community," she urged.