Port Authority celebrates its heroes at 50th year milestone
As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) recently feted and openly recognised its ‘heroes’, leaders and long-serving staff at a fancy dinner and awards ceremony at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in St Andrew.
One hundred and eighty-six employees of the PAJ who have served between 10 and 49 years were among the people who received special recognition at the event which was held under the theme, ‘Delivering Value Through Service’. Special praise went to the stalwarts who had early and significant influence on the advancement of the PAJ over its 50 years.
Chairman of the PAJ, Alok Jain highlighted that the beacons of excellence, who were recognised at the awards ceremony, have been the reason the PAJ has emerged, after 50 years, as one of the most effective port regulators in the Western Hemisphere. He said the PAJ was a prolific builder of ports and economic zones, a facilitator of economic growth and development, a creator of thousands of jobs and the developer of environmentally efficient port towns.
Jain took time out to specially highlight the work of late former chairmen Alfred Rattray and Noel Hylton, as well as the current president and chief executive officer of the PAJ, Professor Gordon Shirley.
“The Port Authority’s journey began in 1972 when the authority was established under the Port Authority Act to regulate activities on the ports and the use of all port facilities. The task of developing the new regulatory institution fell to our first chairman, Alfred Rattray, who came to the authority after a distinguished career as a civil servant in the Ministry of Trade and Industry and a career in law. Mr Rattray has been credited as the architect of the Companies Act of 1965 and the princpal contributor to the formation of the Jamaica Stock Exchange.
“He was also a chartered accountant. He served as chairman of the Port Authority from 1970 to 1975 and he created the blueprint for a regulatory agency which would be actively involved in the growth of the maritime sector and a creator of jobs for thousands of Jamaicans. He was heavily involved in the development plans for the transhipment Port of Kingston. Alfred Rattray was one of the giants of post-Independence, commercial Jamaica and the Port Authority will forever be indebted to him for his founding legacy,” Jain said.
When Rattray left the PAJ and became Jamaica’s fourth ambassador to the United States, he was succeeded by Noel Hylton, who went to the authority after a career as managing director of the Shipping Association of Jamaica.
According the Jain, Hylton went about implementing the vision of the transhipment port in Kingston and was successful not only in bringing it to fruition, but in overseeing its expansion through several stages, as well as the completion of Gordon Cay.
“Gordon Cay is one of Jamaica’s engineering wonders. Mr Hylton was the PAJ’s longest-serving chairman. He served for 38 years between 1975 and 2013. Under his leadership there was significant expansion of cruise shipping, the establishment of the Kingston and Montego Bay free zones, development of the cruise ports in Falmouth and Port Antonio and the strengthening of the harbours and ports services department.
“What Mr Hylton was most proud of was the labour relations transformation created under his watch. From one characterised by considerable unrest over wages and benefits, to one where employees in the sector received good benefits and wages, and where industrial peace and calm reigned for decades,” Jain said.
Now, under the leadership of Professor Shirley, the PAJ has developed the cruise terminal in Port Royal, among many other developments.
Jain highlighted that the Port Authority had earned the reputation of being able to build and manage any facility. He pointed out that the PAJ entered into a concession agreement with Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited, to undertake the required works and operate the terminal for 30 years.
“We are a number of years into that concession and I can say that it has been going very well. With the concession in place, the PAJ turned to the redevelopment of some of its other core areas of operations, led by vice-president of cruise marketing, William Tatham.
“The number of cruise guests expanded to over 1.7 million before the pandemic shut down the industry. Attention also turned to upgrading the harbours department. The 40-year-old pilot boats were replaced with state-of-the-art new vessels and a new concession agreement was signed with Ocean Jamaica to provide new and larger tug boat services to support the safe movement of the much larger vessels that were now entering the harbour. The freezones development, managed by the Port Authority has grown to accommodate several million square feet of space and is home today to the leading business process outsourcing firms in the world,” Jain said.
Senior pilot Derrick Brandt, one of the awardees at the ceremony, has been with the PAJ for 46 years and expressed that he was pleased to see its transformation over the decades. He will be retiring before the end of December and expressed that he feels the future of shipping is bright, although the industry is moving closer and closer to full computerisation, which he warned against.
“I joined the Port Authority in 1977 when I started to be trained as a marine pilot. When we started in those days it was the love of the job and then the rewards came after. All of us as youngsters we wanted to go to sea and all of that. I have seen the total development of the Port of Kingston. When I started, the ships were steam turbines. Now that doesn’t exist anymore. I have seen the growth of the container terminal.
“At the same time, shipping is getting too computerised. The human element is being taken out of it. It can either be good and can also be the biggest downfall. The good point is that you can eliminate human error but without the human touch, everything becomes systematic. If the tide changes overnight from you, this is where the human element becomes important,” Brandt said.