Bomb threat hoax could cost Kingston Wharves millions in losses
An aerial view of Kingston Wharves Limited.

WHEN Kingston Wharves Limited (KWL) was forced to halt operations on Monday due to a bomb threat, the company may have suffered losses of about $50 million — the amount the entity normally earns per day.

The port and logistics company, which moves bulk, breakbulk and containerised cargo, had to suspend all its operations after receiving a call about 9:30 am that there was a bomb on the premises.

When contacted by the Jamaica Observer on Monday afternoon, chief executive officer Mark Williams said the financial loss could not be ascertained at that time, insisting that the company is instead "unambiguously focused on the safety of our team members and customers during this difficult time".

He noted, however, that KWL, which is located off Marcus Garvey Drive, has implemented measures to minimise the fall-out from the hoax and that vessel operations resumed at 7:00 pm on Monday, while warehouse and logistics operations will resume at 8:00 am on Tuesday.

Williams said that the prank call received at the facility's call centre triggered its emergency protocol which involves full evacuation of all facilities, and immediate contact with the security forces.

"The security [team] responded promptly — police, military, fire, ambulance. We closed our operations for the day and police and military with their canine assets did a full sweep of all the facilities. About 3:30 pm we got all clear to re-enter the facility," he said, adding that an almost five-hour "meticulous" search of the facility turned up no explosive devices.

Williams said he was not only concerned about the psychological impact of the event on staff and customers but the security and reputational implications for Jamaica.

"Kingston Wharves operates an international terminal and therefore events like these have implications for the international market. This is while Jamaica is doing its best, all that is possible to present itself to the world as a logistics hub. Now, when you have security scares like this across the country, and even more so at the terminal, there is quite a security implication for the country and its port facilities," he said.

"We are of the view that if this matter isn't contained soonest the reputation of the Port of Kingston and, by extension, Jamaica, may be irreparably damaged in the international shipping and logistics segments," he added.

Monday's hoax follows on the heels of a series of bomb threats last week which impacted a number of schools, a hospital and a court building.

Last Friday, Deputy Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey confirmed that 71 institutions were impacted between Thursday, November 9 and Friday, November 10.

Bailey gave the reassurance that the Jamaica Constabulary Force, with support from its law enforcement partners, will investigate all reports received as every threat is treated as serious until proven otherwise.

A suspect is now in custody in relation to the bomb threats last week.

BY ALECIA SMITH Senior staff reporter

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