Jamaica on Tuesday made the first major step into the global ship repair industry with a US$37-million investment that will provide hundreds of jobs and generate revenue amounting to millions of dollars in foreign exchange.
The German Ship Repair Jamaica (GSRJ) shipyard project, which is being developed on the Sir Florizel Glasspole stretch of Kingston Harbour, in partnership with Sagicor Group Jamaica and other local entities, is expected to be completed between October and November.
"We already have a first booking for dry dock for November this year, a ship named Mexican Giant," Colonel Martin Rickman, GRSJ's chief executive officer, told the Jamaica Observer Tuesday night.
Asked what it will cost to work on a ship like the Mexican Giant, which is a heavy load carrier, Rickman said, "About US$500,000", and the job would last for "about two weeks".
Three of the world's leading shipping industry companies are foreign partners on the project. They are Harren and Partners Ltd, a global conglomerate based in Germany which owns about 70 vessels; Kloska Group, a German firm that specialises in ship supplies and provides engine repairs; and Hat-San Shipyard from Turkey, known for building fishing trawlers, floating docks, maintenance and repairs of ships, and dry docking operation.
"These partners that we have are high-level, experienced experts who will bring value to us in Jamaica," Rickman said.
He added that he was extremely proud of the fact that most of the investment in this multi-billion-dollar project is coming from Jamaica.
The first phase of the shipyard will feature a floating dry dock, along with steel fabrication and engine workshops.
Earlier, Colonel Rickman told the launch that Jamaicans are currently receiving training at HEART/NSTA Trust and Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) for jobs at the shipyard.
"We will be employing approximately 100 persons. We have multiple employment opportunities to very, very high standards in Jamaica, and we will eventually end up with more than one floating dock as we build out. We are looking to have state-of-the-art equipment and workshops being built," said Rickman.
"The GSRJ had started some time ago and we have done a certain amount of training. For some of the trainees, we have raised their standard of training from working on-board vessels to very high standards. Some have even got to international standards already and it is our intent to continue with this programme with HEART and CMU to get more people in the training," he said.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the project is a significant investment and will bring more economic growth and job creation to the country.
He pointed out that Jamaica is blessed to be ideally located along the east-west shipping traffic region through the Panama Canal heading to North and South America and currently serves 12 major shipping lines with weekly port connections with more than 100 port facilities, in terms of cargo movement in and out of the region.
"The Government of Jamaica has been focused on undertaking investments and making the right policy decisions towards creating Jamaica and the Kingston Harbour as a global logistics hub," said Holness.
"With the investments that are being made in improving Kingston as a logistics hub we are certain that we have now closed one of the major gaps that has existed and that more ships that are passing through the region will be inclined to come to Jamaica," he added.
Sagicor Group Jamaica President and CEO Christopher Zacca described the project as a big deal for Jamaica.
"We are talking about pulling customers from the pool of 3,000 commercial vessels that visit Jamaica's ports annually and providing mechanical, electrical, electronic, and hydraulic services," Zacca said.
"We want Kingston, Jamaica, to have the leading ship repair and servicing port in the Caribbean. To GSRJ, Government of Jamaica, and other investors who play a pivotal role in making the vision a reality, there is a long way to go, but the finish line will be rewarding," he added.
The facility will have dry docking capability for vessels up to 20,000 gross tonnage and up to 215 metres in length. It will provide a range of structural, mechanical, electrical and hydraulic services, including overhauling and repair of main and auxiliary engines; maintenance and repair of ship structures and deck machinery; maintenance, overhauling and repair of propellers and propeller shafts; and painting of the hull and other areas during dry-docking.