The Most Hon. Andrew Holness, ON, MP
Kingston Container Terminal
May 19, 2017
I’m very pleased with what I saw today on the tour.
The Government of Jamaica made an investment in building out this port close to thirty years ago. At that time there was no consideration about post Panamax vessels. There wasn’t even a consideration about the widening of the Panama Canal but a lot has changed in thirty years and not only has the shipping industry changed and the size of ships that can carry cargo changed, but in the course of time the asset would have depreciated and needed reinvestment.
The way in which this would have been done was that it would have been the government again to have found the resources to make the investment in expanding and in refurbishing/ rebuilding. It is quite a significant undertaking. This is somewhere in the region of four hundred and fifty- six million US dollars’ worth of investment. We would not at this time be in a position to find those resources with all that the government has to do. We could not leave the asset there to further deteriorate and to become irrelevant as other ports are developed and the shipping industry moves forward with new technology.
This presents us with an opportunity. An opportunity to partner with the private sector and so the divestment of the asset is actually a good thing for Jamaica. I believe we engaged in a very intense, very in-depth process of divestment which came up with the right partner that has the interest; not just the commercial interest of the port but has an interest in developing our strategic location and I think this mutual confluence of interest is working very well.
The private sector group CMA CGM, a very unusual name but so is all the other shipping names that I’ve seen on the port today, they have come on board and they are dredging the harbor – the shipping lanes, to deepen them to ensure that larger ships can pass through. They are reinforcing the walls of the various berths that are there with significant piling and other technical things that I will have Professor Shirley explain later on but all in all it is a significant investment.
The end result of it is not just that we’re in a better position of take advantage of the changes that are happening in shipping and logistics but as a result of the divestment, employment of Jamaicans has increased and that is of significant note. I gather that almost two hundred additional Jamaican workers have been employed and I was very happy to see Jamaicans on the port working side by side with our French investors doing the upgrades. A transfer of skills and technology is taking place and Jamaicans are benefitting.
So I wanted to focus a little bit on this point of divestment. Divesting assets is not a bad thing for Jamaica. If it is done correctly, if you find the right partners, if you have the right framework in place, Jamaicans benefit. Assets that we would not be able ourselves to utilize because of the fiscal constraints that exists; those assets get to be utilized.
In the utilization of those assets Jamaican gets employed. Jamaica gets to play a role in the international community. Jamaica gets to be seen as an important point. We say every day “oh Jamaica is very well located, we’re the center of the Caribbean, all the shipping that goes on must pass by Jamaica” but if you don’t have a port that is efficiently run the ships will do exactly that. They will pass by you so we have to make the investment. We have to put in place the framework with which private and public sectors can work together to have the full utilization of our assets.
The investment that I’ve seen here as well creates opportunities for not just shipping and cargo handling but for logistics. Significant acreages of lands exist around the ports which are now well placed to be developed for logistics like manufacturing and other forms of operations that are synergistic with the port and the government will move very quickly to ensure that these possibilities are explored and developed so that Jamaicans can benefit.
Again I want to thank you Olivier for taking us on this tour and we look forward to a long and meaningful and prosperous relationship between the Government of Jamaica, Port Authority and CMA CGM.