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Nathan Robb questions value of logistics hub to western Jamaica

Published:Sunday | January 11, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Nathan Robb, president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce & Industry. - File

McPherse Thompson, Assistant Editor - Business

Attorney-at-law and President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce Nathan Robb has suggested that Government's proposed logistics hub is a remote concept to people in western Jamaica and other rural areas, with no clear view of the mega-project's benefits.

He said that the discussions about the logistics hub speak to projects in Kingston - the Goat Islands, where the Chinese have expressed an interest in setting up shipping facilities, "which is so remote from us"; and Kingston Wharves, a private company that is currently in expansion mode.

His comment followed a Kingston Wharves Limited-Shipping Association of Jamaica plenary under the theme "From Shipping to Logistics: Trading in the Information Age" at the Mona School of Business and Management's inaugural conference on business and management at the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort, Montego Bay, on Thursday. The three-day conference concluded on Friday.

"What I questioned was the fixation of the logistics hub in a geographic space and that it appears to several persons outside of that geographic space that there is no connection with the rest of Jamaica outside of the Kingston area and Kingston Wharves," Robb later told Sunday Business.

"They need to begin to have persons outside of that geographic space appreciate the significance of it and how they can, in fact, participate and benefit from this proposed logistics hub."

Robb said Montego Bay was home to the largest airport in the Caribbean, that it has a substantial cruise shipping port, "but the logistics hub means nothing to us".

One of the conference panellists at the session on shipping, Dr Fitz Pinnock, the executive director of the Caribbean Maritime Institute, cited the example of Alpart at Nain, St Elizabeth, with people in the adjoining parish of Manchester benefiting while the bauxite plant was in operation, suggesting that benefits from the logistics hub would also flow to other areas of the island.

However, Robb said, to them, such indirect benefits have not been conceptually tied in to plans for the logistics hub.

A representative of the Jamaica Agricultural Society also wanted to know how the logistics hub would benefit farmers.

Dr Christopher Tufton, co-executive director of think tank Caribbean Policy Research Institute and a former minister of agriculture, who was among the panellists, said that to the extent that the infrastructure is put in place to allow trading in goods and services "for us to develop our internal capacity and expertise and leverage that against the efficiencies of packaging and moving, then, of course, it offers an opportunity, but it seems we have a lot of work to do".

For the agriculture sector, it creates the oppurtunity "to move up the value chain with more branded products," Tufton said.