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Kingston Wharves offers to help with backlog of containers at KFTL

Published:Tuesday | August 15, 2017 | 12:00 AMAvia Collinder

Kingston Wharves has offered to assist in any way it can to clear a backlog of containers which have been piling up at Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited (KFTL) since last week.

The problem arose from the establishment of a new software system which has encountered problems and has resulted in delays in delivering containers to truckers.

Chief executive officer of Kingston Wharves, Grantley Stephenson told Gleaner Business that “Kingston Wharves Limited is prepared to render whatever assistance KFTL may require in order to reduce the delays currently being experienced."

Jamaica Exporters Association (JEA) Deputy President  Stephen Dawkins said that costs are mounting as the delays continue.

The container terminal is described as Jamaica’s chief gateway, with more than 1,000 containers processed weekly, according to information posted on its website.

Earlier today, the JEA said in a release that the situation "has already had a negative impact on exporters and importers alike and the JEA is urging all concerned to resolve this issue as soon as possible.”

It added that “the cost to stakeholders is very high and the ripple effect is severe. Who can the productive sector go to after they have incurred charges and lost shipments because of the inefficiency of privately managed companies?”

Formerly the Kingston Container Terminal, the operation was divested to French terminal operator CMA CGM and its majority-owned subsidiary Terminal Link in 2015 and renamed KFTL.

The French outfit is operating the terminal under a 30-year concession agreement.

Calls to KFTL earlier today for a progress report on resolution of the issue were not answered. It also did not respond to an email sent making enquiries.

Since last week, the backlog has resulted in haulage contractors parking their vehicles and lining the streets in the port region as they await the opportunity to collect and deliver containers.

Citing an example of the impact of the delay, the JEA's Dawkins said that as a result of the establishment of the new system, a United Kingdom vessel was unable to load export containers and would face a one-week delay.

“These containers will not leave Jamaica until one week after the scheduled shipping date," he said.

Dawkins added that because of the new system there has been a three-fold decrease in the number of containers being hauled per day.

"Who will absorb these costs and what will be the consequences for the companies directly responsible for this problem?" he asked.

Dawkins added that "time is money and situations like this should not happen that have the ability to shut down the nation’s import and export process, which is the lifeblood of the country.”

JEA President Michelle Chong, who is also chief executive officer of exporting company Honey Bun Limited told Gleaner Business she was travelling abroad but would provide an update mid-week.

The JEA release said “there should be systems in place that even if there is a disruption in normal services, back up measures exist that will help the export process to continue to flow even when there may be problems on the ground. The JEA sees this as an issue that affects all Jamaicans and we urge all parties involved to ensure this never happens again.”