Mon | Oct 23, 2017

KCT to add equipment, jobs as cargo volumes grow

Published:Wednesday | September 20, 2017 | 12:00 AMSteven Jackson
Olivier Tretout, CEO of Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited, speaks to JEA past president Marjory Kennedy (left) and JEA President Michelle Chong about the resolution of the trucking impasse and delays at the port, at a meeting with members of the Jamaica Exporters Association on Tuesday, September 19, 2017.

Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited, the operators of Kingston Container Terminal, KCT, will add new cranes and employ more staff by year end to boost productivity at the trans-shipment terminal.

"We now have 860 workers and that will move to about 940 by the end of the year," said CEO Olivier Tretout following a meeting with Jamaica Exporters' Association members to discuss the trucking impasse affecting operations at the port.

Kingston Freeport is adding two cranes to the current 14 by year end, and will add another two in 2018. The company also plans to boost its drivers from 140 to a minimum of 210. Tretout said he needs more workers to handle the increased volumes of cargo by major customers ZIM and CMA CGM. For instance, in May and July, ZIM's volumes increased by 50 per cent, he said.

KCT is now moving 3,000 containers per day and is on track to hit 90,000 per month in September, up from 71,000 in August. The managers of the port indicated some amount of difficulty finding the skills needed to take on the additional work and is engaged in training recruits. Some 20 workers were already added.

"It's the highest level of production ever in Kingston, but we are not satisfied. We need more drivers and people," Tretout said. "We are training 15 additional persons every two weeks."

KCT wants to achieve 4,000 movements per day, he said.

The port operator is trying to woo a third major customer in order to reduce its reliance on ZIM and CMA CGM.

"We want to offer capacity with a third main player and are in discussion with those guys," Tretout said.

Kingston Freeport is the vehicle used by CMA CGM and its associated company Terminal Link to hold and operate the 30-year concession for KCT.

"We will spend US$400 million over two years to invest in the port," said Tretout.

The first phase included building 1.2 kilometres of berth space suitable to accommodate the larger new Panamax vessels. The company also completed an investment in new back office software along with 50km of fibre-optic cables across the facility. It will allow for seamless real-time communi-cation at various stages of the port, including those dealing with container movement.

In July, truckers staged a two-day protest over the delays in processing containers. Tretout attributed the delays to the switch over to the new IT system.

"It was unfortunate, but it happened. We did not expect it to happen like this. We did not anticipate that we would have had this event," Tretout said. "Our system is working fine today."

At the JEA meeting, however, general manager of the Port Trailer Haulage Association, Ricardo Valentine, said the protest was not only in relation to the new IT system, but also the breakdown at the port equipment and machinery, resulting in two- to three-hour delays in clearing containers instead of the expected 30 minutes. The protest created a backlog which was cleared in 10 days.

Valentine said currently, containers are still taking longer than 45 minutes to clear.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com