Editorial | Ease port frustration
The trucker dispute with Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited (KFTL) may have been settled, but the impact of the recent disruption may continue to hurt the productive sector and the economy for a long time.
Truckers have been complaining about the pace at which containers are being cleared, and their simmering frustration with long queues and many hours of waiting boiled over recently when they withdrew their services. The slow pace of clearance and the work stoppage have reportedly put some deliveries way behind schedule.
The picture of a congested port created by the pile-up of containers could harm Jamaica's reputation as an attractive option for shipping lines that are now operating in the region following the Panama Canal expansion. Consistency and reliability influence customers involved in the maritime business, for in its absence, what is left is anxiety and frustration across the supply chain as both exporters and importers are left hurting. The ports are the economic heartbeat of the country and provide critical infrastructure to support the shipment of goods into and out of Jamaica.
We understand that imports and exports are subject to customs inspection, and items like foodstuff must be checked to ensure they meet the required standards. We also must consider the propensity of persons to contaminate goods with illegal items such as drugs and guns. And with an estimated 1,000 containers being delivered to Jamaican industries each week, we would not support any shortcuts, particularly in the inspection process. However, in this age of technology, we implore the operators to employ the requisite equipment and other resources needed to operate at full throttle.
IRON OUT THE KINKS
Kingston Freeport Terminal is a Jamaican consortium formed by French global terminals operator CMA CGM and its majority-owned subsidiary Terminal Link, which was awarded a 30-year concession contract in 2015, for the development of the Kingston Container Terminal. It is currently undertaking a multimillion-dollar expansion as it focuses on fulfilling its ambition of being the number one trans-shipment port in the Caribbean. It is, therefore, in everyone's interest that the kinks be quickly ironed out so that port operations can run efficiently.
The Jamaica Exporters' Association (JEA) says its members are frustrated with the long delays. It is well understood that any wrinkle at the ports will become costly for them. Indeed, many are already feeling the effects in their pockets as they rack up fees for demurrage and other services.
Containers piled high in August sends a bad signal as we get closer to the traditionally high traffic Christmas season. The operators of KCTL have significant capacity and experience in handling containers and must, therefore, move to bring into play international efficiencies in order to improve its delivery service to both local and trans-shipment customers and avert chaos at Christmas.
Ports play a significant role in the development of the economy, and their activities demand a fairly robust workforce. Truckers and shippers are essential cogs in global trade, and harmony between them and the other critical stakeholders is the only way to guarantee almost non-stop operations to handle the volume of containers that are generated by modern-day mega ships. Improved gate times for truckers are, therefore, critical in order to deliver the motor vehicles, food, building material and other goods which Jamaicans use every day.