Sat | Dec 3, 2016

One bidder for port dredging

Published:Wednesday | September 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Gordon Shirley

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

PORT AUTHORITY of Jamaica (PAJ) head Professor Gordon Shirley has said his entity plans to directly engage major firms to dredge the access channels to the Kingston Container Terminal (KCT) and operate the facility if the sole bidder on the project is found to be unacceptable. The access channel is to be dredged to 17 metres and its turning basin widened to accommodate mega ships which will traverse the Panama Canal when completed. The projected cost of the dredging is US$160 million, but with the Government taking the decision not to guarantee any loan for the PAJ, the company has taken the decision to invite concessionaires to do the dredging.

"In going out to tender, the request was made of those who were shortlisted that they would undertake the dredging, even though the dredging is normally the responsibility of the landlord, which is the Port Authority," Shirley said.

The evaluation is to be completed this month after which the PAJ will determine whether the offer of the single bidder will be accepted.

Shirley was addressing last week's sitting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee of Parliament.

"We have been in contact with all of the global dredging firms who have all expressed an interest in the project, and so, even if the tender process is not completed, we think that we will be in a process to begin dredging in 2015," Shirley said.

Meanwhile, the evaluation of bids for the privatisation of the KCT is expected to be completed this month, in time for Transport, Works and Housing minister Dr Omar Davies to be informed of the outcome by early October.

Three entities - Ports of Singapore International, Terminal Link Consortium and Dubai Port World - have pre-qualified as entities to run the KCT.

The Government is seeking to privatise the KCT to allow for the expansion of and development of the terminal as Jamaica seeks to capitalise on shipping activities which are anticipated through an expanded Panama Canal.

Jamaica is seeking to position itself as a logistics hub and the Government has said the KCT's privatisation and the dredging of the Kingston access channel is integral to the process.

But committee member Mike Henry expressed discomfort with the pace at which the wheels are turning.

"Even the United States that had no ports to accept traffic when the Panama Canal is open, whose bridges were too low at the time, whose bridges need opening... the tunnel being built from Miami to go into the other parts of the United States means that our opportunities are fast receding," Henry lamented.

As Jamaica seeks to capitalise on the expansion of the Panama Canal, shipping lines could get the option of another shipping channel between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans by way of Nicaragua. This, Henry said, could be bad news for Jamaica.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com