Thu | Sep 19, 2019

Kgn Wharves livid as SEZ status in limbo

Published:Friday | February 8, 2019 | 9:55 AM

The rate of return on its investments by Kingston Wharves Limited (KWL) is being significantly hampered by Government’s failure to grant special economic zone (SEZ) designation to its entire operations at Newport West, Kingston, where it operates the Caribbean’s leading multipurpose terminal.

This was the burning issue highlighted by chief executive officer of KWL, Dr Grantley Stephenson, during Wednesday’s launch of the professorial chair in logistics and port management at its total logistics facility at the port.

Pointing out that Panama accounts for US$15 billion of the global logistics trade, Stephenson offered some insight into the earning potential that would accrue from the SEZ designation for the entire KWL operations that span some 90 acres across a mix of business ventures at the wharves.

“Can you imagine if Jamaica got one per cent of that? So this is how important the logistics industry is to this country, and we have been struggling to gain our SEZ designation despite all, but anyway, that is life …” he told the function.

NO CLEAR REASON

Speaking with The Gleaner afterwards, he explained that despite KWL meeting all the due-diligence standards required by the State, their business expansion was still being stymied for no clear reason.

“We are pressing them daily to get it resolved so we can move forward with a lot of the things we have planned because we could have gone much further … . We had applied for the whole, and we are still waiting, but we have got it for a part of the operation, but not the entire thing.

“A lot of the things that we need to do, we need to have the SEZ designation. For example, we spoke about people re-exporting cars as a new business. In other words, you import bulk from the Far East; and then you come here and can sell some to Trinidad, Barbados, Guyana, and so on, but you need to have the SEZ designation, but it’s been a little slow in coming.”

Meanwhile, Minister of Information Ruel Reid made it clear that SEZ designation is not likely to happen any time soon. In a departure from his prepared text, the government senator shot down any hopes of an early resolution to the matter.

He told Stephenson: “I note your particular concern with the special economic zone, but I don’t want to get too much into that … . Until we reorganise the economy so we have less debt (and) we have an economy where we can gain greater revenue from just normal economic activities, it’s very difficult to shift [gear] in midstream. So it’s a work in progress.”

The Dr Grantley Stephenson Professorial Chair in Logistics and Port Management will facilitate research by president of the Caribbean Maritime University, Professor Fritz Pinnock, and the deputy president, Professor Ibrahim Ajagunna, through to April 2021 and will be open for renewal thereafter.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com