Mon | Oct 21, 2019

UPDATED | Jamaica Fruit and Shipping: 100 years afloat

Published:Wednesday | September 25, 2019 | 12:36 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer

The Jamaica Fruit and Shipping Company celebrating 100 years of operation is not only a major national achievement but a true testament to how partnerships can build lasting businesses.

The company was founded back in 1919 by Charles Edward Johnston and Captain Sibrand D List without them owning any of the ships they operated and with stiff competition from the North American companies that controlled the Jamaica-banana industry.

On Saturday, players in the shipping industry and those who work to ensure that the business stays afloat came out in their numbers to Devon House in St Andrew to celebrate a century in operation.

Among those in attendance were chairman of Jamaica Freight and Shipping Charles Johnston, director of Jamaica Freight and Shipping Michael Bernard, and much of the executive of the Shipping Association of Jamaica (SAJ).

Johnston, who basked in the achievement of the company, thanked the various stakeholders who he said were the backbone that had kept the company alive for 10 decades.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he repeated to loud cheers and applause.

Employees were singled out as one of the key stakeholder groups keeping Jamaica Fruit and Shipping afloat during the rough and calm times.

When The Gleaner spoke to JT, who said he had been employed by the Jamaica Fruit and Shipping for more than five years, he was not shy to make it known how appreciative he was to be working with the company.

“I can say it is good working there, and to see how long it’s been [operating], trust me, it is amazing to know. But you also feel it. [There is a] Good culture and everything, and I really want to thank everybody who comes day in and day out to make us achieve what we achieve for our customers.

“We have good days and we have bad days like everywhere else, but when you have people around you with positive energy all the time, the end result is always good,” he related to The Gleaner.

The 100th anniversary celebration started on September 1 with a church service held at St Peter’s Anglican Church in Port Royal, Kingston.

The pioneers of Jamaica Fruit and Shipping saw that the future of Jamaica’s agriculture, industry and trade would require a shipping industry, that was efficient, productive, and based on worker-management relations that promoted industrial harmony at the port of Kingston.

So when the wharf operators of Kingston faced Alexander Bustamante’s call for a general strike in 1939, C.E. Johnston and List joined with other progressive-thinking owners to take a path of engagement rather than confrontation in the best interest of Jamaica.

They helped to establish the SAJ as an employers’ union to negotiate as equals with the unions representing the portworkers.

The SAJ evolved into a unique organisation of employers that, to date, employs labour, operates schemes for the workers’ benefit, and participated in the first Joint Industrial Council formed in Jamaica.

Captain S List became the founding president of the SAJ and served until 1941.

He spent another two years on the SAJ’s managing committee and retired from business in 1945, two years before his death.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Jamaica Fruit and Shipping worker JT as Johnston. We regret the error.)