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Kingston takes hit to reputation - Major line taking second look at transhipment

Published:Tuesday | March 24, 2015 | 12:32 AM
Kingston was blanketed by the smoke from the fire at the Riverton City disposal site that broke out on March 11

As Jamaica plans to expand its current port facilities through the development of a major Logistics Hub, the Port of Kingston is suffering tremendous damage to its reputation due to the loss of productivity resulting from the fire at the Riverton City Landfill. The fire which began on Wednesday, March 11, 2015, has led to several work stoppages at Kingston Wharves Limited and KCT Services Limited, operators of the Kingston Container Terminal, which has had a damaging effect on trade.

As a result of the work stoppages, many ships have been anchored in the Kingston Harbour for up to five days awaiting clearance to berth at the terminals. With an average turnaround time of 24 hours during normal conditions, the delays have resulted in the schedule integrity of several lines being negatively affected, causing customers to question their reputation for timeliness.

Harriat Maragh, chairman of Seafreight Incorporated, a line that has been calling the Port of Kingston for 22 years, said the line is now taking a second look at transhipment over Kingston.

"Seafreight Line is currently one week behind schedule in 27 ports," Maragh said. With six ships anchored in the harbour for five days, several containing refrigerated cargo, Maragh is expecting to receive claims from customers when the cargo arrives at its final destination.

"We are expecting the delays to cost us as much as US$3 million," Maragh pointed out. He is calling on the Government to implement corrective measures to prevent future fires that could affect trade at the Port of Kingston.

Jamaica Freight and Shipping Company Limited (JFS) has also had its operations severely affected. "Our customers have been adversely affected by either delays with vessel operations which were extended in one instance from one day to four days, vessels which have experienced berthing delays due to congestion on the port or due to vessels which have simply diverted with intentions of offloading cargo originally bound for Jamaica at the next port of call and then transhipping the cargo back here," JFS said in a statement.

"These unscheduled changes have impacted both its individual barrel/small package customers who plan their shipments with precision, many of them actually planning their annual trips to Jamaica to coincide with the expected arrival of their package, our commercial importers many of whom work with the modern best practice of 'just in time' stock, and our export customers who have been affected due to the bypassing of vessels," JFS added.

Captain Diedrich Suendermann, general manager of Carib Star Shipping Limited, local agents for ZIM Integrated Shipping Line, estimates that the cost to the company could run into hundreds of thousands of US dollars.

ZIM vessels as well as their feeder vessels experienced five-day delays on the port. "Transshipment customers will be most affected by the delays, especially our customers along the US Gulf Coast," Suendermann said.

A view of the Kingston Harbour on the vessel tracking website, on Thursday last week, showed 17 anchored vessels representing various lines, the minority of them bulk and product tankers destined for other ports in Kingston Harbour. Some lines opted to omit Kingston from their schedule to mitigate losses.

KCT, which has been hard hit by the smog emanating from the dump, is estimating its losses at J$40 million. This figure is expected to increase, the Company says.

Corah Ann Robertson-Sylvester, chief executive officer of Seaboard Jamaica noted that for the last two weeks, Seaboard vessels scheduled for KCT Services Limited were not worked on schedule.

"Export cargo is missing connections in various transshipment ports affecting the delivery of domestic cargo," Sylvester said.

For CMA CGM Jamaica, two of their vessels omitted Kingston from their schedule while a decision was taken to cut loading on vessels that were in the harbour to reduce port stay. A total of four of their vessels were affected by the delays facing the island's transshipment terminal.

Lines with ships travelling through the Panama Canal are worst hit as they will incur additional fees for missing their time slot at the canal.