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Boundless growth opportunities! CSA president urges regional shipping execs to take advantage of recent maritime events

Published:Tuesday | May 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Grantley Stephenson, president of the Caribbean Shipping Association and chief executive officer of Kingston Wharves Ltd, addresses regional shipping executives at the 14th Caribbean Shipping Executives Conference now on in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

More than 150 delegates attending the 14th Caribbean Shipping Executives Conference (CSEC) of the Caribbean Shipping Association (CSA), now under way in the British Virgin Islands, have been challenged to maximise opportunities presented by recent maritime events in the region, including the shift in United States (US) diplomatic policy towards Cuba, the expansion of the Panama Canal, and the Jamaican government's agreement with Terminal Link/CMA CGM for operation of the Kingston Container Terminal (KCT).

The call to action came from CSA president, Grantley Stephenson, at the CSEC opening ceremony held on Sunday at UP's Theatre in Tortola, where executives from companies with maritime interests across the Caribbean and the Americas are deliberating pressing current issues.

"This conference is occurring at an opportune time as we strategise ways to meet the demands of this dynamic operating environment and ensure our continued relevance and viability in the global maritime sector," said Stephenson, citing the need for regional maritime interests to stay abreast of critical technological innovations and ballooning global trade prospects, in order to remain powerful stakeholders in a sector marked by rapidly expanding competition.

 

Sanctions on Cuba

 

Speaking specifically to the US easing some of its 55-year-old sanctions on Cuba, Stephenson noted that this has effectively opened up a new port and new trade partner for the entire world, and Cuba has already proven that it is ready to take advantage of the investment interest in its ports.

"Last year, perhaps in anticipation of this pending change [in US policy], the Cuban government, with the assistance of Brazil, opened their new Mariel mega port. This is a $900 million signal to the world that Cuba is ready and able to become a regional hub for shipments.

This will certainly spike competition in some areas with the lifting of sanctions and restrictions specific to travel, but it will also provide trading opportunities that were missing because of the embargo that we must capitalise on," stated Stephenson.

Pointing to the pending expansion of the Panama Canal, Stephenson urged the region's shipping executives to continue to assess and strategically prepare for the projected challenges and economic benefits.

He also said that significant opportunities for increases in the flow of cargo through Caribbean ports will emerge contingent on the proposed multimillion dollar investment in infrastructure upgrades, courtesy of the concession agreement between Terminal Link/CMA CGM and the Port Authority of Jamaica for operations of the KCT.

The region's strategic geographical advantage that prompted the French company's US$600-million investment, he noted, is yet another indicator of the investment potential of the region. In his welcome, published in the CSEC conference handbook, the CSA president noted that it also represents an excellent opportunity to foster strategic synergies.

"Through meaningful collaboration, we can work to eliminate impediments, increase efficiencies, improve productivity and, ultimately, create a port environment that consistently functions as a homogenous economic zone," he said.

The 14th Caribbean Shipping Executives Conference is the foremost mid-year event on the regional shipping calendar. It runs from May 11 to 13. Formally established in 1971, the CSA's 97 members meet annually at this conference to monitor, discuss and share information in support of the growth and development of shipping in the region.