Sat | Aug 19, 2017

A step the right direction!

Published:Tuesday | December 8, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Members of the Shipping Association of Jamaica's (SAJ) new managing committee at the sssociation’s recent annual general meeting. From left: Group CEO, Trevor Riley; President Kim Clarke, managing director, Maritime and Transport Group; Vice President Denise Lyn Fatt, managing director, Freight Handlers Ltd; Immediate Past President Roger Hinds, chairman and CEO, Transocean Shipping Ltd; William Brown, managing director, Lannaman & Morris (Shipping) Group; Corah-Ann Robertson Sylvester, CEO, Seaboard Jamaica Ltd; Michael Bernard, past president and Andre Rochester, freight manager, Maritime and Transport Services. Members absent from this photo: Charles Johnston, executive chairman of Jamaica Fruit & Shipping Company and subsidiaries; Captain Diedrich Suendermann, general manager, Carib Star Shipping Ltd; Grantley Stephenson, CEO, Kingston Wharves Ltd and Olivier Tretout, CEO, Kingston Freeport Terminal Ltd, formerly KCT.

A step in the

right direction

SAJ endorses SEZ bill

The Shipping Association of Jamaica (SAJ) has come out in support of the bill that will establish the creation of geographical clusters or Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under Jamaica's Global Logistics Hub Initiative.

The new Special Economic Zones Act (2015), passed in Parliament on December 2, 2015, repeals the Jamaica Export Free Zones Act and provides for the development, regulation, construction, supervision, management, and control of Special Economic Zones in Jamaica.

In the wake of its annual general meeting, the association vocalised its support of the essence of the SEZ Act and its potentially transformative effects on shipping and logistics businesses as well as the Jamaican economy. The association said that while this bill will not address all of the deficiencies in the recently tabled Customs Amendment Bill of 2015, it will provide some of the elements that were lacking in that proposed law. The SAJ earlier this year sought to have amended punitive clauses in the Customs Bill that threatened trade.

crucial for competitiveness

Citing the proposed benefits for local and international investors who will be able to access special tax incentives among other trade-facilitation options, newly re-elected president of the SAJ, Kim Clarke, noted that the introduction of an SEZ regime is crucial to enhancing the competitiveness of the shipping and logistics industry in an era marked by shifts in global trade routes.

"The Free Zone Act, as it currently stands, lacks the detail and policy coherence required to establish a Special Economic Zone regime. What we require is legislation that provides a framework through which investors (foreign and domestic) can operate and which sends the signal that Jamaica is committed to implementing SEZs and is ready to welcome them all," said Clarke.

"The new SEZ legislation will boost the business environment and provide increased job opportunities while promoting investments aimed at improving the logistics chain. We see where it is possible that enhancements in the operational environment for SEZs will offset some major impediments in the country's regulatory framework governing the nation's wider commercial sector and operations of our membership in particular," he added.

Among the areas addressed in the SEZ Bill is the movement of cargo over land between the ports and the Special Economic Zones. The SAJ says it would be useful if the same provision could apply to cargo moved between the port and points such as Ocho Rios and Falmouth to meet the needs of cruise shipping.

The SAJ also noted its approval of proposed clauses within the draft legislation that seek to provide an atmosphere for businesses in the zones to compete effectively, while offering significant investment incentives. It takes particular note of clauses referencing the role of the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA), which will be called on to provide services in Zones on a continuous basis to meet the needs of the developers and occupants by utilising systems and procedures that enable electronic transactions, payments and pre-clearance of goods.

The association said it was also pleased that under the bill, the JCA will facilitate efficient and flexible procedures and practices for goods imported from the customs territory into a zone and exported from a zone into the customs territory and also implement simplified procedures for the movement of goods through the customs territory from one zone to another.

platform for better delivery

Additionally, the SAJ says that it views with favour the sections of the bill that seek to allow a developer, or an occupant of a zone, exemption from assets tax, Customs duty on goods imported into the zone, GCT, transfer and income tax relief under certain conditions.

"All of these augur well for the ultimate stated goal of Jamaica's SEZ regime, that is, to focus on providing a platform to deliver the business and trade efficiencies, reliable physical and social infrastructure, human resource capacity, which are demanded by the global marketplace," said SAJ's Group CEO Trevor Riley.

Major provisions of the bill include the establishment of a Special Economic Zone Authority; the empowerment of the Special Economic Zone Authority to establish a Special Economic Zone Fund to support the development of the Special Economic Zone development; provisions relating to the designation, promotion, development, operation, and management of Special Economic Zones; and the granting of benefits and other measures in order to attract domestic and foreign investment.

The SAJ, which is registered under the Trade Union Act of Jamaica, is a labour-hire organisation and service provider to the ports. It is also a member-based organisation of terminal operators, stevedoring contractors, and shipping agents, the latter the marketing and logistics representatives of shipping lines in Jamaica.