Shipping community ensnared by traffic
The shipping and logistics community in Newport West is finding it difficult to cope with the drastic changes made to facilitate the infrastructure development projects in the adjacent areas. The members of the Shipping Association of Jamaica (SAJ) have responded with disappointment as they see the unfolding of the plans which seem to have been conceived with inadequate consideration of the realities of logistics and potential impact on the trade.
President of the SAJ, Denise Lyn Fatt, had much to say on the matter. "Since the construction started in the area, Internet services and telephone services have been intermittent at best. To date, several landlines have been out of service. With the legal requirements to interface with Jamaica Customs via the electronic Internet-based system, ASYCUDA, and the Port Community System, you can imagine our nightmare.
"Our staff have been affected, as they are forced to get up earlier to beat the traffic, to get their children to school, and to get to work at a reasonable time. Some will get to their children's school early but cannot leave because of security concerns, so It means that no matter what, it is hard for some to escape being trapped in the traffic for hours. There is also the impact on productivity, as persons are tired and irritated before they even start their work shift. Staff also face a financial impact, as route taxis are said to be charging more. It is really a difficult situation for all involved.
"We are also cognisant of the reality that if vehicles are idling in traffic for long hours, it is quite costly, and they are adding to dangerous greenhouse gases and having a deleterious effect on the environment."
SAJ member and chief executive officer of Xars Equipment and Trucking Company Limited, Ruel Gibson, spoke passionately about the matter. "The situation is two-fold. One particular terminal has been inefficient for some time and the road situation has exacerbated the problem. Second, I am disappointed that more thought was not given to access to the port area, which is so important to our economy and designated as an essential service. This is inefficient and wastes a lot of time."
Alva Wood, the president of the Port Trailer Haulage Association, which has been vocal about the matter, has put the situation even more starkly, "Our truckers are leaving us for Canada, the frustrating conditions and additional delays will only add to this problem." He further explained that the trucks cannot move freely on the newly assigned roads and the delays are affecting the efficient delivery of cargo to customers.
Despite these challenges, the shipping association and its stakeholders, including Jamaica Customs, are exploring the possibility of opening on weekends, where feasible. Kingston Wharves Limited has confirmed that less trips are being made by the truckers and in response, they are putting measures in place to facilitate the trade.
"Better communication was needed from the planning stages", the SAJ president said. "We could have helped to provide insight and make suggestions prior to implementation. Converting East Avenue to one-way, to facilitate the volumes coming from Portmore and other St Catherine communities, has made the journey to Newport West more difficult for staff, cargo handlers, and customers. Trucks hauling containers now have to seek alternative, longer routes, to get vital export cargo to the port to meet the processing windows."
"Although we look forward to the completion of the project in eight months and the many benefits that will accrue to all, we are negatively affected at present and we need to be engaged directly, and urgently, as our busiest season is approaching."