Sat | May 30, 2020

Shipping Industry personnel: Coping, caring, serving

Published:Tuesday | April 21, 2020 | 12:09 AM

WHEN SHIPPING professionals speak of a ‘supply chain’, they are referring not only to how things such as warehouses, containers, ships and ports are interconnected in global trade. More profoundly, they are speaking of how people in diverse locations, of many nationalities and with varied skills, work together as a team to get products from suppliers to consumers, even in the most adverse conditions.

Shipping industry personnel include, among others: shipping lines staff and their agents, ships’ crew, stevedores, port terminal operators, logistics professionals, customs brokers, warehouse staff, freight forwarders, truckers, ports authorities’ staff, national customs officers, and the staff of the organisations that represent the groups and entities involved in the maritime sector. These are the people who are at work, today and every day, ensuring that people all over the world can receive the equipment and supplies that are vital to human survival in this COVID-19 pandemic.


The Shipping Association of Jamaica (SAJ), its members and their personnel were quick to respond to the pandemic, adopting measures to ensure the health and safety of staff and customers as they continue to manage the provision of services immediately following the government-promulgated Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) Order 2020. All participants in Jamaica’s shipping industry have rallied to the call while the SAJ keeps members updated on the ensuing enforcement measures under the order; sharing information and supporting supply chain connectivity in this unprecedented period in the history of modern shipping.

Companies are being asked to make daily adjustments in support of the national effort in fighting COVID-19, and the SAJ has been leading by example in this regard. The response from staff of the organisation, and its members, to the measures that are being implemented is positive, and reflects their commitment to providing an essential service to the nation. The measures include: a work-from-home policy for those not required to be on-site; a staggering of the days of work for those who need to attend the workplace; temperature check upon entry; social distancing; compulsory hand sanitisation and regular sanitising of work areas; revision of work hours; and encouraging electronic transactions.


Kingston Wharves Limited (KWL), the Caribbean’s leading multi-service port terminal, is a vital national resource for the movement of vital products in and out of Jamaica and throughout the region. Mark Williams, CEO of KWL, states: “Our staff are acutely aware of their special role in keeping our country supplied with the products needed to sustain life, and are committed to playing their role in providing an essential service to the national cause.”

KWL’s CEO revealed that transportation is provided for members of staff, and that the 36-seater buses being used are only allowed to carry 12 persons on each journey to ensure social distancing. He also pointed out that teams are being rotated en bloc to prevent cross-contamination between teams, in the event of a team member being a carrier of the virus. There is also compulsory hand sanitisation of staff and customers, hourly sanitisation of work areas, and weekly deep-cleaning of the entire workplace.

“We have instituted 12-hour shifts so that there is less movement of workers in and out of the port during the day,” Williams noted, explaining that this allows staff to abide with the curfew hours imposed, even though they are listed among the essential service providers.

KWL has also instituted an appointment system for those citizens who rely on less-than-container-load incoming cargo, such as barrels. “The appointment system avoids any congestion of customers, so that social distancing can be observed while we help our citizens to collect their valuable personal cargo,” Williams said.


The pandemic has dealt a mighty blow to the cruise side of the shipping industry. This vibrant sector was among the first to feel the devastating effects of COVID-19 in the Western Hemisphere, from as early as February 2020. Cruise shipping employs many Jamaicans, both on and off the cruise ships, and two local companies that service the cruise lines are Lannaman & Morris and Gateway Shipping. Both companies are now trying to cope with the ceasing of cruise calls, but they have not laid off any of their workers, despite the losses being incurred.

Harry Maragh, chairman and CEO of Lannaman & Morris, explained: “Our employees are our most valuable asset; we will be holding out as long as possible in keeping them employed, because we want them to still be with us when things get better.” The company is the agent for Carnival Cruise Line and also for major cargo shipping lines. Maragh noted that business has also declined in the cargo division and said “we can’t be sure what will happen, but we are continuing to serve our customers, abide by all the health measures, and hope that things will start to pick up again before we have to lay off any of our workers”.

Robert Kinlocke, chairman and CEO of Gateway Shipping, said “we are all in this thing together. Although our cruise business is no longer there, we value the staff we have and will be keeping them employed as long as we possibly can”. Gateway Shipping are agents for Royal Caribbean, among other cruise lines, but also provides shipping logistics services and represents cargo shipping lines. Kinlocke said that although business has declined in the area of cargo shipping, his essential services staff are still reporting to work to serve customers and ensure that Jamaicans get the products they need.

“We cannot plan for the long term, because we don’t know where this unprecedented situation will take us,” Kinlocke stated, adding that “we have to plan in the short term, contribute in our best way to national cause, implement all the health measures, and support each other in this time of crisis”.


The crucial role of persons who make the global supply chain work as effectively as it does, was highlighted at a meeting of representatives of the 10 port state control regimes which cover the world’s oceans on Wednesday, April 8, 2020, in an online video meeting called by the IMO. The IMO is the United Nations specialised agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

An article on that meeting, appearing on the organisation’s website,, reported that IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim reiterated his message that the maritime industry continues to be a vital artery for the global economy, and highlighted the need for all involved to work collaboratively to address practical issues caused by the unprecedented global situation. He welcomed the prevailing spirit of cooperation, collaboration and solidarity in these challenging times – when shipping is more important than ever in the global supply chain.